What Would Riggins Do?

I have a Gmail account I use for non-blogging purposes. It uses an initial/name combo that I probably only scored because I was early on the Gmail train. Since my name is incredibly common, I considered myself lucky it was available and have been using it loyally for professional purposes since. HOWEVER – because it’s a common initial/name combo (think: jsmith@gmail.com) I get a lot of email not actually intended for me.

I’ve been signed up for various services that I’ve had to immediately “unsubscribe” to. I’ve been emailed coupons for businesses I don’t use and newsletters for organizations I’ve never been a part of. I don’t know if people just enter my email address as a random one knowing it’s not theirs, so they won’t get spammed. Or, if it is legitimately a mistake. Either way – it happens all the time.

However, I do also get a lot of personal emails not meant for me. Usually they are part of a group email sent to an entire family reminding them about some upcoming function. Or a list of friends who get forwarded the same religious chain letter. Easy to spot as not being for me, but also easy to ignore. But sometimes it’s a one-on-one email intended for one person who happens to have my last name – but is not me. When it’s a one-to-one email, I’ll pause and consider emailing the person to let them know they have the wrong email address. I’ve been contacted before by someone saying, “I finally found a person who knew your email address and I’m so excited to be back in touch with you. How are you? Love, Uncle Frank.” I emailed him immediately. That was obviously someone very excited to be in contact with the intended recipient, so I wanted to let Uncle Frank know he has bad sources for email addresses.

Most of the time I just archive the emails and go about my business. However, recently I’ve been emailed in a group of college students in New York about some sort of Student Action Coalition battle going on with administration. I get these emails that say things like “Emergency Meeting: We’ve Been Suspended!” They’re some sort of an Anti-War group that is protesting something and are all riled up over the suspension of some of their members. It’s actually kind of exciting, but when they started worrying there was a “traitor” on their listserve, I decided to tell the head of the group that he was emailing the wrong person by having me on the list. I didn’t want someone to spot my email and be like, “Her! I don’t know who this person is! She must be ratting us out!”

So – I contacted that person. And I’ll usually contact direct emails, but what about the other emails? What protocol should I use to determine whether I should respond and say, “Sorry. Wrong Number.” Should I respond to all family-type emails even if they’re generic “Jackie made the softball team!” emails? Should I consider that the intended recipient might be sad at not getting those emails? Or should I just assume it will work itself out sometime at the next gathering when that person pipes up about not getting emails? What would you do? Would you simply ignore them all?

And most importantly – is it sad that I am going to miss being on the protesting student email list?


34 thoughts on “What Would Riggins Do?”

  1. With the spam, I’m sure those companies, etc. probably just guess a name and add you to the list figuring SOMEONE must have that email combination. I have a common name, so I get that same stuff too.

    I think you should email people back. This could lead to good blog material. and maybe the protesters will keep you as an “honorary” member. Since you know too much. :)

  2. I have this same problem! I also got a Gmail account very early on and my personal email account is just FirstnameLastname@gmail. Most of the time I just delete it, although this one woman sends out so many forwards and family newsletters that I just assigned it as spam. I had contacted her and told her she had the wrong address, but she never changed it. Sometimes people with my name get invited to pretty cool parties… if I lived in the same town (usually Austin), I’d consider crashing. :-)

    I also got this very strange email once that was forwarded flight information to Japan with a note about how the email-sender and the intended recipient were going to “get to hump in a far away land… just like [they] always dreamed of.” You’d think that if you were going to engage in the acts stated in that email, that you’d know the other person’s email address. (And yes, it was real. I actually was curious enough to check whether there was a real flight reservation in that name.) (And yes, I just checked to see if I still had that email archived so I could quote it directly.)

  3. I think you should play it by ear. If it seems really important, then I would send a reply. But if not, then I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I am not sure exactly how many e-mails you are receiving that are not intended for you.

    Oooh, that would be so cool if they kept you on their list!

  4. I think it’s awesome that you’re going to miss the student protesters. Maybe you should write them in a couple of months to see how it’s going?

    As for the rest, I’m amazed that you respond at all. That’s very kind of you.

    You know what I think would be funny? Spammy and probably ineffective, but funny? You could forward the messages you get to yourinitiallastname (at) yahoo and hotmail, with a note saying “I think this may have been meant for you.”

  5. I set up an email address for my daughter when she was a baby. For the entire purpose of having “baby’s first email” for the baby book. But she started getting these very personal emails from a middle-aged woman who obviously got someone’s email address wrong. She was telling the intended recipient about her upcoming hysterectomy, family gossip, etc. I sent her an email from that address explaining that she was sending this email to the wrong person.

    She emailed me back and argued with me, telling me that she *knew* it was the right address. Um, okay. Why would I be emailing FROM that address saying “Sorry, wrong number” if it was her friend’s address?

    She kept emailing and I deleted it. Eventually we changed my daughter’s email address.

  6. I have a fairly generic sounding Yahoo address, and a weird gmail one, and I don’t think I’ve even gotten a “wrong number” email. (I have a collection of wrong number text messages, though, that probably would make good blog material, like the guy who told his “babe” he was “just chillin’ watching the Golden Girls.”

    If it sounded urgent, I don’t think I could ignore it, but otherwise I’d delete them if it were a once in a while thing.

  7. I have a gmail address that is Firstname.Maidenname@gmail. My first name and maiden name are EXTREMELY common, so I get the same kinds of e-mails you do. I have been invited to engagement parties for strangers in different states and church trips for churches I don’t belong to. When I get personal e-mails, I do write back to let the person know they have the wrong address. One time, this woman wrote to ask if I was going to meet up with her when she got to San Diego. I live in Minnesota and don’t know this woman. So I wrote back and told her she had the wrong e-mail address. She basically accused me of lying and trying to avoid her when she was in San Diego. Very strange.

  8. I think if they are personal emails, you should definitely email them back and let them know they have a wrong number. As far as the missing out…I think it’s totally sad. Maybe they can keep you on the list as an honorary member and you can keep us informed at what’s going on. Think of the endless blogfodder.

  9. First of all, LOVE the title of this post. I *heart* Riggins.

    I would probably not say anything about the student group, but only b/c I would want to know what happens. For family reunions and such I would let somebody know, only in case they think they’re in touch with someone who’s actually missing out on the information.

  10. Wow, I have never heard of this before. It seems that there are quite a few people that have had this happen…interesting. I would probably email the people and then send them to the spam folder.

  11. Well, having once spent several weeks sending emails to my mother, only to discover I’d been telling my deepest, darkest secrets to some stranger in Canada (my mother’s name is Norma. I’d been mailing a NORMAN with the same last name as us. Yes, I am THAT stupid.) all I can say is that I was very, very grateful when the said random stranger finally told me what was happening, before I had the opportunity to REALLY embarrass myself. So I think it would be a good deed to email the people back.

    I think I would miss being on the Anti War email list too, though :)


    p.s. I DO know my own mother’s name, by the way. I’m just an idiot and had mistyped it, then saved the wrong version in my contact list.

  12. Hm, I suppose I should clarify where I say I just delete them. Most of them are for things people have signed up for, like store rewards clubs and stuff (including Match.com, which I promptly unsubscribed from). Those I delete. (Unless the rewards club offers an awesome coupon… first I check out the deal, THEN I delete.)

    If it looks like a personal email, then I usually email them back saying they have the wrong address… but just once. I don’t see why I should have to take the time to tell them more than once that I am not who they think I am, so after that, they are marked spam. If it is something like a listserv email or an evite, then I usually just delete it. I figure they’ll hear about whatever event it is from one of their friends anyway.

  13. I have the same problem with gmail. My address is a shortened first name + middle name combination and apparently there are quite a few people with similiar addresses. I get e-vites, messages from my “dad” letting me know I have a hair appointment, wedding pictures, etc. I generally let the people know if the message seems important and ignore it if it doesn’t.

  14. I have this EXACT SAME PROBLEM. For weeks now I’ve been hearing about Aunt Pearl’s surgery and the twins that are growing up so nicely. I sympathize. (I also emailed them to let them know I wasn’t who they thought they were getting… and it did no good!)

  15. Well…. you could have let the protesting students know that they had the wrong person… but that you would truly enjoy (not really the right word?) continuing to be on the mailing list?

  16. I have gotten some e-mails that were for a group that was working together for a project for a college course. I was even able to guess who I was supposed to be. I didn’t ever e-mail them back…and eventually the e-mails stopped. “We” must have finished the project!

    I did, one time, have sad news to report to a friend I had lost touch with. I searched on Hotmail for people with her first and last name and e-mailed both the addresses that came up. The first person e-mailed back that she was not who I was looking for but that she was sorry to hear the sad news and hoped I found who I was looking for. The second person was, in fact, the person I was looking for, and I was able to get the sad news to her. However, I will never forget how that first person took the time out to let me know that she was not who I wanted to be contacting. I think that if there are family-type e-mails that the person they think you are would like to get, you should give them the head’s up. They might appreciate it as much as I did…

  17. @Gwen – Riggins is a character from the show “Friday Night Lights” and the title of this entry is a line from last week’s show. One of the not-so-cool guys used it to decide what to do about girl problems since Riggins is a stud of epic proportions.

    I mainly just used it to see if anyone was watching FNL. hehe.

  18. Zoot, I can’t believe you caught that line!!! I did too!!! Anyone I talked to didn’t catch it. It is classic! Love it!

    And as for those emails you’re getting, I am so sure that there is someone out there who knows the family reunion was last weekend or something and is insulted they didn’t get the email invite(because the email went out to you instead of her)!!! LOL!!! I think you’ve started some family rivals, hahaha!!! Just kidding!

  19. I emailed my friend “John Lewis” for over a year. I kept it light and casual, but got more and more worried that he was upset with me because he never answered back.

    FINALLY, when I wrote a “What the hell kind of piss poor friend are you?” email, I got a lovely letter from a 83-year-old physician in Burrow-upon-something-something-Tyne, England (Or whatever) saying that He was A John Lewis, but not MY John Lewis.

    Apparently, he enjoyed my letters as he only got “Script enticements for Viagra and other such nonsense” over email. He fessed up when I got angry.

    He was so adorable I forgave him on the spot and reamed MY John Lewis for never dropping me a line in 12 months. (Apparently, he had a “Hot new girlfriend who was into yoga”. Whatever.)


    I would just have a form email written that you can jot off explaining the address mixup. Something that may seem really casual may be more important than you think.

  20. I have been on the sending end of those emails. How embarrassing. I thought I was emailing my son, and we dont have an all-too-common last name, but lo and behold, someone in Canada has the same name. My son uses his middle name, and I had forgotten that with his email he puts his first initial.middlename.lastname. When I sent it without the first initial, it would go to Canada. Mr. Canada would email me and very politely inform me that I did it (again and again), I sent it to the wrong person. THANKFULLY, since it was very personal email (my son is married and doesnt live at home), and I was glad to know I needed to send it again to my son. Among other things, I would know that my son wasn’t ignoring me!

    I’d ignore the spam, but I would send off a quick note to the obviously personal ones letting them know it went to the wrong one. It sure made me feel better (and learn my own son’s email address) :)

  21. I had narrowed it down to that – or a football player from the 40’s who was arrested in Europe for DUI. Kidding. Guess I outed myself as a FNL virgin.

  22. Ohhhh that’s a hard one. I think any family related emails I would respond too. Something short and sweet like, “I’m sorry but you must have the wrong email. I am not..so and so. ” But the other stuff… I haven’t a clue, lolol

  23. I have a similar problem. There is a man in my town who thinks that my phone number is his and for the past 8 years I have had to decide who on the answering machine I should call back to tell them that they have the wrong number (and give them his actual number). I have limited it to doctors and urgent messages. I think you just do what you feel is neccessary and you have time for. I would totally miss being on the protest list too.

  24. I once sent a very racey email to a complete stranger living in Rochester NY who happened to have the same name as my husband because I sent it to firstname lastname instead of lastname firstname.


  25. arghh! i wud have ignored all except the one from uncle frank. enjoy the college email list as a lurker, shud be fun till it lasts

  26. I was lucky enough to get a gmail address with just my first name, and it’s pretty common too, for the same reason you got yours I guess and I have the same thing happening. I’ve received movie ticket confirmations, some office workers group’s system for playing on horses (week after week), photos, emails where people tell me about some pretty personal stuff… But interestingly most of them are for the same person and in the beginning I didn’t mind too much but now it’s starting to bug me. Especially since that person has tried to retrieve and reset my password. That has happened a couple of times and it is getting a bit annoying now.

  27. My name isn’t common, but I started getting e-mails for someone with the same first name and last name- and she lives in Britain! I e-mailed the people who sent me her stuff (at one point this included her own Mom!) and she and I are now e-mail buddies, because not only do we have the same first and last name (though my last name is my married name and hers is her maiden name), but we’re close in age, too. It’s actually kind of fun! We’re facebook buddies now, too :).
    BUT–I did think it was important, no matter who the sender was (even a financial tips newsletter) to not only unsubscribe myself but to let the sender know they have the wrong address. People who have already commented have said it sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t (as to whether or not they keep getting wrong e-mails) but just out of courtesy’s sake (courtesy to both the sender and intended recipient) I always try to let both parties know if possible. Obviously if you STILL get the e-mails after trying to correct the problem, then it’s someone else’s responsibility.

Comments are closed to prevent spam attacks on older entries. It sucks I had to do that, but spam sucks worse. Feel free to email me misszootATgmailDOTcom with any urgent comments regarding this topic.

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