Have you ever used the “Reply: All” function with your email provider? Perhaps, someone had a question, and instead of asking one person, they sent the question to multiple people in order to get a response quicker, and YOU happened to be one of those people. Now, if you know the answer, it would be quick and easy to email the person back, or you could instant message them if available, or you could even call them on the phone depending on the urgency of the request and the complexity of the question. But, if you did one of those things, the other recipients of the original email might think the question was never answered, and therefore might try to answer it again. So, you decide to hit “Reply: All” in order to make sure everyone else knows that question has been answered, and they would only need to respond if they had something to add or correct to your excellent answer.
The previous has been an example of how to properly use “Reply: All”
The following occurred at my office on November 16th, 2015, and is an example of exactly what “Reply: All” should not be used for.
9:18 AM EST: I received an email titled “Organization Announcement.” Being a decent human being, I opened the email and examined its contents. It was a short email explaining that someone had been promoted at a location in Texas. I, being in Maryland, would not be impacted at all by this news, and more than likely did not even need to know about it. It wasn’t even a promotion that occurred in my business area. Seeing as how the email did me no harm, and the contents were of a trivial nature, I chalked the email up as an error and deleted it. Time, I thought, to get back to my usual work. I could not have been more wrong.
9:27 AM EST: I see a new email notification pop up in the corner of my computer monitor. The subject line says “RE: Organization Announcement.” Ah, I thought to myself, the original sender realized his error, and is recalling the message, or at least sending a new message telling us to disregard the email if we received it by mistake. I click over the new message, and see the sender is a new person. The email is from “Jack” and simply says; “I think you may have sent this to the wrong Jack“(names have been changed to protect the incompetent). It is at this point I decide to look over the list of privileged people that this email was delivered to. After scanning the names and not seeing any I recognized, I came across an interesting entry; this was not a name, but a series of letters, ending with “All-Employees.” My eyes grew wide with understanding. “Sweet Jesus.”
9:30 AM EST: Another “RE: Organization Announcement” pop-up window on my monitor. I dare to look. It’s from Mike. “I think I was not supposed to be on this list either,” says Mike. Mike actually replied to Jack’s original reply. I check both replies; they both hit “Reply: All.” Somehow, this “All-Employees” list had gotten dropped into the original email by mistake, and now all the employees who didn’t need to know the information the original email contained decided they wanted off whatever List-serv was sending them this junk. Here’s where it gets interesting: Both Jack and Mike decided that using “Reply: All” was their best choice. This is also where my rage and interest in strangling both of them begins.
When Jack received this email, he saw the contents, realized it didn’t pertain to him, and immediately thought the sender made an error. Now, Jack does not have a common name in the company; in fact he is the only person with his exact name in the company address book. There is a female named “Jackie” which is kind of close, so maybe Jack thought that was where the problem arose. A simple “Reply” to the original sender (NICK) would’ve sufficed to correct the issue, if that really was the issue. Instead, Jack decides to blindly hit “Reply: All.” Why would he do this? There can be only two reasons: 1) He is a complete idiot who has no logical reasons for the things he does or 2) He purposely wanted everyone else on the email to see that NICK made a mistake, and wanted him to be ridiculed in a public fashion. Why else would he do this? Jack saw that other people were sent this email, the email contained no sensitive or classified information, and it could have been an honest mistake of sending to the wrong name. Yet instead of a one line reply, or just deleting the email like I did, he decided that every other person included on the email needed to know that he, Jack, was not the right person for the email and that NICK “meant” to send the email to someone else. If you have any other ideas why Jack might’ve used “Reply: All” please send me a message to help my heart rate go down.
On to Mike. Now, Mike must just be twice as stupid, or at least really stupid, depending on whether or not Jack was an imbecile or an asshole. Mike got the original email, read it, saw he didn’t need it, got the response from Jack, read it, saw he was in the same position, and then decided to not only reply AGAIN, but “Reply: All” AGAIN. WHY??? So now, we have two people that could’ve solved their problems within minutes and without completely blowing up NICK’s spot, but instead they both felt so hurt at receiving this email, that they needed every single other person that the email was sent to to feel sorry for them. Are they really that insecure? Is their time really so important that this simple, two paragraph organizational announcement stole so much of their time that they couldn’t get their work done? Or are they just really, really stupid? Either way, this was just the beginning.
9:31 AM EST: Another “RE: Organizational Announcement” pop-up. This one from Ed: “Wrong Ed too…” Thanks so much for your input, Ed. We all really needed to know this information, ED. SCREW YOU, ED!
9:31 AM EST: From Gary: “And the wrong Gary. It must be Monday!!”
It wasn’t, Gary. It was Thursday.
9:32 AM EST: “And the wrong Justin.”
9:32 AM EST: “I also believe you got the wrong John.”
9:32 AM EST: “And the wrong Michelle.”
9:33 AM EST: “Think you sent this to the wrong person.”
9:33 AM EST: “The wrong Bill also.”
9:34 AM EST: “Stop replying to all please!”
Wait, what’s this? Finally, a voice of reason! Alexis, thank you! We had ten straight emails, all replying either to Jack, Mike, or one of the previous entries, all using “Reply: All,” until finally, someone else uses “Reply: All” to try and get them to stop! I see the irony in this solution, but at least, finally, the emails have ended, the joke has run its course, and perhaps now everyone who already responded will see the errors of their ways.
What? Did you think people were that smart? Did you think this would all be over so quickly? Think again, kind reader.
9:34 AM EST: Another pop-up. Oh no! “Please stop Replying to ALL. Just respond to NICK.” Ah, ok, just another person in the same boat as Alexis. Thanks Bobby, we’re all good now. You must have just sent you email the same time Alexis did. No harm, no foul. Now we can get on with our day.
9:35 AM EST: Another pop-up; I’m sure just another person saying to stop the Reply: All chain. Guess again. “I don’t think me either.” Wow Jessica, barely a full sentence. And you felt the need to “Reply: All” with your scientific discovery! Well, I guess not being able to write would go with not understanding you can JUST REPLY TO THE ORIGINAL SENDER, but hey, let’s not kick someone while they are down.
9:36 AM EST: “NICK, not sure why I got this.” WELL THANK FUCKING GOD FOR YOU, RACHEL. GOOD THING YOU SENT THAT PERSON-SPECIFIC QUESTION TO EVERYONE ELSE. PLEASE INCLUDE ME ON ALL FUTURE REPLIES BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND AS WELL JUST IN CASE. FUCK.
9:36 AM EST: “To OP/Respondents, Assuming this wasn’t intended to reach personnel outside the Texas area; we may want to not reply all on this thread. Thanks!” Ok, another voice if reason. Thank you, Sean. But wait; he was also replying all, and he was replying to the original email, not one of the follow ups. It soon dawned on me that some people read their email chronologically, and might respond to something before reading the DOZENS of other replies about the same thing. Yes, people are this stupid, blind, and unmotivated.
From here on out, I will just select highlights for you. Over the next hour, we “all” received 30 additional emails:
21 of the emails exclaimed the person sending it was the wrong person to receive them email.
7 of the emails asked everyone to stop replying to all (while replying to all)
One email had the sender asking if they actually were supposed to get the email, and if anyone else knew if this was correct. Luckily, no one responded all answering them.
One person replied to the “don’t use Reply: All” by using “Reply: All” and writing in his email “I love the reply all button!!!!!”
Somehow, all of these people are still employed.
Now, things did die down for a bit, until a co-worker did some research. The list-serv that was accidentally utilized included names of employees across the company, including overseas: a total of 93,850 employees. I settled in, knowing my watch had just begun. I attempted to send out a cease and desist email to the masses, going against my better judgement: I selected “Reply: All” thinking I would be the voice of reason; I would be the light in the darkness, to help all those who had not yet replied, and save them. I selected High Importance, I even changed the subject line. I read and re-read my email, making sure it’s message rang true, and clicked send. I buried my head in shame. But what’s this? An instant reply from the email server?
“Delivery has failed to these recipients of groups: “All-Employees.”
Wait, what? I didn’t even have access to send my heroic email to everyone? But then how am I getting all these “Reply: All” messages? It then dawned on me that their might have been EVEN MORE messages, but some of us had been locked out due to too much activity on our email server. Small miracles; but that didn’t stop the coming flood.
An hour later, a new wave began. People in the next time zone were arriving at work, seeing a huge number of emails, and deciding that “because everyone else used ‘Reply: All’ that MUST be the thing that works, so I HAVE to do that too and make sure EVERYONE SEES that I DON’T WANT THESE EMAILS!” I really fucking hate dumb people.
From 9:37 AM EST until 3:26 AM EST, I received 102 additional emails; the majority of these were a plea to stop the Replying to All, but must have mainly fell on deaf ears. My co-workers and I later compared emails, and to our surprise had completely different lists of responses. I can only wonder how many of the 93,000 actually took the time to reply…
During this email apocalypse, I tried (and failed) to get in contact with the source, NICK, patient zero, to see what could be done about this onslaught of emails. I called his office phone number; straight to voicemail. I checked his status online – away from his desk. Then I checked his Away Status Message:
“All – please, no more instant messages. I have recalled the message, I have replied to all to stop. The server managers are taking care of things. I am so sorry.”
All in all, it was an interesting day. I learned how to have my email provider automatically filter and delete emails with the same subject, so the day wasn’t entirely wasted. But please, please think before hitting Reply: All. Does everyone really need to see your response?
And most importantly: Christine, in Texas – congratulations on the promotion!