Last week we asked for your worst stories of accidentally hitting Reply All, those horrible moments when you realise that the thing you meant to send one person just went out to the whole office (or company, or family reunion thread, or other group of people containing at least one person who is going to be offended).
Most of the stories we got back were from office mishaps, and all of them make it clear we’ve got to find a way to make “Reply” and “Reply All” more distinct:
The congratulations gone wrong
I was running a small startup with about 10 employees a couple of years ago. I sent an email to everyone, including our company chairman to congratulate them all on a good year.
The chairman did a reply-all and wrote something along the lines of “well it turns out that John might not be such a lazy #$%# afterall. I wont ask you to sack him just yet.”
I saw the email within seconds of him sending it and promptly went into our email server, took it offline.. and then deleted the email. Everyone EXCEPT John saw the email… so I called them all up and told them to keep their mouths shut.
In hindsight, I should have let the chairman wear it… he was a total d**k.
The bank rebranding that ended in disaster
Was working at one of the big banks many years ago and they had a re-branding exercise. As part of that IT sent an email saying log off but do not switch off your computers when you go home. This was to allow an update for all new templates, marketing material and anything else.
One of the updates was a lovely new screensaver that punished us with the values and actions of what a good workforce should be doing, it was a long SS. Needless to say one bright spark hit reply all to the original IT email which did not restrict regular staff from being able to send to all 5000 employees (well done IT). This idiot criticised the company for a crap re-brand and asked if any other employees held the values shown in the screen saver, and called into question if the company even upheld said values.
Other idiots replied all to this idiot….. the long and the short the CEO brought in Forenzic auditors to assess the damage and wasted time, collateral damage ensued as they found confidential info sent by staff out of the company and many other issues not to mention porn.
About 20 people go sacked or demoted, and the original idiot go asked he he really wanted to continue working for a company he did not like!!
The Jeremy Piven incident
I once accidentally hit ‘Reply All’ to my entire company – a huge media conglomerate, with thousands of employees across the country – with an email that simply said, “Jeremy Piven.”
I could explain more, but I think the story is better this way. -Katanma
WWI Trench warfare
My first major screw-up. One of my coworkers who had been in my group sent his goodbye email. The email went to the vast majority of our office as well as directors and VPs in the company. This was my accidental “Reply All”:
Truly sad to see one of the best people I have ever met. I mean that not just in the quality of work and adaptability, but also in your personal and professional self. Most especially the latter.
You are a regular reminder to be a better person by mere example.
****** will be awesome. This joint is like WWI trench warfare. Its no real place for a caring father with many small children. That, and I could see you weren’t that happy in your new division, ********. :)
Keep in Touch on GChat. Any questions, comments, chit chat, you will find me there.
The accidental outing
I came out of the closet at work via ‘reply all’.
I was a member of a GLBT Chorus and on a committee. I had given them both my work and personal email, and I’d received an email asking us all our feelings on a venue for the next performance. I read it in my work email and hit ‘reply all’ with my thoughts.
The chorus’s outbound distribution list was the CC on the email I received. The first word of the list matched my company’s local distribution list – everyone based here for the factory and office. So instead of everyone in the chorus getting my email, everyone I worked with did.
The words “Oh shit” were uttered by me after the first couple of replies.
My boss called me into his office and said “I got an email from you I don’t think you meant to send to me. I just want you to know, you have nothing to be concerned about. If anyone gives you hassle, report it to me immediately.” So that was good. -Timbales the Friendly Ghost
Not a personal screwup, but was interning at the largest global bank (250k employees) in 2006 when some poor drone in another office mistakenly CC’d the companywide distro email address in a note to his/her boss. Blackberries had just become a thing at the time so imagine 250k people not used to mobile email encountering this for the first time.
Cue the next six hours of Blackberries buzzing nonstop and Outlook hanging thanks to hardly being able to process multiple emails every few seconds of:
1. “Hello, please take me off this chain” (x 1,000 from offices all over the world)
2. “Hey everyone, please stop replying all” (x 1,000, ditto)
3. “Hey you idiots telling them to stop ‘replying all,’ you’re part of the problem!” (x 1,000)
4. “Hey everyone, just stop sending emails!” (x 1,000)
5. “Everyone, please stop replying all to this email!” (x 1,000)
6. “Hey you’re “everyone please stop replying all to this email” was a reply to that email, idiot!”
7. “Yours was a reply too, just stop!”
This went on for hours before either the whole system failed, or they disabled Exchange or something. We’d still intermittently get emails the next day saying “please take me off this list” from people returning from vacation.
The pure failure of so many people to realise that to stop the reply-all chain was to NOT send a reply all was jaw-dropping. I have absolutely no idea how they survived the 2008 crisis. – JohnInLa
Dildor the Destroyer, ruiner of group emails
The call center I worked for at the time was sharing the building with other tenants, and at one point building management emailed all the tenants to complain about some damage that had been done to one of the stalls in the ladies’ restroom.
Coworker accidentally replied to everyone with an inside joke about a D&D character he’d created named “Dildor the Destroyer.”
Imagine the sound of fifty people (it was a pretty small call center at the time) all gasping and holding their breath all at once. -Jack A.Naples
GAY SEX, lol
I worked ad a design firm. One project we had was designs for an apartment complex that was in a homosexual neighbourhood and most of the ads represented that. One of the designers, as an internal joke, made a series of ads that featured GAY SEX, lol. I inadvertently sent an email to the client because I hadn’t realised they were part of a previous email thread. Needless to say, the client called us immediately. Whoops!! Anyway the client had a great sense of humour and actually printed them out to be posted around their office. -barry.george
I didn’t do it (thankfully) but my co-worker did a pretty funny version while I was out of work sick one day (heard about it the day after). He had found a funny picture of a guy in our program who was shirtless but was holding his hands in front of his chest to hide any…bits of anatomy that could possibly offend someone. However, part of the man’s thumb happened to look like one of those offensive bits of anatomy, so my co-worker took a screen shot and emailed it to the whole office with the subject line of something like “HERES NIPPLE!”.
Now, our office wasn’t that big and was pretty laid back, so it would have been an OK email to send around. Too bad he selected the global distribution list, so every single person in the company (CEO and overseas workers included) got to see a lovely picture of a shirtless man presumably showing one of his nipples. My co-worker’s supervisor caught him first and made a few calls for damage control while the poor guy was terrified for most of the day that he was going to be fired. Thankfully the CEO has a sense of humour (if I name-dropped you’d know why) and co-worker only got a stern talking to.
It was a pretty funny story for me to hear the next day after I had checked my email. – Redheadkitten
He talks too much
A couple of years ago my daughter had this particular soccer coach who tended to go down these long-winded rabbit trails in his emails to team parents. My wife and I both had our email addresses on the distribution list.
Early in the soccer season, following one particular email from the coach wherein he went off for something like six paragraphs on tangents from what kind of music he listened to, opinions on domestic roles, his old career as a fireman, etc. ad nauseum, my wife accidentally hit the dreaded Reply All button on her email client intending me to be the sole recipient of her observation that “He talks too much.”
Once the mistake was realised, both my wife and I offered our sincerest apologies in person to the coach, but the damage had been done. In response to this gaffe, this coach spent the entire remainder of the soccer season completely mute during matches. In other words, he refused to coach the team when they needed it most. He simply stood on the sideline like some sort of passive Zen master every match while the girls floundered on the pitch. Despite the pleas from other parents he refused to change his approach, and there was nothing the league could do about it at this point.
The team finished 2 – 14 for the year, and it was Reply All’s fault. -Nebraxican
Not such geniuses after all
I worked at an Apple retail store, as a Genius for three years. I would say about four or five times a year, Tim Cook, Steve Jobs or another high up would send an all staff email with either an update of the company or an announcement of some sort. Without fail, someone would reply all with something unnecessary like “Thanks, Steve!” or “So excited!”. That wasn’t really the awful part. Whenever the first reply all came, the giant meme war would start….to the whole company. These emails were going to almost 100,000 people, so we could come back to our inboxes with a couple thousand responds in our inbox. It was pretty entertaining reading the stupid stuff people started saying and it was equally funny seeing corporate IT telling everyone to stop replying all. Apparently Apple doesn’t have the ability to shut down email threads like that.- Z Lewis
Step 1: Accidentally clog the office bathroom to the point of overflowing
Step 2: Covertly sneak into other bathroom, retrieve plunger, and attempt crisis-control
Step 3: Find that plunger requires insane amount of upper arm strength to be used properly. Shamefully visit HR rep and Accountant and plead for their help
Step 4: Accountant fixes overflowing toilet
Step 5: Email both HR rep and Accountant, briefly referencing the incident and thanking them for their help
Step 6: HR rep accidentally responds to that email by REPLYING ALL to a different theread, which included one of the highest managers at a VERY IMPORTANT COMPANY
Step 7: HR rep calls me in a panic to apologise because now the VERY IMPORTANT MANAGER guy has to know about “the BATHROOM INCIDENT”
Step 8: Concoct a less embarrassing version of events to tell him
Step 9: DIE OF ULTIMATE SHAME- kw25255
Anyone else have a story that can top these?