My friend Tim experienced an email nightmare yesterday.
In an effort to promote his business Urban Lighting and a sample sale, he sent an email to a list of contacts he has been collecting for several years. The problem was a glitch in the server, which inadvertently caused all 4,800 names on his list to receive copies of EACH AND EVERY unsubscribe email sent by members of his list wishing to opt out.
How do I know this? Because I am on his list, and I received more than 100 emails over the span of several hours — all tagged with the same basic message of “UNSUBSCRIBE ME!!!!!!!” It was hideous to watch this unfold and had Tim not been my friend, I am sure I would have been annoyed.
The problem compounded, as people sent emails saying “stop replying all” when, by the very act of sending an email response at all, they themselves were “replying all.” A vicious circle ensued that just got worse as the afternoon wore on. People became enraged at being copied on emails and reactions spanned the emotional register. Many were kind and understanding of an honest error.
However, what was most vexing was the unprofessional, inappropriate and highly emotional response that many of these respondents showed in their messages, attitude and behavior. After the first — oh, say — 10 emails, one would think most people would realize there had been an error and simply delete the repeating messages. Yes, highly annoying and time consuming, and yet this is probably not the first time we have been victim of some email glitch with repetitive results. We know the drill.
Still, some folks became completely unhinged. Here is an uncensored example (please excuse the language):
“You dumbasses. If you’re going to spam a bunch of people be smart enough to do a BCC so that assholes don’t reply to all of your clients. Now all of your clients have to read my vulgar email. Anyways, take me off this shit hole list as well.”
Wow. Like anyone would intend to send spam? (OK, I guess that guy in Nigeria that swears he is a dethroned prince and just needs me to help him access his $2 billion inheritance — maybe he qualifies.) But my friend Tim, running his highly reputable and respected lighting business from downtown San Diego? I think we can cut the guy some slack.
Okay, so what can we learn from this situation?
Dear friends and customers…
We at Urban Lighting regret that our email list was compromised on Tuesday, June 7 and we would like to share our deepest regret for the e-mail barrage . We have sent many e-mailings without any issues and we are as horrified as you are about what has transpired. We are getting to the bottom of the problem and it will be resolved.
We are truly sorry for the time and energy that has been spent on this needless distraction. Our intention was to notify our clients about our latest offerings, but it is inexcusable that our messaging as sent allowed for a “reply to all” option. We will do our best to inform all audiences not to continue to reply to all. Please bear with us as we allow this error to run its course.
What can we do?
Our entire email list as of today has been 100% retired and if you were on that list please consider yourself un-subscribed.
We sincerely regret that this unfortunate situation has transpired and appreciate your patience. We value our customer relationships and are terribly sorry that this happened.
Good job Tim – you did your best to rectify a difficult situation, with honesty and integrity. Another blogger at Tst Ink had some great recommendations for Tim in this situation as well.
For more great email tips, check out this blogpost from dontdrinkthekoolaidblog on Email Marketing Best Practices.
Also, there is a great newsletter that shares valuable email information on a regular basis called EmailInsider, and its recent post on “To Err is Human” is highly relevant.
And for those folks that got their panties all in a wad about poor Tim’s email blunder: please think for a moment. Take a deep breath and realize small business people are trying to enter the fray and market their wares in this evolving e-commerce world. And yes, mistakes are made. And also, people learn.
Believe me, I am sure Tim has learned a lot about email marketing as a result of his situation. I hope all of us have.
Now let’s all relax and go buy a lamp. I hear there’s a great sale going on!