Friday, May 09, 2008

E-mail disaster stories

I've been meaning to write about how someone on the Hillary Clinton campaign has a fine future in telemarketing. During the run-up to the N.C. primary, Clinton sent more e-mails than the Nigerian finance minister or even the nice people offering natural male enhancement.

Some days I'd get eight or nine e-mails from the Clinton folks, notifying me of everything from Maya Angelou's endorsement to a Chelsea Clinton appearance with the singer Sophie B. Hawkins (you might remember her from the song "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover", although I'm not sure that's quite as good as Barack Obama getting the nod from Bruce Springsteen).

Reporters tend to get more of this stuff than regular voters, but I'm wondering how many of you got peppered with Hillary e-mails -- and whether, after a while, they were more annoying than energizing.

(The e-mails from the Obama campaign always ended up getting caught in my spam filter. Make any symbolic point you'd like from that.)

Somehow this dovetails with this Freakonomics post about e-mails that get sent to the wrong person with disastrous results.

When I was at my first job we had a primitive version of e-mail that assigned each person in the office a three-digit number -- to send that person a message, you sent it to the number. I was on the night shift and was dating a co-worker. I wrote her a note -- nothing racy, something like "can't wait to get together after work" -- punched in her three-digit number and hit send.

Except it wasn't her three-digit number. It was the three-digit number that sent a message to the whole newsroom.

Did I mention that we had computers that beeped when you got a message?

One by one, I heard every computer start beeping... and then saw every person in the newsroom peering over their cubicles at me.

Not good times.

So what's your biggest e-mail horror story? Confess away in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Ever read Linda Ellerbe's book "And So It Goes?" It's a great read. I highly recommend it.

She tells the tale of working in the early 1970's at the Associated Press in Texas. She apparently wrote a long-winded letter using the A.P. word processor - a letter that tore into her boss and workplace, and relayed details of her lovelife and homelife.

She meant to save and print the letter. Instead, she hit the button that sent it out over the A.P. wire to newspapers, radio and television stations across Texas. She says she was fired only because the A.P.'s lawyer told the boss he couldn't kill her.

But - her writing caught the attention of a local TV news director in Houston. And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Once my boss sent a department email telling us that we all needed to tiptoe and be careful around a co-worker who had serious inferiority issues. I forwarded it to another co-worker along with a smart-alect, sarcastic comment. Only I didn't hit "forward" - I hit "reply" instead. My boss was at lunch and I had to run in her office and pull up her email to delete it. I was praying the whole time that she didn't have a password.

Have also gotten an email from someone who obviously meant to hit "reply" but hit "reply all" when responding to a mass email, telling the person about how stupid her boss was and how everyone hated him. She only meant to send it to the person who sent the mass email, but ended up sending it to everyone on his list.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should bring this up.

I'm getting a good laugh at a new McClatchy bulk spam that misses its intended target -- by quite a lot, let's just say.


chupacabra said...

It wasn’t really an e-mail mistake per se, but at my old firm while one of my coworkers was away from her desk someone sent an e-mail from her computer to someone in a different office that said “what kind of stupid name is (person’s last name)”.

We found out this had happened when Ms. Hypersensitive About Her Stupid Name forwarded it to our boss demanding an apology. We never figured out who sent this e-mail or why Ms. Hypersensitive went so ballistic about it. Our theory is that someone from Ms. Hypersensitive’s office was in our office on business and sent this e-mail as a joke. What I still don’t quite understand was why it turned into such a big deal. My coworker did not know this person and the accusation there was essentially that she (and by association I) were randomly prank e-mailing people in our firm’s e-mail address book. I can’t imagine being that bored or that stupid.

It was probably a friend of Ms. Hypersensitive but then again I don’t know if someone who would respond in such as over the top manner would really have a lot of friends so maybe not. At any rate our boss insisted that we send her this apology. The tough part was composing one of those apologies that isn’t really an apology, “I’m sorry that this incident has hurt your itty bitty feelings. I’m also sorry that you were apparently picked last for every school team and have dedicated your life to getting back at the big kids. I recommend that you contact your local big brother / big sister program in your city because lord knows if you had a big brother you would quickly learn that having someone make fun of your last name is nothing compared to getting smacked in the head with a high school class ring…”

I may be paraphrasing that last part but you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Sending an ill-conceived Email stating "I'm sick and tired of you people" (referring to CMS's School Board and Student Placement Office) was probably not the best judgement call. Although frankly, I'm not that sorry about it.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I sold ad space at a company that was failing and he didn't have a printer at his house, so he asked me if he could email me his resume and I could print it out at work for him. He emailed me his resume and wrote "here is my ticket out of this sh$thole" but sent it to the wrong address and it got redirected to the company owner. He was asked to leave the next day.

viagra said...

I have similar stories but it have a happy ending! it feels bad bro :(