ask the readers: reply-all horror stories

You’re at work and get an email about yet another team-building event and write back “kill me now,” intending to send it to your work friend, but accidentally hit reply-all … and now your whole team has it. Or you email your manager the many reasons why you disagree with a new process decision but accidentally reply-all to your whole department, making you look like you were trying to make A Statement when you weren’t. Or you mess up your email distribution list and accidentally invite 7,000 sailors to your New Year’s Eve party.

I want to hear about reply-all disasters — yours or other people’s. The worse, the better. Please share in the comments.

{ 1,055 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon Academic*

    Senior academic somehow sends out a message to the entire department which contains, below it, a LONG email trail about a particular staff member’s contract/redundancy. Follow up email, 5 minutes later: ‘please ignore previous, I’m on a train’.

    1. A*

      “I’m on a train” is going to be my new excuse for any and all digital faux pas.

      “Ah sorry, I didn’t mean to like your four year old instagram photo while I was scrolling through your entire timeline. Please just disregard, I’m on a train.”

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Is liking someone’s four year old Instagram photo a digital faux pas?!

        Gosh, this modern world is too complex for me…

        1. Zombeyonce*

          It can feel a bit creepy since it makes it obvious you’ve been spending a large amount of time going through their posts.

          1. JessaB*

            Not necessarily, if I’m searching for x thing, maybe an actor I like, or maybe some location I want to visit, and the person has holiday pics from that locale, or likes the actor too and posted a pic they got whilst on the subway or something, I might like it so I could find it again. That doesn’t mean I’ve scrolled through years of the person’s posting life, it just means that my search popped up something from years ago.

            1. Nanani*

              And since instagram in particular doesn’t believe in chronological posts anymore, you can genuinely not realize someone’s pic is several years old, especially if it happens to be their most frequently viewed/liked one.

        2. Indie*

          Yeah it is something cyberstalkers do. Check out your entire history and like all the things you’ve done since turning 16.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Sure, if it’s actually large amounts of time or liking every single old post, but otherwise…

            Don’t people realize all that stuff is out there, and even if no one is intrusive enough to *show* that they are meticulously going through those posts, there might still be 10 creeps actually going through them every day? It seems naive to think no one is being creepy unless they specifically post a sign saying they are…

            Maybe people liking one’s old stuff is actually a good reminder that that stuff is out there.

            1. Agatha31*

              Maybe wolf whistling guys are actually a good reminder that those guys are out there.

              This is the second post I’ve seen here in ad many days suggesting that complaining aboug or discouraging bad behavior is bad because we need REMINDERS that there are terrible people out there. What weird reality is intersecting with ours??

              1. Name of Requirement*

                Is it bad behavior to scroll back through someone’s account? Or is it simply rude to leave evidence?
                And if so, why is it there?

                1. SavannahMiranda*

                  Plausible deniability, it’s all about the plausible deniability.

                  You scroll, we all scroll, we look at people’s historical pics or posts all the time. After all it’s there like you said, and we are human. Of course people are semi-aware that others can do this and very well may be doing it right now.

                  But the trick is not to admit to it. To deny it! And certainly not to leave any cookie crumbs or clueless evidence showing it. Oh dear! No no no. Maintain your plausible deniability!

                  I mean, I’m rolling my eyes. It’s all a fiction. You just have to know where the polite fiction begins and ends and play along. Or pay a price for grumpily refusing to.

                2. AnnaBananna*

                  Screw that. I’m a crafter and a ton of my insta buds are crafters and artists. I have no shame looking through their older work and telling them it rocks my socks off. And I also just found out an old friend recently got engaged. I totally went through her photos trying to figure out the timeline of their engagement – and then found a photo of another old friend, so I totally commented my excitement. I seriously doubt my friends went ‘eww I can’t beleive she’s stalking my Insta’, they probably said ‘damn, Anna, what kind of hibernation did you just crawl out of?’. But maybe it’s different with friends?

                  I personally don’t find it creepy. If someone commented on an older post about my dog wearing a sweater (because she totally is adorable in a sweater), I would just think that they wanted to get to know me a bit better (and that they have excellent taste in canine apparel, obvi). Now…if that same person liked and commented on *all* of my posts? Yah. THAT would be in the territory known as CreepTown.

                3. TeacherLady*

                  Not necessarily rude or actually creepy, but it could be. For example:

                  *guy I haven’t seen since college comments on a 10 year old photo of my in a strapless dress on Facebook that I “look like I’m in the shower-cute”. That’s creepy.
                  *guy I left swiped on Tinder finds me on Instagram and likes all my photos going back several years. That’s creepy.
                  *friend comments on a funny Facebook photo from 12 years ago because someone had way more hair back then, or whatever. That’s just…funny.
                  *I find a crush’s Insta and scroll through all the photos. That’s both “creepy” (as in, I’m creeping someone online) and totally normal/lots of people do it.
                  *I accidentally like a crush’s 4 year old photo on Insta. That’s embarrassing for me because I didn’t want them to know I was creeping, and potentially creepy for them, depending on our relationship and what they think about me, and whether there’s a power imbalance, etc.
                  …I’ve clearly thought about this way too much…

                4. Mr Shark*

                  Yes, I’ve never understood that. If I accept a new friend on FB or follow someone on IG, why wouldn’t I look through their old photos? Isn’t that what they are for?
                  I would have no issue with someone looking at my past photos and liking them. If I didn’t want people to see them, I wouldn’t be friends with them, or I’d delete them.

              2. aebhel*

                …I’m not on Instagram, but how on earth is it bad behavior to like an older public post? I can see it being a bit weird to go through and like EVERY post, but one or two older posts?

                1. anonny*

                  I don’t think it’s bad behavior, but can be a bit embarrassing because it can accidentally reveal a crush or something like that. If I just met an attractive person and I’m scrolling through their entire Instagram to find out more about them (as you do), “liking” a picture from several years ago makes it apparent that I am going through their old photos. Not bad behavior or necessarily creepy, but can embarrass the accidental-liker or make them feel self-conscious.

              3. Just Employed Here*

                What? How is this even remotely on the same page, or even in the same book, as wolf whistling?!

                Wolf whistling is an obnoxious and loud thing to get your attention and underline to you and everyone around you that you are above all a woman (rather than, you know, a human).

                Liking a picture is … liking a picture.

                By “reminder that that stuff is out there” above I mean that people should be aware of what *content they have posted about themselves* on the never-forgetting internet. And maybe think again about what they are keeping there and posting in the future. Is that too much to ask? It never seizes to surprise me how even otherwise sane people post pics from their holidays *while they are away* and their homes are empty, and so on…

            2. Indie*

              Sure, it just depends on context. I think ‘aww memories’ would be obvious and fine. One time clicking anything isn’t going to get you labelled a stalker anyway but if you’ve liked something super random and outdated by accident you’re gonna have ‘whoops that is going to make me look either super random or super all up in their business.’ moment. Or not.

        3. Starbuck*

          Sometimes it’s fine. I follow a bunch of artists and photographers on Instagram (and post that kind of content myself) and it’s pretty normal as far as I can tell to scroll way down on their page if you enjoy their work and ‘like’ a few things that might be months, even years old depending on how often they post. I’ve done it, I’ve had people do it on my feed, never thought it was creepy.

          That said, the only person who will go back and ‘like’ dozens of my months-old posts all at once is my mom. If anyone else did that, I might think it was a little strange.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            LOL I just said that same thing above. Artists are supportive of each other, and that includes their old work too. :)

        4. Phil*

          I once had a complete random like a rather mundane tweet I made from about three years earlier. I blocked them so fast. Also now use a service that automatically deletes tweets older than (I think) six months. I really don’t have anything that needs preserving there. :P

      2. RNL*

        Once I liked my now-husband’s ex-girlfriend’s four year old instagram photo by accident. I also recently by accident friended my ex boyfriend who has not exactly amicable feelings about me (apparently). I’m an internet menace.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          LOL you really are! Ahh, I love it though. Thanks for sharing. :) It makes me feel way better about my own online shenanigans.

      3. zurgruk*

        I accidentally liked an old post once while scrolling through my new boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s fb timeline. I wished the ground would swallow me up.

    2. DrTheLiz*

      Just a few days ago, my old university had a prof who sent some poor student’s preliminary viva report to an entire post-grad mailing list. Said list comprises all STEM postgraduate, some undergrads’, staff and all the alumni who haven’t unsubscribed themselves. This report forms part of the final exam for a PhD and it’s supposed to be secret.

      I don’t think the staff even noticed till some poor kid sent a query, and then we got the usual “please pretend you didn’t see this” non-apology.

    3. Rock Prof*

      I feel like 30% of the emails I get are faculty and staff (generally faculty, really) replying all to our big university or college-wide lists.

      1. Blue*

        My last higher ed office could get pretty bad about this. Fortunately, it was internal to our (45-person) office, but it was still annoying. The worst was this day that fell during both a term break and a bad winter storm. A good chunk of the office was out that day, and because we were scattered over three buildings, you only physically saw a few people. Someone emailed the listserv with a legit work thing and closed with, “I’m here today! Come say hi!” And then practically everyone else who was at work felt the need to reply-all and be like, “I’m here, too!!!” It’s the only time I’ve ever been seriously tempted to reply-all with an all-caps message telling everyone to shut up and stop emailing. I resisted and sent an irritated email to my friend instead (which I made sure I did not hit reply all on…)

        1. Rock Prof*

          We use outlook, and somehow are settings have been such that if you try to make a calendar event from an email someone has sent you (such a university event sent to everyone on campus), it automatically makes the event and sends it out to EVERYONE the email was sent to. This probably happens multiple times a semester, and it’s a really easy mistake to make (I share the honor of being the 1st person to do this and decided the best solution was to just ignore it). I’ve learned to expect the weird calendar things that pop up like that, though lots of people haven’t caught onto this yet, leading to the “unsubscribes” and confusion. The best is when, inevitably, someone tries to delete their personal calendar event, it pings EVERYONE again, and then worried emails get sent out to everyone asking if the event is still on!

          1. Wondering One*

            We have some Outlook meeting-calendar issue as well. Recently a co-worker meant to send a reply to just a small group of us and started with, “I want you all to know I plan to attend….” My heart sank in embarrassment for my co-worker when I realized it went out to a couple thousand people instead of a dozen.

      2. Pippa*

        This is why I’ve started putting the mailing list in the bcc line. When I can’t do that, I play a little game with myself called “How many of you ding dongs will hit ‘reply all’ immediately after reading the last line of the email, which is ‘please do not reply-all to this message.'” The answer is never “zero.”

        But to be fair, I have as many Absentminded Professor moments as the next academic, so I like to think at least we’re all in the same boat. :-)

    4. FCJ*

      My academic field has two major scholarly societies that each serves a different set of subfields. People are sometimes members of both but usually one or the other. The two societies put on a ginormous joint annual conference. Usually you refer to the conference by the name of whichever society you belong to, but it’s the same conference.
      So one of the admins at my school sent out a “don’t forget about the annual conference!” email that referred to it by the name of only one of the societies. This prompted a reply-all from one professor: “What about _other society_?” And then from the dean: “Of course _other society_ is included. _Admin_ please edit the announcement.” Followed by a new, corrected announcement in the same thread.
      I love reply-all.

        1. DieTrying*

          SBL/AAR, I suspect :) And including only one of these in an announcement would be … not well received by many.

  2. ThatOneRedhead*

    I have a great one. I work at a manufacturing site of a very large global company that you have definitely heard of. About six years ago, someone sent an email asking if anyone had found a shipment that had gone missing. Unfortunately, they sent it to a group email address that included everybody in the company (over 40,000 people).

    It started with all of the Out of Office replies cascading, but we very quickly had people replying all with attempts to help (including several people who were on a different continent, but offered to do what they could), attempts to let the sender know that they had the wrong person on the email, and finally, attempts to tell everyone else to stop replying to all. (My favorite was someone who just wrote “Please game over”.)

    There were over 200 emails received by everyone in the company and IT had to shut down email for the entire company for a day to clean out the queues. It’s now an unofficial holiday — Reply All Day, and there are some classic memes that still get passed around, years later.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      Hahaha! I’ve worked in a very very large firm where this happened a lot. Person accidentally copied groups that contained thousands of individuals, and there would be a cascade of “please remove me from this chain” emails that would last for DAYS. The horror.

      1. NW Mossy*

        To which: I’m sure this must happen sometimes at Microsoft, because Outlook has an “ignore” feature that allows you to send all future replies to an email straight to deleted items.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Better is when some poor sod flags their mistake and everyone gets “Jane Doe would like to RECALL this mail”. Probably worked for the marketing and sales bods using Windows, but on the techie floor where we handled our own mail on Unix machines, you’d hear a ripple of laughter… Followed by lots of tapping as we all investigated to see what was up with the original mail – cos now we are all gonna notice it!

          Tee hee.

      1. General Ginger*

        Off topic, but I would pay money to see this musical. The act II opener is sung by the lead’s sidekick & ensemble, and is called “Your Boss Sucks And Isn’t Going to Change”

          1. FD*

            If we start here it will be horrible derail, but I suggest we do a thread of them in the Friday open thread!

            1. Bad Janet*

              “Gumption” is the opener where we’re introduced to our plucky fresh-from-college graduate who is out there trying to find a job, using all the terrible advice from parents/grandparents/career centers.

              1. JessaB*

                And it needs to be a Lin Manuel Miranda type rap song. Seriously. And something by Elton John and Bernie Taupin and something by Lord Lloyd Weber.

          1. Mello*

            This is the Boss’s big moment. “Is this LEEGALL? Can I fire her for being pregnant? Is this LEEEGAL? “

        1. Nicelutherangirl*

          One of the sets needs to be an open plan office space, of course, with a song (like 3 overlapping songs) about the perils and problems of working in one.

          1. Nerfmobile*

            There’s a Jekyll & Hyde musical that has a four-part song titled “His Work and Nothing More”. I could totally see a version of that rewritten for the open-office song!

          1. Anonybus*

            And features a dance number where performers im fish costumes spell out the letters in “I QUIT”!

      2. Wintermute*

        why am I envisioning “Hired: The Musical!” from Mystery Science Theater 3,000?

        The one where they did a musical about the “how to be a manager” short educational film from Chrysler.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      I used to work for a very large company, and during an accidental company wide email cascade my manager stood up and announced that if any of her direct reports responded “please do not respond to all” to the entire company she would fire that person immediately.

      She was joking. I think.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I was so thrilled when a recent “welcome to the team” email to 1000 people (on purpose! O.o) garnered six reply-all welcomes, and *not one person replied all to say to stop it*. Because IMX, usually 2-3 reply-alls in, you get the barrage of don’t-do-that sent to everyone.

    3. Anonymous Engineer*

      Lol we either work for the same company or this has same issue has taken down multiple enormous companies for a day.

      1. Observer*

        This is a classic. It’s happened to multiple companies – and it tends to happen to the big ones, because they are the ones with lists big enough to really mess things up.

        It’s become less common as admins are getting better at making it hard (or even impossible) to make this mistake.

        1. Anonicat*

          My then-boyfriend showed up to a date once chuckling because he’d finally figured out the reason the email server had crashed – Worker 1 had returned from holiday and started sending emails, but forgot to turn his out-of-office autoreply off. He emailed someone who was still away, and their autoreplies just kept responding to each other till the system was overwhelmed.

    4. Anon for this*

      My company had a reply-all disaster make the top list on Wikipedia.

      Poor Vince. I wonder if he still works here.

        1. Anon for this*

          I don’t think so, this was triggered by someone trying to get a company-issued phone issue resolved and ended up emailing the distribution list for everyone who had a company phone or had downloaded the Airwatch (or whatever app they used so you could access email on your personal phone).

          I was not on that distribution list, so I got to watch from the sidelines as coworkers dealt with the flood, and only really had problems with delays to sending & receiving legit emails. Watching Twitter that day was hysterical.

      1. JediSquirrel*

        reply-all disaster make the top list on Wikipedia

        I just found “Email storm” on Wikipedia. Oh, my.

    5. Mbarr*

      This happened – someone replied-all to a contact list for all Skype users. Our CEO was pissed. IT ended up shutting down the servers to stop the cascade.

      My favorite was someone who replied with a pic of a cowboy riding a horse and the caption, “Rodeo.”

    6. Xantar*

      A version of this happened at my place of work except my employer is the State of Maryland and the emails went to everybody from State Police to the health department to the Governor…

    7. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      If this gets chosen for Alison’s Top Whatever Number list (and how could it not?), I hope you will share some of the classic memes.

    8. EJane*

      Oh god! The exact same thing happened when I was working as an assistant at a major, multi-national financial company, also one you have definitely heard of.
      Some poor sod in IT accidentally broke a distribution list, and someone sent one email that went out to about 90% of our company. This immediately prompted reply-alls from our more senior employees, saying “please take me off this thread” or “please take me off this list”, which in turn generated a lot of “your email could not be delivered” because of aforementioned breakage, which were also somehow set to reply-all??

      We didn’t have to shut down, but I did get to watch the senior EA, who was a truly difficult and unkind woman, nearly lose her mind. That was worth it.

    9. The Dig*

      Similar thing happened when I was a student some years ago. My university’s library department sent out an email regarding opening hours of a particular campus’ library, or something like that, to all the student body and staff.
      And then, due to some bug on our student email , whenever someone replied, the reply was sent to ALL the student body. So we had a fun week of getting dozens of emails daily, mostly other students asking to stop replying. One started replying with quotes from the Epic of Gilgamesh, if I remember correctly. I cannot find the emails, I must have deleted them, but there were other gems, people just started having fun with the whole incident (and flooding our inbox). Finally, the university’s IT department had to shut the whole thing down for a day to fix the bug.

    10. Mrsfarmer*

      I think I know which company because I worked there too and remember that quite well! Oh the irony of the reply all “PLEASE STOP REPLYING ALL” messages!

    11. KH - Seattle*

      I work in IT and am a little surprised emailing the entire company is still possible. Most companies have mail server rules that do not allow that. At my old company of about 5000 people, we had this kind of Reply All problem a lot before we changed permissions.

      Oh, and another one – people emailing the entire company when they were leaving the firm, having a baby, changing team, getting married, etc.

      Don’t miss that at all…

    12. Lynn*

      This happened at a previous job, but ended when someone posted a meme with a serious swear in it. To the reply all. To the entire company. Including C suite execs.
      It was a very casual company, but still. He got a very serious talk from HR.

  3. Hlyssande*

    I don’t really have a horror story, but reply all chains in my company almost always devolve into a lot of capslock yelling and eventually, memes.

    1. Busy*

      That sounds nice. In my company, people just get very defensive and get into full on fights in the reply all. So we all know who is the blame …

  4. Isobel171*

    I did this. Early in my career, someone sent a company-wide email advertising an item for sale (which they shouldn’t have done) which happened to be just the thing I needed for my then-husband. I replied with some enthusiasm and an unnecessary level of detail about why I wanted the item, plus my personal contact info…. to the whole company nationwide. Thousands and thousands of people. Awks.
    The company shortly afterwards restricted the internal email system so it was impossible for such a thing to happen again.

  5. CR*

    One time I wrote an email bitching about work (from my work email – big mistake I know) to my friend Stacey. I typed “S” in the address field and hit enter, thinking her email would be automatically filled in, but it almost went to our entire company email database (“staff”). THANK THE LORD I caught it in time.

    1. Amber T*

      The autofill feature is the WORST. I mean, it’s the best since you don’t have to remember everyone’s emails, but I have sent too many emails to the wrong individuals because I (stupidly) didn’t check to make sure “Fe” finished to Fergus and not Felicia.

      1. Tony Stark*

        I work for a large network of private schools, and we all had separate domain names for a while until someone at head office went “Hey! Let’s all use the same domain name so it’s convenient!” (even though pretty much every single person apart from them thought it was the worst idea ever).

        Our format they were standardizing was initialLastname (e.g. jsmith@domain). This was hardly a problem while every had its own domain, and you can fix that with incrementing.

        After this, we discovered that two people at the same school had the exact same name format as the overall director and another guy near the top; so emails intended for one party were getting mixed up with the other.

        I noticed their email addresses have dots in their usernames now to separate them a little. Whoops.

        1. Ginger ale for all*

          I work for a university where they had a new Dean come in. The addresses were all first initial dot last name at our edu. They gave him my friend’s email address and publicized it without checking to see if it was already taken. Business cards were ordered, the whole works. When they discovered the error, the powers that be made my friend get a new email address and gave her address that she had had for over 14 years to the new guy.

          1. Jessica*

            I too work at a large university. Some years ago we had a dean whose name was, let’s say, “Bob Jaz” (a last name that with one more letter would sound the same but spell a common English word). I learned from someone I knew who’d mis-sent an email that we ALSO had a “Bob Jazz” on campus, who was a part-time student. I shudder to think of all the wildly inappropriate and confidential email that student probably received.

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              At my old job, we had a technician whose name was very similar to that of the chief executive (think Apollo Warbucks and Apollo Warburton). He always used to get misdirected emails.

              The same team also had a guy with the same name as someone in HR. The HR guy ended up complaining to IT in the end about misdirected emails.

          2. Tony Stark*

            That’s where having a dedicated address that sends directly to the Dean’s specific account comes in handy (e.g. “dean@university”).

        2. curly sue*

          My uni has the same format across all faculties. One of the managers in facilities has an email address one dot away from a faculty member in the medical school. The gynecology professor.

          He gets the *wildest* misdirected emails, but at this point he’s become a bit jaded by the whole thing.

          1. M*

            One of my uni friends worked for the student union, and so had a staff email address. He also happened to have the same – fairly common – name as a prominent Jewish History academic at the university, which resulted in them having an email address that was separated by a single number.

            If the amount of misdirected anti-Semitic rants he received was any indication, his namesake must have been utterly swamped in the tripe.

      2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        And in CR’s case it was extra dangerous because “staff” and “Stacey” share the same first three letters, so hitting “enter” after typing “st” or “sta” would have caused the same problem.

      3. Blue_eyes*

        And it doesn’t even work that well! I have a Michelle that I email to a lot. But for some reason, autofill never pops up her name until I’ve typed the whole name, instead offering me Mike, then Michael, then Michele, before finally filling in Michelle. I don’t email those other people 1/4 as much as I email Michelle, so it would be really helpful if her name came up first!

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Add her to your contacts. You can even add a nickname so you only type ‘mi’ if you wanted. :)

      4. Elan Morin Tedronai*

        I HATE that feature too. Like, how does that thing manage to waste time in the name of saving it‽

    2. CatMintCat*

      I work in a statewide public school system and our emails are in a set “first name.lastname” format with a middle initial to differentiate if needed. I share a name with somebody who works in the counselling section of the department (think I’m jane.m.smith and she’s jane.n.smith). The amount of confidential stuff that lands in my inbox is ridiculous and I have to email her and the sender every tine to cover myself for having access to this confidential info. It gets old fast.

    3. Elan Morin Tedronai*

      I can vividly imagine how that almost went…

  6. AndersonDarling*

    A manager sent an email letting the office and her main customers know that she would be out of the office for a while. One of the recipients was a previous employee and she replied-all: “Thanks for the info. How are you? Is your assistant still a big B**ch!”
    It was really sad because the assistant was a nice lady and very competent. It just showed that the manager blamed everything on her assistant and complained about her for no reason.

  7. IL JimP*

    This isn’t mine but we use to have company wide distribution lists built into our Outlook address books and someone got fired and emailed the entire list about how they thought the decision was unfair and arbitrary. Eventually after about 500 reply alls people started to get miffed more at the emails than anything else and after multiple “please don’t reply all” emails some one reply all’ed “OMFG!!” and that was the end of the distribution lists in my company :)

    1. Anon for this*

      We had someone drunk email our BusinessUnit-all email in the middle night one time after she got fired, railing on her boss and the company and on and on. This was years ago, but it was still a couple hundred people. I don’t think anyone replied to her, or if they did they they didn’t reply-all, but that as much talked about with amusement for years after.

      The best was when she tried to recall it in the morning. She was a couple hours behind the main office, so the recall notices hit around 11:30am our time. Sorry, lady, way too late for that.

  8. PalmettoGal*

    I and a large number of others was forwarded a Hogwarts acceptance letter (from Pottermore I believe) from an employee of an outside foundation. She was a Hufflepuff.

    1. NotaPirate*

      I’m choosing to believe that wasn’t an error, she was so happy she was sharing with all of you and explaining why she won’t be answering future emails as Hogwarts has no Wi-Fi. :)

      1. AKchic*

        I think this makes perfect sense. She will only reply to emails during school holidays as that is the only time she will have wi-fi. Please be advised that all other communications from this newly sorted ‘puff will be received via owlpost.

        Kind Regards,
        Anita Break
        Muggle Relations

    2. NforKnowledge*

      A colleague of mine managed to sign up to LinkedIn using the mailing list for quite a large collaboration. We still occasionally get emails about how he has a new contact or whatever.

    3. misplacedmidwesterner*

      About 10 years ago when facebook for the entire public was new-ish, we had a staff training session about it and about using social media to advertise our organization. People who didn’t have a personal account were encouraged to create one (even an anonymous one) to learn the interface. One of our employees created an account and used the work distribution list as her verification email. So all her notifications, all her friend requests, everything went to our entire work group (about 20 people) for 2 weeks (because she promptly went on vacation and was unreachable to get it fixed)

  9. Still Makes Me Laugh*

    This happened at my former workplace, I kept the email. Background – helpdesk system. A faculty member sent an all campus email noting that she sent the 12,000th helpdesk request. She then kindly thanked the folks who take care of us and who make our jobs easier.

    The facilities director hit reply all and said:

    How about you submit #12001 for me to supply you with a dumpster so you can clean out your “hoarder” office??

    I die. Her office was/is a complete hoarder office, it’s hard to describe how bad it is. This email was pure gold. He may have been reprimanded but for the laugh I still get out of it, I’d say it was totally worth it.

      1. Alexis Rose*

        I worked at a university and there was a prof who had a CANOE in his office. It was balanced on stacks of books and papers overhead so you sort of had to walk under it to get to his desk.

        1. Rainy*

          I work in higher ed now, but back when I was an undergrad, my mentor was the head of one faction in her department, and the head of the other faction had a hoarder office. She’d bring her cats to work with her so her office smelled dreadfully of cat, and you couldn’t open the door all the way for the piles of books, old student marking (some of which had never been done), more books, boxes of clothes, random dead plants she’d “rescued” out of the trash and then killed even more, etc. You could smell her office down the hall in my mentor’s office the SECOND the hoarder prof opened her door even a crack.

          When she retired, the library came after her because she had FIFTEEN HUNDRED books checked out, some of them for decades. She just refused to return them.

              1. Asenath*

                Yeah, faculty. One of my early jobs was as a student assistant in the university library. At one point, I was asked to go through the cards they used and pick out the ones for books that were overdue – and I thought I’d found some serious book thieves. But it was explained to me that the people who had books out a really long time were faculty, and didn’t need to be included in the list of people (ie students) to be contacted about their overdue books.

              2. Oxford Comma*

                It’s always interesting when a faculty member retires just how many of our books we get back.

                We also routinely receive donations of books from the family of faculty who have died and there’s almost always books that we own in there. And just as routinely, we’ll find copies from other university libraries where the faculty member once worked.

                1. Anonymous to protect the guilty*

                  I used to work at a video store and there was a customer who was a professor. He was always on the late list! Eventually he would come in and return whatever stack of four-week-late movies he had out. Very polite, always paid the fine, no issues.

                  So one particular occasion he has a stack of dvds several weeks late and it turns out that THIS time the reason why he hasn’t returned the movies – or part of the reason, anyway- is because he’s dead! A few weeks later, his adult son comes in, returns all the movies, and donates a big stack of his late father’s porn collection in lieu of late fees!

                  I don’t think they could be put into circulation for regulatory reasons but they were snapped up by my porn-watching coworkers within moments.

          1. JustaTech*

            I worked (briefly) at a university library where some of the very most senior professors had offices inside the library stacks. During a major renovation the professors had to be moved out of their offices (temporarily).

            One guy just ignored all the move notices (for the better part of a year) and when his grad student did finally pack him up he had 20 CARTS of books. In an office with not much more square footage than the average cube.

          2. Jess*

            Oh yeah, reminds me of a cringeworthy moment when I worked at the library when I was at university.

            I wasn’t at the front desk, but up in the AV suite. (i.e. I didn’t check out books, but just checked out short-term loans of DVDs, videos etc. for people to watch on the tvs there.) It would still flag for me when someone had over a certain amount in late fines and I was meant to direct them down to Level 1 to pay before I could issue anything to them.

            One day a middle-aged guy in a suit is getting something out, it pops up, I explain I can’t issue to him…and one of my coworkers quietly lets me know that this is the *Vice-Chancellor*. (i.e. top top top TOP senior leadership.) That’s….kind of the situation that gets a pass. Oooops!

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Yes, but SHOULD IT? I say this as someone in academia. A VC isn’t even doing research – what’s their excuse for not returning stuff or paying their fine like the good kids who attend school (for which is his job’s purpose)?

              1. Jess*

                Haha you’re right, but it DEFINITELY wasn’t in my lowly student assistant paygrade to make that call :-P

      2. twig*

        Higher ed here too!

        We had someone retire a couple of years ago who had 3 offices to clean out. Every time he’d get moved to a new office, he wouldn’t clean out the old one. He’d move what he currently needed then use the old office for storage.

        (thinking about how space is at a premium on campus, I have no idea how he got away with it for so long!)

      1. Artemesia*

        Me too. I just know that those class materials from 30 years ago will come in handy some time. Only thing that saved me was a major move to a smaller office which meant having to let go of some of it.

        1. Cassandra*

          For me it’s spare/backup/parts-donor equipment for an ongoing service I run.

          I’ve piled up… quite a lot of it. *sheepish*

    1. kittymommy*

      We have a director here that is due to retire soon. The absolute dread that his staff has when this happens are equal parts that they will miss him (he’s great at his job and just a really good guy) and pure terror over cleaning his office out. 95% of it is unusable due to mounds of paperwork. There are paths carved out to get to his chair from the doors. No surface space is visible.

    2. AKchic*

      As someone who has had to deal with hoarders, and was hoarder adjacent (the hoarders would require me, the program assistant, to “save” things because “we might need that in the future, and you *are* the official records clerk!”), I can totally understand. And saving things digitally only worked so much because some of these people were senior citizens and really didn’t trust technology. Alaskans don’t always trust technology either (what if there’s a power outage, or if the technology fails, which has been an issue before) so they would begrudgingly agree to both digital and hardcopy saving, and then I’d have to wait a few years for the random thing to be forgotten so I could shred it and hope they’d never remember it; or get rid of all but one copy of whatever it was they had me save (who needs 7 copies of the same binder that is 12 years outdated?).

      1. Asenath*

        When I started my current job, my then-boss was firmly of the opinion that EVERYTHING must be kept. Hard copy, of course. His predecessors seemed to have had similar views, and everything was stored in my space – a good 30 years of meeting notices, schedules, and correspondence relating to people who for one reason or another hadn’t actually joined the group, but had enquired about the possibility some 25-30 years ago. Scattered among it was some fairly confidential personal stuff. The quantity had to be seen to be believed. Bosses change, and, more to the point, so does space – my work group was moved to a smaller space, and, glory be, I got permission to gut the files, scanning and archiving online what appeared to be important, and (I thought this was an inspiration) to store some of them off-site. I am not sure anyone knows how much – or what – I actually disposed of and I sent 9 banker’s boxes of personnel files into off-site storage. I don’t think it was my fault that we later got an email from higher management about there being far too much stuff in off-site storage, costing too much money. And in the years since, I needed something in off-site storage twice, and the shredded and scanned stuff, not at all.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          My company has announced a purge of off site storage. I was chatting with the person in charge of it: we have 80,000 boxes at the facility. 40,000 of them are being included in this purge. Each department is getting a list of their boxes. They have 3 options: purge, keep (have to supply a valid business reason, and I was told that higherups have instructed to be ruthless on what counts), or don’t know and the legal people get to look at it and decide. I suspect that we’ll be destroying most of those 40k boxes.

          1. Asenath*

            I expect eventually that will happen to us. I do know exactly what is in each box, so I don’t need a list. Of course, once I retire, everything will depend on whether my successor reads my handover notes and figures out where on the server I put the inventory.

        2. Canadian Public Servant*

          Season two of the podcast In the Dark had some fascinating information on how records for a police department in Mississippi were kept. Like, “Oh, you need to go to this abandoned jail for those arrest records from the 1980s, and dig through the unlabelled boxes in that former cell that is obviously being used for parties and adventures by the local young’uns. At least, they might be there.” My jaw dropped so many times.

      2. Blarg*

        Ha. Also in Alaska. Have similar stories. And realized while writing them that I’ve encouraged too many colleagues to read this site to tell said stories.

        I do feel very strongly that thou shalt not have [Alaska only phone/internet/tv company] provide both your cell phone and internet service. At least when one goes down, the other still works.

      3. Tupac Coachella*

        We had a secretary who quit abruptly, and we found boxes and boxes of things like one e-mail from someone we dealt with five years ago, printed out in color (it’s a big deal at my org that color costs extra, so we use it very sparingly), placed in its own individual file-no indication of what the file was supposed to be or why she saved it. She also had mountains of notes to herself, typed and printed, often also in color (why does a note to yourself need to be blue?!), often filed in a system that no one else understood. Because we work in a field where we’re required to keep certain records for 7 years, we had to go through ever single file and read all of her bizarre reminders and inaccurate descriptions of processes she had supposedly been doing. The file hoarding was one of her many…interesting qualities.

        1. Asenath*

          Oh, we had someone like that. At least the hoard I inherited was contained, and stored in boxes and filing cabinets. She appeared to be unable or unwilling to make an independent decision – and for her last years before retirement, she was working for an extremely busy person with absolutely no interest in paperwork and no time (or interest) in trying to get her to be more efficient. So she saved everything. Not only were all the drawers, shelves and all flat surfaces covered, so was most of the floor. The office was completely unusable, but the nominal owner didn’t mind since he was usually in another part of the facility doing things that interested him. Papers were very roughly chronological – there would be one, or two or half a dozen bits of paper from a single date stacked on another handful from a very different date. And they went back years and years. There was no effort to sort them by importance. There were old journals, long-ago phone messages, ads and brochures, plus of course all the usual stuff – notices of meetings, committee agendas and minutes, reports on all kinds of incidents or plans, just stacks and stacks and stacks. She wouldn’t throw out so much as a letter about some long-ago conference, or a bit of junk mail without approval, and her boss wasn’t about to waste time checking such trivialities. They were really the worst possible combination. Talking about conferences – there were ancient give-away bags from long-ago conferences, sometimes with forgotten toiletries and handouts. It took a couple of us ages to clean it out when she retired – we didn’t have the heart to leave it all to her replacement.

          1. calonkat*

            “we didn’t have the heart to leave it all to her replacement.”

            Ah, yes. I’d been working in my current place of employment (state government) for almost a year when I realized that when someone was replace, the new person just inherited all the papers/binders/stuff/trash that were left by others to inhabit the cubicle. So, with permission, I started cleaning out cubicles when people left. I’m sure I kept a lot of stuff that wasn’t needed, but it was all at least related to the job! Whereas a binder of presentations from a conference on a vaguely governmental topic from 5 years ago, or folder of performance reviews of the previous person, or stash of pens from hotels? NOT NEEDED! It took our agency getting moved to another building for most people to give up their hoards. We didn’t need to buy office supplies for the next YEAR when all the extra staples/paper clips flowed back in.

      4. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

        Our admin is right now going thru many many boxes of old stuff from the boss’s office (boss moved to an office in another building over six months ago, office is now being renovated instead of being locked and empty). Many many boxes. She’s sitting next to the boxes making a list. I glance into one box (old textbooks from 15 years ago–I do not exaggerate). I say, we can just recycle those. No, no we can’t — state university, books were purchased with state funds, so we must surplus them. Make a list, store them until the state surplus office comes to pick them up. Nearly every box is full of similarly useless things. If the boss had chucked them out 14 years ago, the admin would not be wasting her life doing this.

    3. Anonicat*

      Ah, I remember the time we set aside a few days for everyone to help clean out all the cupboards, drawers, fridges and freezers in our laboratory that had been running for decades.

      There were normal things – old journals and photocopied articles and conference proceedings.

      There were normal-for-a-lab things – obsolete equipment, broken traps, mercury thermometers that should have been turned in a decade ago.

      Then there were…”why the hell do we still have/did we EVER have these?” things. There was a stack of DDT-impregnated flypapers. There was a vial of chikungunya virus, by the date on the label collected very shortly after the virus was first discovered. When we opened a -80C freezer, that no current member of the lab had ever used, the first item was an unlabeled plastic bag containing a single mouse head.

      It was an interesting couple of days.

    4. Fiercely Fabulous*

      I’m the deputy director in my office. After many years of pleading, in 2015 my then-boss finally agreed that her assistant could, under my supervision, clean out the bursting-full, 30 large lateral file drawers (6 tall cabinets) cluttering up the place. We did it when she was on vacation. We wound up keeping 1/3 of one drawer worth of paper. Among the many things we discarded were carefully filed, in date order, carbon-copy receipts from 1981, for ribbons for 2 typewriters and a daisy-wheel printer.

  10. Catherine*

    Reply-all fiascoes in my organization are sonnet-like in their beauty and predictability.

    First, there is the accidental reply all.
    This is followed by a stern admonishment “You should not have hit “reply all”.
    Naturally, this is then followed by several replies of “Well, you should not have replied all in your comment not to reply to all”.
    Finally, there is a chorus of “please unsubscribe me from this list”.

    1. curly sue*

      We had one of these on campus last summer, a notice about a very sub-niche conference sent to the full faculty and staff announcement list instead of the relevant department.

      The cascade lasted about two days, with an additional series of “why did you send me, personally, this useless announcement??” emails from people who hadn’t realized it was an all-staff list accident. It was a thing of beauty.

    2. YarnOwl*

      There’s a woman in my office who does this EVERY time someone accidentally replies all. It’s kind of a joke with my team, and when someone accidentally does it we’ll say, “How long until X takes this person to task? I’m taking bets!”

      1. WellRed*

        Well, the fix to that is to reply all asking “How long until X takes this person to task? I’m taking bets!”

    3. TeacherLady*

      A couple of years ago, I’m not sure how it happened, a standard informational email about a particular form was sent to a list containing every staff member (thousands). Followed the typical “please remove me”, and “stop replying all”, along with jokes (“I’d like to be added to this list”), and I believe a party was planned.

      A SECOND email to the entire list was then sent, begging everyone to stop replying all to the first email, to which many replied all, some trying (and failing) to organize a group agreement to simply stop replying to the chain.

      Finally, a THIRD email, which must have been sent in a way that replying all was not an option, went out explaining how to turn off the reply all function.

  11. Amber Rose*

    Oooh, I have a fun one. A few years ago I worked for a company that had a document control contract with the government. So I wasn’t a government employee, but I had an official government email and worked in a government building. Still, I got maybe one or two emails a day at most usually.

    One day I started getting a lot of emails. Dozens, in fact. At first, they were government business emails I probably shouldn’t have been reading, with a few personal emails I also shouldn’t read. Then I started getting the complaints. “Take me off this mailing list.” “You hit reply-all, stop that.”

    The problem was, there was a bug that was sending every email sent to every government email. If you hit reply-all, people got two copies. The emails I got quickly ascended into the hundreds, as people would reply-all to tell people to either remove them from a mailing list that didn’t exist, reply-all to tell people to stop using reply-all, reply all to tell people about the bug, or reply-all to complain about the people asking to be taken off mailing lists. Or reply all to complain about the people complaining, or reply all to beg people to just stop sending emails. Plus duplicates.

    I probably lost some actual work requests in the mess, despite my efforts to filter the mess. Everyone just HAD to have their two cents, or reply to complainers even though ignoring them would have been best. I ended the ordeal with well over a thousand emails.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      This would be an excellent “bug” to take down a modern-day bureaucracy and run an old-fashioned coup. If one were so inclined, I mean….

      1. Amber Rose*

        I did end up with access to some interesting secret government emails. xD
        There are so many people with government email addresses. Hundreds. Felt like not a single one had the sense to just back away from their email for a couple hours and wait for the go-ahead from tech support.

    2. anna green*

      Ugh the people who reply all to the reply all are the WORST. Like…it was a mistake…just delete it and move on with your day. Easy peasy.

      1. HB*

        It is 2019. How can people not realize this? Also, on what listserv does just emailing “please remove me” actually result in you being removed? You always have to click on some link to unsubscribe, there’s not always so master moderator taking all your email requests. I just can’t understand how this always happens!

        1. TechWorker*

          There are some lists where sending an email just saying ‘unsubscribe’ to the alias does so automagically – but I think that maybe goes along with email lists where only some people have permission to send emails to them; ie it relies on there being some automatic pre-moderation. In those cases reply all isn’t an issue anyway…

    3. Applesauced*

      This sounds like the West Wing when (in like 1998) Margret sent and email about the calorie counts in the muffins and got the whole White House email served bogged down

        1. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impaired Peep*

          Yep but probably more towards 1999 because it was in the second half of season 1 leading up to the finale. It was in the episode “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet” and Toby has the best snark with it.

          I’m making myself a note for the Saturday thread about the amazingness of West Wing jabbering.

  12. Natalie*

    When we switched to Outlook from Lotus Notes, IT sent a company-wide email out…and didn’t use a mailing list or the bcc field. At the time, there were 60,000+ employees and contractors. The resulting reply-all mess–mostly consisting of people screaming at the entire company to STOP REPLYING TO ALL–crashed the new email servers. It was amazing.

      1. Natalie*

        We still use it, but not for email. I was at a conference with some colleagues last month and mentioned that we still used LN for some functions and one of them–a recent hire–busted out laughing because it is truly ridiculous that in the year of our lord 2019 we are STILL using shitty internally developed databases for these processes.

        1. Aerin*

          We transitioned back in 2013, and were told the Lotus Notes servers would get turned off within two years. They’re still online to support one single function. And of course the users of that function are the absolute worst about remembering passwords.

        2. BookishMiss*

          Yep, still using Lotus for everything at my job. Supposedly, Outlook is coming soon, but those databases mean Lotus will never really go away…

    1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      I think we might work in the same company! Either that, or multiple large orgs are totally inept… (seems just as likely)

  13. BadWolf*

    At Big Company, someone accidentally sent something to a very large mailing list. The contents weren’t a big deal — basically asking for help on Very Niche Thing. To me, it was pretty obvious it was meant for Small Niche Thing Mailing list and the large mailing list was a mistake. Ignore. Easy.


    A whole bunch of people starting doing a reply-all , “What is this? I don’t support it.” “Unsubscribe.” “Remove me from this list.” “You’ve emailed the wrong people.” “Don’t use this list.” “Stop replying all people.”

    Eventually, it degenerated to “I am not amused, stop replying!!”

    To which someone replied, “I am amused, please continue.”

      1. CleverName*

        “Life is a rich tapestry” is one of my favorite sayings. I first heard it from Dear Prudence, but it is so applicable to so many things.

            1. Frank Doyle*

              I — don’t think that’s true either. I think it is a much older phrase that was around before television.

    1. Briefly Anon*

      This happened at my Big Company, with the lovely addition of sending the email to every single person in the company (in every country the company is located in) and every vendor the company has ever worked with.

      After an hour, they shut down the entire company’s email server for a bit.

      1. Robin*

        I’ve also had this situation. It was only a couple hundred emails all told, but they kept coming over a couple days as new geos woke up to check their email.

    2. your favorite person*

      I like to believe they were saying “I don’t support it” as a general statement rather than a work related one.

      I DO support this thread.

    3. LQ*

      This reminds me of a slightly different reply all situation. I had a new hire and part of the process is to get a badge you send an email with a form to a group. I triple checked that it was the right group email, I even peeked to see who was in the group and it looked like close enough based on what I knew (I knew who the manager was at least and she was in there).

      So I sent the proper paperwork to the proper email group and there was an instant reply all, “Stop sending messages to this address, I don’t support this! I don’t even know why you sent this to me!” message. Like the sender was waiting boiling over with rage for anything to come into their path. They’d replyed all and I then forwarded the message to their boss (who had seen it) with the kindest possible version of “Is this the right email group?” It was of course and the boss scheduled the time and did the next steps in the process. I don’t know that that reply all-er ever got told that yes, that was actually their job.

    4. Hannah*

      I love this. I am always the person who is amused and I do feel slightly disappointed when the chain ends. I never respond though.

  14. Kaden Lee*

    Not so much a horror story as an amusing thing: apparently I’m on an email list for Process Improvement and apparently that is a global list. Somebody sent a spam email to that list last week and reply-alls of “why did I get this email” came back in Spanish, French, and Hebrew, along with three or four unique replies of how to report the spam email.

  15. Ice and Indigo*

    I sent round an e-mail announcing I was collecting stamps for a charity I volunteered with. Next thing I know, someone who’d always been very smiley-smiley ran up to my desk and pinned me to it so she could delete something from my inbox. (Less violent than that sounds; more like she was my best friend and we always rough and tumbled, except that she wasn’t and we didn’t. I’d barely spoken to her.)

    However, she forgot to go into my delete folder, so I checked there. Turned out she’d replied to me, as well as to her work BFF, making fun of me for being obvious that I volunteered for the charity. (I knew they were office BFFs because they never ever shut up calling to each other across the office; it was incredibly distracting.)

    …Yeah. I went into her office and said firmly but politely that if she had something to say to me, another time please say it to my face. Said the same thing to her BFF, who got incredibly defensive and said that it just was what it was, office life was always ‘a minefield’. I said, ‘Yeah, but you don’t have to add to it’, because it wouldn’t have been professional to say, ‘I’m sure it is when you’re around’. Neither acted at all sorry.

    I was junior to both of them, by the way. But after I politely confronted BFF, she’d literally flatten herself against the wall every time I went past because I was obviously so intimidating.

    Yep, I am not sorry I don’t work there any more.

    1. government worker*

      I mean, that sucks, but she tried to delete it. It definitely hurts to hear mean things about yourself, but I don’t think she had to be contrite. I don’t believe you’ve never seen something petty and mean-spirited about someone you would never say to their face.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yes, she did have to be contrite. Professionalism means you don’t do stuff like this.

        We’re adults not middle schoolers.

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          That’s what I thought. For the record, a lot of their office bonding involved sharing their spite towards another co-worker – a nice person, also in a subordinate position to them – so the main reason I confronted them was not because I expected them to be sorry; they were nasty people. I did it to indicate that I wasn’t a complete pushover, in the hopes that next time they wanted to bond over bitching about somebody further down the pecking order, they decided not to target me.

          But, you know, thanks, government worker, for making sharing a memory of humiliation such a pleasant and supportive experience. Definitely makes me want to share more here in future.

          1. Lola*

            Ignore government worker, I think most ppl agree going over to someone’s desk and deleting an email is super sketch.

          2. government worker*

            I seem to have really upset you! The reason I even mentioned it is because from your original comment it seems like that they didn’t “act sorry” seems to have upset you more. Would it really have made a difference to you if they groveled?

            1. Ice and Indigo*

              Why the loaded language like ‘groveled’? Why fixate on a short, neutral, not-central-to-the-story sentence like ‘Neither acted at all sorry’ and assume you know all about my thoughts and feelings on the basis of it? You are being really odd here.

            2. Observer*

              Maybe just an acknowledgement that they had acted inappropriately. I mean a REAL acknowledgement.

              Because you know, there ARE a lot of people who actually do NOT spend their time being spiteful and mean about other people behind their backs.

            3. biobotb*

              Why are you positioning “not at all sorry” and “groveling” as the only two options? They are not, and the OP didn’t express a desire for them to grovel.

            4. let's active*


              Yes, they should have at least pretended to be contrite. That’s what grownups do.

              Or are you feeling a leeeeeetle defensive here?

              1. Lucy Honeychurch*

                Ice and Indigo, good for you for standing up to bullies!
                government worker, I’m quite shocked and dismayed that you are defending them, and agree that you are adding loaded language that is not there. WOW. And I will leave it at that.

      2. hbc*

        I think if she was a decent person, she *would* have been contrite. Not for having the thoughts, necessarily, but for letting them get out.

        Frankly, I’ve never seen anyone busted about pettiness like this when it was a truly unlikely, unlucky event that one of the two or three times they got petty this year ended up public. It’s more like they’ve developed a habit of being petty and gotten careless with it *because* it’s an every day occurrence. And I say this as someone who was busted smack-talking the guy from another site when it turned out he was two cubes down that day. My opinion might have been right (debatable), but it was absolutely wrong of me to be talking about him that way.

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          Oh yeah, this person bitched about another co-worker almost every single day. She just did that audibly because that co-worker was on another floor. Goodness only knows what else she wrote and said, but she certainly spent a lot of company time mocking people.

      3. Queriouser and Queriouser*

        She tried to delete it… by invading someone’s email and forcibly deleting something? She followed up a mean comment with a huge boundary violation. It was bad and she should feel bad.

      4. Fiberpunk*

        No. Someone pins me to my desk while they forcibly delete my emails, I would make a huge deal of that. The rudeness of the entire situation is horrifying.

    2. WellRed*

      She physically pinned you to your desk and tried to access your email on your computer while you sat there? That makes it even more ridiculous. And, who makes fun of someone for Volunteering For Charity?

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        Oh, she had reasons – she implied I was boasting about something I should be discreet about because of the nature of the charity. (This was not the charity’s policy, in fact.)

        But mostly I think she just wanted a reason to dump on me. BFF had hated me ever since I first worked there: I had to use some spray glue for a project in a room with only a window for ventilation, and BFF complained about the smell and demanded I close the door. I pointed out as politely as I could that I needed a through-draft for safety reasons; management backed me up, and it was all downhill from there. BFF seemed genuinely horrified that I didn’t see personally inhaling all the toxic fumes as the right and proper solution to the problem. She was not a very well-adjusted person. One time she told off my entire department for not appreciating how important it was that we didn’t do something that, as we’d just informed her, we hadn’t actually done.

        And yep, pinned me to my desk. Fairly gently, but still.

    3. Indie*

      Reminds me of when a friend of mine sent an email out to the team inviting people to a potluck at her place (alcohol and food restrictions made team socialising difficult) and she got an unintentional reply. It was basically a snidey ‘oooh, organised fun!’ snarky exchange between the two least likeable people on the team.

      Friend never let on and the perpetrator never realised she’d done it. Fast forward a year or two and Friend has enviable position at Firm. Turns out Emailer reeeallly really wants to work at firm. Applies many times. Tries to network. Friend’s opinion is sought more than once. “Didn’t you used to work with her?” Friend polishes her smile with gunpowder.

  16. Clawfoot*

    When we got a mass email once, I sent a response to my work-friend: “Oh great, a mass email. Now all our inboxes are going to get inundated with reply-alls. Just you wait.”

    The kicker: I’d accidentally hit “reply-all.”

    *hangs head in shame*

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I can usually quietly smile while reading AAM, but this one made me laugh (quietly). I wholeheartedly concur.

    1. Sam Sepiol*

      Instant karma! I laughed at someone’s misfortune today (not in a mean way) and instantly stumbled. He gleefully pointed out how excellent instant karma is.

    2. Agatha31*

      Stop commenting, everyone. We have a…well, ‘winner’ seems like the wrong word to use here, actually.

    3. Recovering Journalist*

      This is amazing, first of all. Second, if I had received it, I would have assumed you were being ironic and given you points for cleverness.

    4. Phx Acct, now with dragons*

      I’d have brought you a treat for making me laugh and a paper bag of shame to hide in.

  17. Bug*

    Before my time, but an agency wide email went out that resulted in lots of people replying to the email, then more people replied all to yelling at people to quit replying all. Apparently this went on for over a week until finally one of the exec’s demanding everyone quit.

  18. Murphy*

    I’ve posted this in the comments before, but it was pretty spectacular.

    I work at a large public university. Some email (about some kind of 2FA training session) randomly went out to a lot of people (but not all). I don’t know why. It was only addressed to a few people, but I think there was some listserv on there that some of us must have got put on? Anyway, I knew it wasn’t meant for me, but I decided to ignore it. A few other people decided to reply-all, to say a polite “Hey, I don’t think this was meant for me.”

    The problem was that IT/helpdesk was also on this email. Any email sent to that address opens a support ticket. Any support ticket that gets opened gets sent to everyone who’s mentioned in it. Any email reply to this amends the ticket. Anyone mentioned in the support ticket gets a notification of amendments to the ticket, and you can see what happened here.

    It snowballed to about 50 individual email threads with hundreds of emails in about 30 minutes. People who clearly didn’t understand what was happening kept replying, and the replies got angrier and angrier “Please stop sending me these emails” “UNSUBSCRIBE” “I HAVE REAL WORK TO DO AND THESE EMAILS ARE DISTRACTING” Then the helpful suggestions to “Stop replying and emails will stop” leading to even more emails and then the sarcastic “Wait, I should or shouldn’t reply all? I don’t understand.”

    I thought it was hilarious. Eventually they stopped and IT sent out an apology. I still have no idea what caused the whole thing.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      Ah yes the confused and angry “UNSUBSCRIBE” reply!
      Love this!
      I bet they needed those Help Tickets to figure it out…. bwahahaha

      1. Vermonter*

        Was there ever a time when you could unsubscribe from listservs or reply-alls by responding “UNSUBSCRIBE”? I see it all of the time in my university email, but there are clear instructions about how to unsubscribe… and it’s not by emailing “UNSUBSCRIBE.”

        1. kristinyc*

          Email marketer here – for mass emails from brands, before email technology become more sophisticated, the practice was that you could reply to an email and put “Unsubscribe” in the subject line, and the sender would have to remove you from the list. Even now, the email sending platform I use has a mechanism that is anyone does that, it unsubscribes them from our emails. It’s meant to be another way for companies to be CAN-SPAM compliant.

          But, it doesn’t work for office listservs…

        2. Surly*

          Yes, and some of the academic listservs I subscribe to currently still do it that way — UNSUBSCRIBE as the only message in the text body.

    2. Classic Rando*

      Hahahahahahaha, I do tier 1 tech support and was recently working on a ticket with a similar (but much much smaller scale) issue.

      The client had opened a ticket with their IT contractor, and when they couldn’t help, they added our support email address to their IT ticket.

      Emails sent to that address automatically generate a ZenDesk ticket for us, so we got a ticket about their issue. Then IT replied to the client in their system, and that generated another ticket on our end. And another, and another, all useless things like “thanks, let us know what [my company] says!”.

    3. Former Help Desk Peon*

      OMG yes, I can see this happening here. Because it has, in fact, but only relatively small scale. LOL. We were able to just pick up the phone and call the worst offenders to say STOP IT.

  19. Jane*

    The horrific spam email with hundreds of emails across different sites that started with people replying all to please remove them from the mailing list, and then replying all to say stop replying all. After about 50 emails in 2 hours, I set an Outlook rule to automatically delete all related emails.

    1. Arjay*

      Which works great until some genius comes along and changes the subject line, so now you have a whole new thread to ignore. :)

  20. Adlib*

    I’m a notary in my state, and the state sent out an email with recipients in the To: field instead of the Bcc: field. Cue a BUNCH of replies about random questions and then more yelling about not hitting reply-all. Good times.

  21. Anon for this*

    When my husband was in grad school, someone’s dissertation defense date was announced to the department so they could attend and support the graduate.
    Another student wrote back to the staff member who sent the announcement asking if the graduating student had been okay recently. This student knew that the graduate hated her advisor and that the graduate had been having suicidal thoughts recently.

    Except she hit “reply-all.” And that information got sent to the whole department — faculty, staff, and grad students — instead of just the staff member.

    Eventually, the graduate responded to everyone thanking them for their concern and saying that she had worked out her differences with her advisor.

    1. Amber T*

      OH NO. At least it was with good intentions… but ugh no one wants their personal stuff like that broadcasted…

  22. Dorothy Zbornak*

    I try to use bcc on our division mailing list (about 110 people) as much as possible to avoid the reply-all problem, but Gmail often doesn’t send it, or there’s a huge delay, like it’ll show up in inboxes a day later or more. It only seems to work as intended for smaller groups.

    I don’t think I have any horror stories, but a few jobs ago the executive assistant for the president sent an electronic Christmas card to about a thousand people… forgetting to blind copy. I don’t recall any major problems except it looked super messy with all those emails in the regular To: line.

    1. Ama*

      I manage a group of about 45 people and their assistants and we use bcc for this reason, but despite writing “Your assistant has been bcc’d on this message” we are constantly getting asked to please cc their assistants.

      I’ve decided a lot of people don’t understand how bcc works.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I had a boss who would always forward emails to me where I was already in the cc line (not blind cc, just regular cc). I think he wanted me to know everything, and he must have never looked to see who was or wasn’t included in his emails.

        1. it's-a-me*

          I once told my supervisor I had figured out a problem I asked her about earlier. She forwarded my own email to me with ‘FYI this issue is solved, see below’.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        They really don’t. Heck, my boss (though I do enjoy him, and he’s been great to work for so far) does not comprehend cc’s. His favorite thing to do is forward me something I’m cc’d on. Which is great in that he wants to make sure I’m getting things that I should be getting, but I’m already cc’d and have solved whatever problem got raised, lol. Kind of works to my benefit though because then he just gets excited that whatever X was was already fixed when I reply back to his fwd’d email….though I’ve reminded him gently a few times that yeah, was cc’d, but thank you for fwding. *shrug*

      3. Middle Manager*

        Agreed. I routinely email a large group of staff and stakeholders and shifted to putting everyone in BCC because we used to get stuck in obnoxious reply alls. Now I just get emails back saying, “hey, do you know you only sent this to yourself?” How do they think they got it if I only sent it to myself? SMH. At least they are only disrupting me then, not 150+ people.

        1. Dogzilla The Mosby*

          This is the comment that made me laugh out loud. OMG. Seriously…Tell me, kind email righter-of-wrongs, how exactly you hacked into my email to get that message then… XD

    2. TechWorker*

      No major problems beyond sharing everyone’s email on the list with everyone else on the list you mean… ;)

      Might be fine in some contexts and absolutely not fine in others!

      1. Lucy*

        Not to mention potentially illegal – I’ve seen organisations get stamped on by the regulator for this kind of error (UK, previously Data Protection but now GDPR).

        BCC is such a powerful tool.

  23. ragazza*

    Not me, but years ago an old boss accidentally replied to the entire staff on an email discussion about firing a couple of employees. She was mortified and couldn’t figure out how she even did it, since clicking “reply all” would only have included the people in the discussion. It was pretty awkward, but on the other hand, pretty much everyone agreed that the employees in question deserved to get canned.

    1. CAA*

      It’s not quite a reply-all issue, but one of my former bosses added another of his direct reports to an email thread in which he had earlier discussed letting her go. He was not a native English speaker and used the words “fire her” when he was actually discussing a “layoff”, so that made it even worse.

      I learned about this whole debacle when I was given access to her email account in order to take over her projects after she was laid off and found the messages in her inbox.

    2. Delightful Daisy*

      A similar thing happened at an org I worked at years ago. The interim director meant to email just the staff at said org and included something to the effect that Wakeen is not to be allowed in the building alone for any reason and if Wakeen is in the building, current staff member must accompany at all times. Accidentally sent it to an email list that included staff at all of the libraries we supported. Oops….

  24. Zona the Great*

    I was a manager of a small shuttle service. My drivers hated each other and I was young and stupid. I sent a group text to everyone reminding them of an upcoming event we were serving. I had to remind them of something easy but that several still would forget. In response, my top guy asked via text, “Was that reminder for Joe?” to which I responded, “Yeah. Dipshit Magoo” not realizing it was still sent to the whole team including Joe.

    1. Busy*

      Hey man, I made a similar”Magoo” mistake myself. Magoo-like manager emails out a Magoo-Manager type question. Someone emails me like “this guy”, and I reply back with his original email something like “Magoo’s gonna Magoo” I swear to God.

  25. GrayHat*

    At a very large, polished, buttoned-up BigLaw firm, someone sent out a request to all firm attorneys asking if anyone was familiar with a potential expert witness in a case. Very well-known partner, who also was a guest presenter at a mandatory training for first-year associates on email etiquette, replies all: “Yeah, I know him. He’s an asshole.”

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      Having worked at a large, polished, buttoned-up BigLaw firm, I believe this.

      Can you give an era by any chance? Like was this an Old Guy when email was still A New Thing? Or this guy was just…. thoughtless?

    2. Manders*

      I used to work for an expert witness who was known in the legal community for being a jerk. This story is DELICIOUS.

      On my first day at my new job after that one, one of the attorneys introduced himself to me and immediately said, “I know your old boss, he’s an asshole.” So at least he had the good sense to say it in person!

    3. DCR*

      This is hilarious. Most of the times when that was the message, I just get a email response saying that i should call them for information. It was always interesting to see who was the most reserved about putting things in writing

  26. LadyByTheLake*

    Not a horror story, but a “reap what you sow.” The head of another department was infamous for sending “flaming” emails — literally, the email program indicated urgency by using flames. She sent an email to me, cc’d to all the senior leadership of the company, my boss, bosses’ boss, most of my department and all of her department, demanding to know why I hadn’t done something and excoriating me about all the risks (and there were a lot) of it being incomplete. I hit “Reply All” and calmly attached the proof that I had, in fact done my part months before and had (as required) handed it to her department to be completed, and it was her department that had dropped the ball. I now know that I shouldn’t have Replied All, but I have to admit that it was deeply satisfying.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Hey, if someone is gonna call you out to dozens of people for Not Doing The Thing then I think you are perfectly justified in making sure all those dozens of people know that you did, in fact, Do The Thing.

    2. Blue*

      If some incorrectly calls you out while CC’ing all the known universe, I think you are completely in the right to reply all and politely set the record straight!

    3. Kaden Lee*

      I don’t see why you shouldn’t have Replied All – it seems to me it’d be more effective to let everybody know that you hadn’t dropped the ball in one swoop.

        1. KnittyGritty*

          No, your use Reply All is 100% correct. As others noted, if someone is going to put a bunch of folks on an email (attempting) to rip you a new one – and you are in the right, the only correct response is exactly what you did.

          You rock!

        2. Fiberpunk*

          Her use of reply-all was inappropriate, as calling you out in front of all those people was just meant to humiliate you. Your use of it in return was totally OK.

          I would absolutely not let someone smear me in front of all those folks. She dragged it into that arena, you had to clean it up.

          1. Zelda*

            This exactly. File this under “Never start a fistfight, but if someone else starts one, be prepared to finish it.”

        3. JSPA*

          Use “reply all” then follow up after a few minutes with a “sorry, that should not have been ‘reply all.'”

        4. Observer*

          Why? The initial list was almost certainly deliberate, and you have a right to clear your name. Unless you boss was an exceptionally good boos who would take a lot of effort to protect his team, this was really the only way to do it.

    4. MuseumChick*

      Not a reply all story but you reminded of something that happened at my old work place. My direct supervisor had a habit of asking for something, I would email it to her, and then months later she would corner me saying “Where is X? I asked for X weeks ago!” Usually it had been so long since she had initially asked I would not remember what she was talking about if I had indeed gotten it to her. Finally, I started forwarding her the email chains with her replies acknowledging she had received them. Not the most mature thing in the world but it did give me deed satisfaction and eventually when she came to me for to ask for something, half way through she would stop herself and mumble “I’ll look back at my emails” and walk away.

      1. Asenath*

        It’s fairly routine here to do that – forward the original emails, maybe with a little note – see below, that request was approved October 24, 2018.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I used to do that allll the time. My department would be told to do something by another department and then that department would come back later and demand to know why we had done that. Since I only ever did those things when I was told to by that department, I found the original email request and attached it to my reply with, “you told me to.” Since I knew this was going to happen, I filed all such emails in a folder where I could easily find them when requested, so I was able to reply in a timely manner.

        Eventually they stopped playing the blame game with me.

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        I’ve been doing this to our finance department. Can’t find the documentation (again) that I’ve sent over (over a month ago for the fourth time)? Here you go, here’s the email showing where I sent it to you, where I forwarded it to you again, and again, and again.

        The individual isn’t quite at the point where they’ve learned to check their emails first, but it does protect my butt when they try to cry that nothing was ever sent to them.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Oh I always do this. It’s not malicious with most people – my manager can be kinda forgetful and I just know that, and so does he, so the way he approaches is “I know we talked about X, and I assume you sent it to me – can you forward it again to get it back at the top of my inbox?” which I don’t mind. But there are some folks for whom they start out aggro and in those cases I take great delight in hitting reply-all to say “Oh, yes, I sent that to you on [date] – give me just a moment and I’ll forward that to get it back at the top of your inbox.”

        1. mark132*

          Yep, I done that for people and asked people to forward emails back to me. It can be very convenient.

      5. Eirene*

        Ha, we used to do this with the COR at my last job, which was government contracting. Only in her case, it was because she hated reading – which was 90% of her job – and just…didn’t do it. Ever. She also wanted everything in 1-page format, with “lots of visuals.” I was very tempted to start sending her our manuscripts in pop-up book form. We constantly had to cover our backsides with her because she was also super fond of gaslighting, so every word she ever spoke, we wrote down and put a date/time on it.

      6. Zelda*

        “eventually when she came to me for to ask for something, half way through she would stop herself and mumble “I’ll look back at my emails” and walk away.”

        So it sounds like it was highly productive for everyone, no? Nothing would have been served and there was no moral high ground in letting her go on thinking you were crappy at your job. Laying out the simple facts of the case without comment is not “immature.” (That private moment of glee, the mental “So there!” is perhaps not the epitome of compassion and patience, but who among us could resist it?)

    5. Karen from Finance*

      I don’t think you were wrong to reply all. Otherwise, as far as all of those people in CC were concerned, you had not done your job. You were just setting the record straight. It was her own doing.

    6. Temperance*

      Actually, I think you did the right thing here. She put you on blast to all of that leadership, you were merely responding in kind and protecting your reputation. If she handled appropriately, that wouldn’t have been an issue.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        She was quite senior, so no fallout, only embarrassment. I will say that she did call me and apologize and from then on she treated me with a lot more respect.

    7. Beatrice*

      I did something similar, except it was early evening and most people had gone home, except me and the problem emailer, and I gently, innocently provoked him into a one-sided flame war that really showcased, publicly and in black and white, what a jerk he was to work with every day. Since our bosses were both gone for the day, there was no one there to nip it in the bud before he went too far. He left the company not long after.

    8. Environmental Compliance*

      That is a 100% appropriate use of Reply All. I had contractors attempt to drag me through the mud as a county worker all the damn time, and it was always that they were attempting to pin a mistake they made on me. Buddy, you can cc in the entire county board of commissioners, the city mayor, and the homeowners you work for allllll you want to try to fight the non-issuance of this permit. It’s because you didn’t submit the correct documentation, and have been combative in my efforts to help you. So when you decide to cc in alllll those people – you betcha I’mma reply all with all of the documentation that says the delay is on you.

    9. Help Desk Survivor*

      Ooh, I have on of those. I worked at my university help desk. There was a simple issue I had resolved, but I forgot to close the ticket. There was a time-stamped note on the ticket that clearly indicated the matter had been resolved. My boss, who was a coke-addled asshole, saw the ticket open and thought he’d caught me slacking on the job. He loved these opportunities to try to demonstrate his Might and Power over his staff.

      Instead of calling me, or emailing me, or even opening the ticket to look at the notes, he e-mailed me with all of the IT higher-ups CCed. The president of IT, the vice president, all of his bosses. Just to tell me how unacceptable it was that this ticket was still open after several hours, when it should have been taken care of immediately.

      I gleefully hit “reply all” and apologized that I had forgotten to close it. In the most polite and non-accusatory wording I could muster, I pointed out that the ticket had a note from hours earlier, timestamped very shortly after the ticket had been opened, saying that it was completed — and that I would appreciate it if he’d just call me to ask. (I wanted it to be clear to the CCs that emailing the president was his *first* course of action.)

      He was eventually given the choice of taking a demoted position at another campus or resigning. (I don’t know if they even knew about him doing coke in his office, but he was a terrible, terrible manager. He stopped trying that shit with me, though.)

    10. Luna Lovegood*

      I had to doublecheck that I didn’t write this post because I had a nearly identical situation happen to me! It felt very bold to reply all, even though the other party had initiated the whole email exchange, and I was pretty proud of how professional I sounded as I explained that I had asked on X date, X date, and X date to get their approval on the language needed to move forward with the project, and that if I didn’t hear a response on those emails by the end of the week, I would move forward with the information that I had regardless of whether it was approved. I heard later on this caused the other party to badmouth me pretty extensively but I couldn’t have cared less.

    11. Lucy*

      I had similar.

      Someone senior to me but not my boss now referred to as David sent me an email copying in a mailing list of all senior people asking me why I hadn’t done a Thing but had left it for him to do. A grandboss, my then mentor hereinafter Cuthbert, calmly replied-all explaining that Thing was not nor had ever been my responsibility but had always been the official responsibility of David-level person on duty, even when I had been doing it. Further, (etc)

      It felt pretty nuclear for Cuthbert to reply-all without even removing me from the distribution list, but David had asked for it really. Most deliciously, I hadn’t done Thing because I was out of the office on business – so I saw both the emails on my return.

      None of us three ever spoke together of Thing again.

    12. The Rat-Catcher*

      I 100% would have replied all. That department head could have chosen to make that a conversation between the two of you (or possibly additional people IFF they were relevant), but she chose to go about it that way. Your professional reputation could possibly have been damaged, depending upon your company’s dynamics.

    13. EvilQueenRegina*

      Reminds me a little of the time at my old job where this one guy sent the entire office a rant about how we appeared to have run out of handwash, how could we possibly expect all 28 of us to manage on so little, ending with “OK I know we could all bring our own in”.

      The handwash had actually been ordered, but there was some problem at the suppliers’ end which meant the stationery order was going to have to come in two deliveries, and the handwash would be in the second (which was due to arrive the day after Fergus sent his rant). Persephone who ordered the stationery had explained the situation to the whole team, including Fergus, once she knew that, and there was enough to last until the delivery was due.

      She came in the next morning and was not happy to see that Fergus had sent the rant to the whole team and replied all with a rant back at him explaining exactly that.

    14. Kat*

      I am guilty of this. One guy at work used to constantly try to get away with doing less than he needed and would try to pass his work off into my staff.
      Once when one of my staff was chasing him for something and getting nowhere I took over and emailed him telling him it’s not my staff’s job to chase him and to please just do the thing he needed to do. I cc’d his director (who was also my director) so she would know because I was so sick of his crap and I wanted her to be aware my staff and now me were wasting time chasing him cuz he can’t follow simple instructions.

      He replied and lied about the timeline trying to say he did The Thing before but there was miscommunication with my staff. The idiot lied about approving something in an app that time stamps major events like approvals, complete with the username of the approver. And he left his director cc’d on the reply with his lie!

      It gave me great satisfaction to reply all with a screen shot of the time stamp showing that he in fact did not do The Thing until 10 mins after I sent my email asking him why The Thing wasn’t done. I doubt his/my director had any discussion with him but it gave me great satisfaction knowing I sent him the message “don’t try to outsmart me cuz you’re too dim to play this game”, cc’d his boss on it, and there could be no blowback on me.

  27. CTT*

    This is a (law) school one but I think it counts. Registrar’s office sent their usual “grades are out, ranks and dean’s list will come out in 4 weeks, do not bug us unless it’s an emergency.” A few hours later, a woman in my class accidentally replied all to tell the registrar that she failed Evidence and would it be possible to enroll for the fall class now? I cringed so hard I think I almost sprained something.

  28. Fern*

    I used to work for a company that, for some reason, people loved replying all to company-wide announcements for local events happening in the community. The company had over 200 people. Some examples were:

    –my coworker hit reply-all to request free fair tickets
    –someone very high up in marketing hit reply-all to say how much he loved the local fall festival and the food options there (he wrote something along the lines of “oh man, you know how much I love Gary’s chowder at fall festival! IT’S YUM!!” with a few smiley faces)
    –another coworker hit reply-all to schedule donating to the blood drive and shared their entire schedule for the day and suggested times when she’d be available to donate

    I worked there for three years, and I want to say that in that time maybe 8 people hit reply-all to chime in on local community events. My friend and I haven’t worked there for years, but we’ll still text each other every fall and say “do you think Fergus is excited that it’s Fall Festival?” and then the other will reply “well he does love the chowder there”.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      this happens at my work often. Yesterday we had a free coffee and cocoa cart and when the email came out with the times the cart would be on each floor, one employee replied all with their order and a note that they would be in a meeting at that time so just leave it on their desk. She also told the whole office where to find some money for the charitable donation in her desk. A few “fun” people continued the thread telling people where to find stuff in their desks.

    2. Person of Interest*

      This is similar to one of my old offices, except in my case over half the company were remote workers, so there would be a message to all staff about donuts in the HQ kitchen or someone’s lights on in the parking lot, and about 200 people would chime in that this was not relevant to them because they lived in another state. The company FINALLY set up one list for just the HQ staff and another for All Staff company-wide.

      1. lazuli*

        One of our HR reps at our main office would send daily, sometimes twice-daily “The coffee cart is here!!!” emails, always marked high importance, in the summer. There had to be at least 300 of us who worked somewhere that was not the main office. I finally emailed her back (did NOT reply-all!) asking if she could create a list of just the people who worked in the main office so that I was not dealing with so many irrelevant emails. She replied that it was VERY IMPORTANT that we all support the coffee cart, because otherwise it would stop coming.

        I haven’t seen one of those emails in a year or so, so the coffee cart must have stopped coming. I’m sure it was my personal fault for not making the one-hour trip multiple times a day for a latte.

    3. HB*

      I work for a department that thinks it is small but is really, really not. We have a listserv that easily has 400 people on it – students, staff, alumni, etc. People will send ANYTHING to this list. Rentals they are managing, free fruit picked from their tree, tickets they want to give away, craigslist stuff. 6+ email reminders over two days for an upcoming talk or event. I truly don’t think that the powers-that-be realize how many people are on our email list. When my students talk about it they get this frenzied look on their faces at the overwhelming amount of email.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        We have a special listserv for this kind of stuff. It works out rather well. You can opt in/opt out of being on it and it keeps the official one free for actual work discussions.

    4. Puffin*

      Maybe I’m too British and it’s obviously not a direct quote but did the person so mailed about “Gary’s chowder” mean the double entendre in their email?

    5. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      Our blood drive reply-to-all was the woman telling the whole organization that she could not donate during the current blood drive because of her recent tattoo.

  29. Writerboy*

    Back in the 90s, when email was still a bit of a curiosity, one of my co-workers created an out of office message saying he was on vacation and would be back in two week, then accidentally set it to reply all.

    EVERY SINGLE TIME an all-staff email went out, EVERYBODY would receive a message from this one poor guy telling us that he was on vacation.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Here I was sitting here smugly thinking I didn’t have a story to tell… until you reminded me of one. While not reply all it was a forwarding disaster.

      I was working with a fellow manager who was trying to come up with solutions to having important emails (Purchase Orders for example) sitting in her team’s inbox while they were on vacation despite having out of office responses. Together we started experimenting with auto forward rules.

      I must not have killed off all the rules because the next day I was scheduled for a 2 week vacation and I got a frantic phone call “OMG I hope you haven’t left… all your email is being forwarded to me!” Luckily I got the call a block away from my house as I was leaving for the airport (with plenty of time) so I was able to run back home and kill off the final offending rule.

      Poor thing would have gotten my email for 2 weeks on top of hers… we were both high volume email receivers at the time. It would driven her round the bend!

    2. BigSigh*

      I know a guy who did this last year. He was in sales and it went out to all his clients on top of everyone in the office.

      He did it three times in two hours.

  30. splashthatcat*

    I worked in the call center of a name brand financial services company. There was an email sent to the entire company. I don’t even remember what it was about. I do know THE ONE THOUSAND EMAILS that happened due to people replying all to unsubscribe and people replying all to tell people to not reply all. And one fellow call center employee taking the opportunity to say hi to everyone. Some of these people made seven figures as they managed 8 or 9 figure accounts, and they didn’t know better to reply all. I left that day feeling very smart.

  31. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I miss me a good old fashioned “Reply All” Hootenanny. I suspect that our IT group has some sort of locks on distribution lists, because there haven’t been any mass email and reply all wars for years.

    1. CynicallySweet*

      Yeah. We used to have a lot of these situations. Nothing egregious stands out in memory, but it doesn’t happen anymore. They made the reply button huge, reply all small, and there’s a pop up that asks if you meant to hit reply all. Actually the pop up is pretty annoying when working on a group project. I remember being really annoyed bc I asked a time sensitive question n didn’t get a reply only to realize I’d hit send but forgot to hit ok on the pop up

  32. Murphy*

    I’m also on a professional listserv where all emails sent to it are listed as the sender’s name, but with a listserv email address. If the sender doesn’t include their email address in their signature or in the body of the email, the only way to reply is to reply all, which leads to a ton of messages that really should have gone to one person, and then the occasional reply all apology for replying all. There have been a few cringeworthy ones, but nothing horrifying comes to mind.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      My neighborhood listserv on Yahoo Groups is like this – the default when you hit reply is a reply to the listserv address, not the sender, but the sender’s name is listed. If you want to reply to just the sender you have to go to the footer of the email to click that option.

      I’m usually pretty tech-competent, but it’s so different than the way email usually works that I’ve gotten tripped up by it more than once and replied all when I didn’t need to. Nothing embarrassing, but I still feel bad about it. Just this past weekend I posted about some items we were giving away, someone responded, and I didn’t even realize until after I replied to her that it went back to the whole group, because her response to the whole group was nearly indistinguishable from an individual response.

    2. Tupac Coachella*

      This drives me nuts! Nothing horrifying has ever happened as a result that I recall, but we have a listserv like this, and more than once I’ve forgotten to swap out the listserv e-mail for the name of the person I want to reply to when responding to a message, resulting in everyone (including me) receiving my response. Does not stop me from rolling my eyes when someone else does it.

    3. An Anonymous Friend*

      Oh, this reminds me of a terrible professional list serv snafu back in 1999ish. A very standard email about the sector’s upcoming conference was sent to the list serv. The person who replied must have thought a friend emailed him directly–he replied to the list serv planning their, shall we say, salacious extracurricular activities during the conference. He also managed to out a couple of people to the 5000 person list serv. The list serv managers deleted the reply from the archives, but the damage was done. I still get cringe shivers thinking about it 20 years later. I was brand new to the workforce, and it seared checking the reply-to field into my brain.

      1. Asking for a Friend*

        I…am pretty sure I know this one. I think I was in grad school with this person. I somehow deleted the e-mail without reading and will never know its glory firsthand, but I heard about it.

    4. SophieChotek*

      Same here. Have to be so careful when responding, which the listesrv was not set up that way since it’s so automatic to hit “reply” and you only intend to write to the person who had the question, etc. (Also a professional listserv. Are they all build the same?)

  33. prussian blue*

    My first job out of college was with a small study abroad org and I wasn’t very familiar with their database. I once sent a ‘now that you’ve been accepted, here’s what to pack!’ email to EVERY. APPLICANT. not just the accepted ones. SO many angry parent calls.

    1. Sam.*

      Oh noooo. Nightmare situation. When I was working with college students, I saw a fairly new guy do something similar – except the database always made you hit a confirmation, saying something like, “This message is going to 125 users. Do you want to send?” Guy gets to the confirmation screen, which tells him that the message is about to go to over 1000 people, and seeing nothing off about that even though the actual audience should’ve been about 90, he merrily hit send. That one took a while to clean up. Meanwhile, he was shocked that he was expected to recognize that 1100 =/= 90! He didn’t last long…

    2. Blarg*

      I got one of those once, in about 2004. A “congrats we are going to interview you for (now very large) national service program.” Five minutes later… “Oops. Sorry. Nope.” I’m very glad I didn’t do that program — it wasn’t the right direction for me. But the excitement followed by embarrassment and shame: I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. I know it happens, but it sure is awful.

      1. Loubelou*

        I got this too, for a job I was really excited about. It was an email that said ‘for your interview on this date, be sure to bring a presentation about how you would manage a llama emergency’. I called them to ask if I had missed a previous email inviting me to interview and to confirm attendance, and the frazzled admin was pretty rude in telling me that no, that email had gone to all applicants and no, I wasn’t being interviewed. There was very little compassion and no apology for the mix up, and an email eventually went out a full 6 hours later explaining the mistake, again with no apology.
        This was in a time of high unemployment and they would have likely received hundreds of applications for the role, so many hopes raised and dashed in one go.
        Even now, I have a lot of respect for the charity’s mission but the remembered pain leaves a bad taste in my mouth whenever I hear about them.

    3. Mouse*

      You misspleed, “your name is associated specifically with Zyklon B, which was used by Nazis to murder Jews, so, you know, maybe think about how that’s coming across to those of us who aren’t facists”

      1. JSPA*

        Hunh? Prussian Blue is a very early (discovered 1704!) still-used biological / histological stain (used to detect iron), as well as a crucial medicine for certain sorts of heavy metal and radiation poisoning. A huge percentage of advances in chemistry between 1700 and WWII were made in Germany. All sorts of things are side reactions or reagents for all sorts of other things. That doesn’t make it reasonable to Godwin the comments page.

      1. JSPA*

        That’s not going to be in the first 40 hits on google, though. Banning the name of the first artificial dye ever, also something that’s been in use constantly for art and medical and chemical reagent purposes for over 300 years, because someone gross, somewhere, uses it, is bending over way far.

        The first band-related hit on google results is deep onto page 5…and it’s Urban Dictionary. Which really should not trump, researchgate, wikipedia, paint supply websites, the National Gallery, Chemical supply companies, the American Chemical Society, etc.

        The prussian uniforms were that color blue because of the pigment; so were so many impressionist (and earlier) paintings.

        1. Recovering Journalist*

          Nobody said to “ban” it. I wanted the poster who chose that name to be aware of all its potential connections so they can consciously choose to risk that association or not.

        2. Val Zephyr*

          I recognized “prussian blue” as the name of the neo-nazi girl band and not the name of a paint color and I think a lot of other people would too considering they got quite a bit of attention about 10 years ago. If Recovering Journalist hadn’t pointed it out, I would have. I think it’s important for the commenter to be aware of the association.

  34. it_guy*

    Way back when, I was at a company that was using Banyon Vines email application and whenever somebody would forward or reply to an email, it would attach a complete copy of the attachment to the email.

    One day somebody was complaining about a failed print job and attached the enormous document and sent it to everyone in the company. People started complaining about using reply all and re-sending it to the whole company with the file attached. This caused multiple copies of the enormous file to be created and they were all stored at the server level. Between the bandwidth issues caused by the file traffic and storage issues, it took the mail server down.

    And when the email admin was trying to get everyone to stop replying to the original email, they: ATTACHED THE FILE they were complaining about. This went on for about a day and a half.

    So glad to be on to other greener pastures.

    1. Anon but Amused*

      There are some classics here, but this one is the first one to actually make me laugh so hard that tears are running down my face. The level of hilarious incompetence here is so beautiful.

    2. Lucy*

      I remember after a mega merger a newly formed HQ team sent out a group-wide email introducing themselves. The intranet was a wasteland so email made sense.


      They included a photo of each member of the team. Not thumbnails. Full jpegs in small boxes.

      The e-mail itself was just under the limit which would have been automatically filtered by the mail server, so maybe 9MB or so. But when you send that 9MB hundreds or thousands of times, the mail server crashes for the afternoon.

      I sat near IT at the time. It was very funny.

  35. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I worked on Capitol Hill, there were distribution lists for each standard position, e.g. schedulers, staff assistants, legislative assistants for X issue, etc. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people are on these lists.

    After every Congressional election, it was always a pain in the butt to update ANY list that had all Congressional offices listed. After one election, an oh so helpful individual staff assistant took it upon herself to update individual office listings of something. To this day, I honestly don’t remember. Press people? Interns? Constituent contact caseworkers? Doesn’t matter.

    After letting us know that she called every individual office to track down X information, Staff Assistant proudly sends out an attachment for individual information for all 50 states. She sends it to a couple of these distribution lists. No problem there, right? Because the United States has 50 states?


    The United States also has territories that have Congressional representation, although their votes don’t officially count. Those include Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, etc.

    About five minutes after this email went out, the first email came from the Guam office (I think?) with an understandable rant about how territories are included in Congress and just because they don’t have a vote doesn’t meant they don’t matter. The second email came in from another territory about how their office has the same positions and they wanted their information included and no one ever thinks to include them ever. Then the complaints and “unsubscribe from this thread” requests came in. Then other smarties thought it would be a good idea to start including information on the difference between a state and a territories, and then someone else wanted to know why those territories’ votes don’t count?

    FOR WEEKS (although I’m sure it wasn’t actually that long), I could not escape this email chain. It started out funny and then I deleted without reading because I couldn’t take it anymore.

    That Staff Assistant? I’m sure she learned a lesson that day she’ll never forget.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      Oh noooo. I’m from a US territory and immediately got defensive about being left out, so I can only imagine the ire that staff assistant had to endure.

    2. hbc*

      I don’t know why, but I’m locked on to that one wide-eyed staffer who thinks that a large group email chain is the best way to source information about how the government (that they work in) functions. Did they not consider that they could probably swivel their chair to the left or the right to ask that question rather than crowdsource an answer?

      1. Tired*

        The listservs are actually very helpful for various reasons, and often you can’t just turn left or right to ask the question because you’re the only one in the office with your specific job and duties and responsibilities.

  36. Stazya*

    Director of telecommunications gets an all user message about a computer system that was going to be down for a short period of time that’s managed outside the IT department. Uses reply all and tells the entire organization, “At least they have their shit together unlike those clowns in IT.” All management ends up in a damage control meeting trying to calm down IT.

    Two months later, HR sends an all user message about some free tickets to a local event they’re going to have a drawing for, just reply to the email if you’re interested. Same director replies all, asks if directors are able to participate (frequently management is not). Mind you, he’s a director who’s also from a well-known, independently wealthy family in the area. HE WINS THE TICKETS.

    We asked IT if they could disable his reply all button after that…

  37. mac n cheese*

    This was at college, not work, and occurred in the mid 90s when there weren’t spam filters and only the most limited IT oversight. One day a spam email was sent to pretty much the entire student body as a cc list of tens of thousands of addresses. All was fine until a student replied to all with a short limerick making fun of the original spam message. This proceeded to set off reply-all waves of “please remove me from this list” and “unsubscribe” and the corresponding “this isn’t a list, stop replying to all”. Hundreds and hundreds of emails for weeks. Every time things started to settle down, some person would check their email for the first time in ages and send a new “please remove me from this list” and start it all back up again. This went on for some months, the IT department did not have the tools at the time to put a stop to it beyond sending individual emails to everyone on the cc list telling them to stop replying to all. It may have overloaded the email servers a few times during the maximum reply-all waves.

  38. Justme, The OG*

    This one is not horribly, but cringey.

    I work at a state university and every year we have to declare income from any other state agency. Departmental HR sends out reminders a few times before the due date. Every time there will be at least one faculty replying all. This year was one talking about their book and how much they were paid from that. To the entire department.

  39. Ruth (UK)*

    I’ve got a good one… I think this was about a year and a half ago now, and I was working in the NHS (national health service). I got an email that said something like ‘test’ from someone I didn’t know (but from an nhs email address). I ignored it.

    Little did I know… yet.. that they had emailed over a MILLION people (basically… almost everyone with an nhs email address around the country) this email. My email soon got FLOODED with thousands of messages to the effect of, “I think this was sent to me in error” or “please remove me from this mailing list” as thousands+ of people decided to ‘reply all’. Soon I also received “STOP REPLYING ALL!” emails.. also as reply-alls.

    The whole system went down and it hit the news.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        OldJob had an accidental company wide email go out over 4th of July weekend from some poor programmer in India. So there were time zone and country related cascades as first Asia and the Pacific Islands responded, then Europe, then South America, then Canada and Mexico, and finally the Yanks came back from their long weekend…

        I’d completely unplugged over the holiday weekend and might have passed out seeing I had thousands of messages in my inbox if some coworkers hadn’t warned me.

      1. Hopeful*

        Wish we had had this problem here in the U.S.—because it would mean we had a national healthcare system.

  40. government worker*

    An employee sent a court-wide email last year (to over 500 people, including judges) asking if anyone had seen his glove. Literally two seconds later the sender responded to all saying the glove had been located. I printed out both emails and hung them on my desk.

    1. Anonicat*

      I remember one email sent to everyone in the zoology, entomology and botany department asking if the toad they’d found in the hallway actually belonged to anyone, or if it had just wandered in from the quad “drawn by the bright lights of academia.”

      Although the all-department thing was silly, it was a reasonable question. I mean, the crocodiles got out once and another time I spotted a turtle slowly making its escape down a corridor.

      1. Anonybus*

        “The crocodiles got out once”?! I’d love to see the email to the department listserv about that one.

  41. BeeBoo*

    Not quite a reply all but close— I was working at a summer camp and did not get along with my boss, the new head of the camp. She sent a text about something that made me mad (I think she was canceling the end of summer staff party— a major no-no in my early 20 brain). I quickly opened a new text to a friend and went on a swear word full rant about how much I hated Boss and how she was a horrible person and everyone hated her. Except I didn’t open a new text and sent the response to my boss.

    Worst, I didn’t realize my mistake. I ran into my boss an hour later and she told me she received an interesting text. I asked her what it said…. She read me my entire text. I was not invited back to work at that camp ever again

    1. Blarg*

      In the early days of texting, I did this. To my mother. Intended to complain to my friend about my mom’s text. Sent it to my mom. Used choice words. Didn’t realize it til she replied, “that wasn’t very nice.”

      1. Moose*

        Once when trying to text my mom a complaint about my grandma, I accidentally sent it to my grandma. We were all in the car at the time (mom and I were in the back, grandma and grandpa were in the front). In a panic I showed my mom the message on my phone. She immediately yelled “UHHH MOM I NEED TO SEE YOUR PHONE FOR SOMETHING” and snatched her purse out of her lap and pulled her phone out and deleted the message. My grandma was like “uhhh…okay?” and my mom handed back the phone and purse and we both pretended like this was a totally normal thing to do and my grandma didn’t ask any questions. Quick thinking, Mom.

      2. Flying Anon for This*

        I once sent my mother a Facebook message after a family event that read “ugh, can i move 1000 miles away from my family please?!” It was intended for my best friend. I made up a weird lie about copy and pasting something that went awry but I know she didn’t buy it.

  42. AnonGoodNurse*

    This is the worst I’ve ever seen, although it was in law school. During the Christmas Break, a school wide email went around advising faculty, staff and students that the onsite café would be closed. The Dean’s assistant then replied all that the Dean’s office was open and that they had coffee available if anyone needed it. To which the Dean accidentally replied all reminding his assistant that she should make it clear “we don’t want students ordinarily dropping by the Dean’s office.”

  43. nora*

    Not a reply-all disaster, but thanks to a glitch in Lotus Notes, I accidentally told the HR director for a company that I was temping with that I was babysitting under the table for my supervisor (and he paid me more than the company did). Thankfully she was kind enough to assume I had intended to send the email to literally anybody else on the planet and I didn’t get in trouble.

  44. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Back in my first job, I arrived early for my shift, opened my email account and found a 500+ email thread. An employee sent a goodbye email, thanking for the opportunity to work with them and other expressions of gratitude and wishes to keep them in touch. The problem was that he misspelled the distribution list name and sent it by accident to the 10k people (spread around six countries and several offices) in “LATAM General Info and Important Announcements”.

    1. TechWorker*

      So there’s a mailing list at my company which is pretty huge (think maybe ~1000 recipients), and gets mostly used by people who are like ‘I have a problem and no clue who to ask so I’m emailing 1000 people with ‘has anyone else seen this???’’ (I think it’s mostly meant to be used for announcements).

      People sending an email when they leave with ‘I have loved working with you and I’ll really miss company family etc etc’ waffle happens *all the time* and I do not get it!! Obviously the vast majority of the 1000 people will not know the individual so it seems… weird…

  45. Lena Clare*

    Oh my gosh this is too funny! we were just talking about people who reply all to emails today in work. That’s because yesterday we got about 50 emails ‘replying all’ to an invite regarding a GDPR webinar that all were accidentally invited to.

    This was a mistake, but instead of deleting it like any sane person, we had our inboxes jammed up by ‘reply all’ replies such as “I didn’t accept this, why have you emailed me?”, “I’m in Italy on holiday then”, and “is this a test to see how GDPR compliant we are by emailing everyone in the organisation?”

    Some even suggested “PLEASE stop replying all” to no avail, until the webinar organiser had to intervene by – yes – replying all “please delete if this doesn’t apply to you, it was sent in error and no it’s not a test about GDPR.”

    Then there was the time recently when lots of employees in the communication service email list were REPLYING ALL and slagging off the way the communication services were run until the head honcho of communication services intervened and wrote a very lengthy explanation of how the service structure was in the process of changing and she would update everyone about it as soon as possible. At least that stopped all the emails we got.

    In our company the problem seems to be that people just ‘reply all’ for no reason, rather than doing it in error. It’s utterly infuriating!

    1. Lena Clare*

      I particularly like the woman who informed hundreds of people that she would be out of the country for 2 weeks, in an email thread about data protection and privacy. -*Hey everyone. My house will be empty!*-

  46. Anonforthisone*

    I once was in a team email chain where people started randomly making fun of people in other teams’s profile pictures in the company email/messaging apps. It was already unprofessional and wrong in so many ways but I’m sure they thought it was harmless fun. Until of course, this one person in the team wants to make fun of an internal client for having a celebrity as their profile pic, and accidentally CC’s them in.

    Next thing we know, the manager steps in, removing the client from the chain, and telling us all to cease replying. From how that email was worded, I imagine he was severely disciplined in private, but I don’t know for sure what else happened.

  47. Art3mis*

    This isn’t a Reply All problem, but a different type of email fiasco. At Old Job we had a group email inbox where claims were sent. It would send an “Thank You, we got your email, please do not reply, etc.” auto response when it received an email. One day a third party vendor sent a claim via email in from a group email box of their own. Our email box sent the canned response and then their email box sent a similar response. To which our email responded to. And then there’s responded to that. Over and over again. The whole thing started late in the day and no one was on hand apparently at either company to notice this was happening. We ended up receiving over 7,000 of those emails until one of the servers crashed in the middle of the night. The worst part was because it was a claims inbox, the emails all then got imported into our work queues, and we had to manually clear all of them out as if they were regular work items.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      This, unfortunately, happens to me way too often. Thankfully we usually catch it before it hits 7000 though!

  48. Cringeworthy*

    Our company posted an open position. The applications went to several members of the company. One coworker “replied all” to an application in a rude and condescending way about the applicant. Meant for internal eyes only, but since he replied all the applicant received it too. The applicant did not respond but I felt so bad for them and verbally reamed the coworker.

    1. Blue*

      Omg this reminded me of a situation in grad school. We were going through our PhD comprehensive exams, and a couple of days after my friend had her oral exam (the final step in determining whether or not she’d be able to advance and start working on her dissertation), an email appears in her inbox from one of the professors on her committee, outlining a number of concerns he had about her exam. It was intended only for the other committee members, but he replied-all to the thread they’d used to schedule a time for her exam, forgetting that she’d been included. She. Freaked. Out. They ended up passing her, but only after she had a couple of days of extreme anxiety and stressed the hell out of the other members of the committee.

    2. feministbookworm*

      AHHH my old company used an application review program similar to this that had tabs within the interface for different actions. The tabs for “email the applicant” and “leave a comment for reviewers” where we were supposed to make notes about the application were RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER and looked very similar. I lived in eternal terror of using the wrong one, and caught myself just in time a couple of times. You’d think the most important design consideration of these programs would be making it very hard to accidentally get these two activities confused…

  49. Shibbolet*

    I once sent a dirty joke (and not even just nsfw – but really bad – i was in my early 20s and email was a new thing back then) to the dean of a university instead of my then boyfriend. Worse, I was working in a country that was an enemy of the country this dean lived and worked in (my then boss was all about collaboration over politics). I was beyond – beyond – mortified and there were so many layers to this I just wanted to disappear. I quickly sent an abject apology and he replied that it was ok, he understood, and that it was a funny joke. I never told my boss and I still feel the sigh of relief 25 years later.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      That would be mortifying. My partner has the same name as my CEO and I am thankful every day that he doesn’t work at the same company I do.

    2. Mollie*

      I almost did similar via text message. I had a long semi risky very flirty text typed out to a guy I was interested in who, of course, shared the same name as my boss. When I was about to hit send, I scrolled back through our conversation to realize I was about to send my text to my boss. My boss would have found it hilarious but I would have been mortified and would have been tempted to ghost that job. We also worked in a 2 person manufacturing office and his wife already had (completely unfounded) suspicions about our working relationship and she checked his phone all the time. I changed my boss’ name to BOSS in my contact list so that I’d never make that mistake again. Then I told him what I’d almost done the next day because, as I said, he would find it hilarious.

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I once sent a higher-up an email with R Kelly lyrics, meant for a friend. Luckily the colleague thought it was funny but I wanted to crawl under a rock!

  50. Eleanora (UK)*

    Applied for a public service job, the type with only vague information on what the selection process looks like.

    Got an email from Public Service asking why I hadn’t booked into an assessment yet. I had. Not sure whether the other 473 people copied on the email had or not, but was happily provided with details on this matter throughout the rest of the day.

    No apology from the sender, no “whoooops!” for outing a huge number of people as applying to jobs, and applying for *this* job. Eek.

    I decided it would be fledgling career limiting to point out his obvious mistake and simply replied to the sender saying I had already signed up.

  51. Anon consultant*

    Yikes – This is almost 20 years ago at one of my first jobs. An executive assistant forwarded an email from the site manager with details about an upcoming meeting with the entire site staff that was undergoing a major restructure. What she didn’t realize was she didn’t delete the original thread with her manager. At the very bottom of the lengthy thread about the meeting was a discussion about what to do with another manager and his assistant that were caught having an affair. I was there when it was sent and you should have seen the reactions. Total prairie dog reaction within the cube farm. People immediately started forwarding it and printing it off. The affair having manager and assistant were called to the executive’s office over the intercom along with HR.

      1. submerged tenths*

        You called it! Needs to be a movie, and “prairie dog reaction within the cube farm” is a magnificent picture!

      1. Anon consultant*

        There was some speculation that the exec admin was trying to assert her power. She certainly wasn’t apologetic.

  52. Jem One*

    Not quite a reply all, but a group chat faux pas.

    One of my best friends, Phil, worked in the financial industry in London for one of the big, international banks straight after graduating. They had a group chat system where you could set up chats either between yourself and another coworker, between groups, or between whole departments and divisions. There was one group chat, only used for major announcements, which went to the entire bank, on every continent, including the CEO.

    You can probably guess where this is going. Phil was dating a woman who also worked there and they were finishing up for the day. He sent her a message saying that he just needed to go the the bathroom, then he’d be ready to leave. But instead of writing it in their personal chat, he posted it in the six-continents-wide group chat. He was mortified, and was golf-clapped out of the building that night.

  53. bottomless pit*

    When I worked at a private consulting firm, one of our clients, a theatre/school/non-profit sent an email to their ENTIRE CONTACT LIST, including folks on deck to receive email blasts for various events/fundraising efforts/etc., the email was meant to go to just their staff, informing them of the renaming of their parking structure from The Theatre’s Parking Structure to The TP Structure or something inane like that, and directing their staff how to address the name change in communications, with clients, and so-on. The reply-alls began en-masse, besides the usual confusion/complaining on receiving all the emails, there were just so many folks making fun of the name change and instructions to staff. A few folks in our office besides me kept getting the responses, they were such a crackup.

  54. Eleanora (UK)*

    Oooh, one more.

    PA to C-suite was leaving our company. Sent a ‘goodbye!’ email to all. A male colleague responded to all that he would miss motor boating her at company parties.

    …And then replied all again 2 minutes later, apologising profusely. Not sure we ever let him live it down.

    (Fortunately it was a pretty relaxed company and everyone just thought it was hilarious.)

  55. Ms. Meow*

    Sometimes my company sends out fake phishing emails to employees in conjunction with IT security training. An employee who received one of these emails forwarded the message to several large distribution lists that we should watch out for this type of email because it is a phishing scam. Dozens of people replied all simply stating that they had already deleted it. People from offices all over the world were replying, so the messages came in 24 hours a day. Other replied asking to be taken off of the distribution list, which of course didn’t work and also came at all hours of the day.

    Finally IT sent a message to everyone about being careful about these types of emails, what to watch out for, and to delete them. This led to another round of dozens of people replying all that they had already deleted the email. It went on for about a week.

    I learned how to use the Ignore function for messages in Outlook.

  56. Health Insurance Nerd*

    During the 2007/2008 election the admin of our company’s CEO accidentally sent a Sarah Palin cartoon to THE ENTIRE COMPANY. Queue the “appropriate use of email” messages from HR….

  57. JennyFair*

    Picture the biggest company you can think of.

    One person mistakenly invites every single employee to a meeting.

    Every. Single. Employee.

    Within seconds, hundreds of reply-all messages begin coming through:

    “Please unsubscribe me.”
    “I don’t think I’m supposed to go to this meeting?”
    “Where even is this building?”
    “People, stop replying all!”
    “Unsubscribe me.”
    “That’s not how unsubscribe works.”

    This goes on and on and on, Outlook notifications ringing in stereo, as we sit there in shock until someone with a better sense of humor than good sense sends a picture of a can of Spam. To every single employee. The email servers come dangerously close to crashing.

    The giant company has an internal wiki site. The incident is memorialized for all time, can of Spam included. Those of us who survived are given badges on our internal directory pages. We tell the story to generations of new hires, who we hope learn a valuable lesson. (They don’t)

      1. JennyFair*

        It was, admittedly, in another country. I can’t remember if it was Australia or someone in the EU, but it would have been quite a commute to get to that meeting!

    1. Becky*

      This hasn’t happened in a while because of some org structure changes, and possibly some more intelligent email lists. Once upon a time my department was under a different part of the org than every other department in our building (like, we’re underwriting and everyone else in the building is claims). Our building was in the midwest but the rest of our part of the org was at headquarters in NJ. Occasionally, we would receive emails to the entirety of our part of the org structure about events that were happening at HQ. Like the annual Walk on the Hudson. Queue our department jokingly asking our manager if they would be flying us to NJ to join. Of course the down side was we would sometimes be left off important emails for our location because we were in a different part of the org structure.

    2. Mel*

      I always wonder at the logic of people complaining about the use of “Reply All” using “Reply All” to do it…

  58. better them than me*

    I used to run a program that had an advisory committee. Someone who worked for me sent a long email expressing direct criticisms of me and intent to work around me intended for the chair of that committee. Instead, the email went to the email list for the advisory committee and everyone involved with the work of that program. Oopsie!

  59. travelcompanygirl*

    Just last week this happened: my company was having a blood drive on Valentine’s day and some unfortunate gentleman outed himself to the whole company via reply-all about how he was unable to donate as they haven’t changed the rules regarding donor eligibility.

    1. lazuli*

      Maybe he was making a political statement? Most of the LGBTQ+ activists I know are upset at the outdated blood-donation requirements, as they (and I) believe they stigmatize gay sex in ways that go beyond what would be needed for safety. I could see using reply-all in that case as a reminder that blood drives discriminate against gay employees. (If that’s not what he intended, though, then ouch!)

  60. Bagger Vance*

    This isn’t a reply-all email fiasco, but an email fiasco nonetheless. I was working with a client who was being absolutely horrible and ignorant. In between replying to him and forwarding an angry commentary to my boss — I (natch) made the ridiculously horrendous mistake of telling the client “he is a dbag”.

    My only saving grace was that I was respected member of the department with a few years under my belt. My boss was much kinder to me than I deserved. I apologized to the client, he was either amused by my vitriol or didn’t care enough to make an issue of it. We wrapped up the project, but never worked with our department again. (which may have been just as well, since he was HORRIBLE)

    1. Emma*

      I live in fear of this! Not for myself – I take the view that you shouldn’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t be happy for the CEO and/or the person you’re talking about to read. Unprofessional comments should always be made face to face, or at least by phone!

      But I work closely with a manager who doesn’t take this view, and we have a whole bunch of contacts that I am gradually taking over from him.

      He often makes… unsavoury… comments in email threads where I’ve forwarded a contact’s email to him to ask his advice. Standout examples include “must be nice living in Jane’s f—ing fantasy world”, and “when you say you’ve ‘sorted out Celestina’, I hope you mean with a bullet to the head?”

      I feel like it’s inevitable that one day he’ll send one of these emails to the person in question by mistake, and I’ll have to deal with the fallout, or at least the screwed up relationship afterwards!

  61. Seifer*

    The EA here sent out an email about “whoever is the owner of this car needs to move it”, forgetting to put the distribution in the BCC field. I ignored it, but very quickly my inbox filled up with, “that’s not my car,” and “you’re hitting reply all.” And then we realized that all the site guys got it too. So by the next day, once the corporate office reply alls died down, I came in to 200+ emails about the car from guys on site on top of my regular emails. My inbox needed to be archived twice.

  62. Rusty Shackelford*

    What about a BCC fail? A friend of Mr. Shackelford works in the film industry, and apparently knows some pretty famous people. We know this because one year he sent a holiday greeting to all of his friends and didn’t use BCC, which means we inadvertently ended up with the email addresses of said famous people. We wouldn’t have realized it if he hadn’t followed up with an apologetic plea not to use those addresses for nefarious purposes.

  63. Bittersuess*

    OMG I cannot wait to tell this story: At a former job, I shared a cubical wall with a lady who was running THREE(!!) small businesses out of her cube. Her work for the job she was supposed to be doing was terrible, and I was sick of hearing all about the hair bows she was selling or the novel she was writing. Plus, I was super POed that she was getting two paychecks for the same hour of work. So when she and her friend booked a conference room all day to sell bows, I lost my cool. I forwarded the invite to a friend at another company, saying how they should be fired. Whelp, my friend replied all on accident, adding in how ugly the bows were and how stupid management was for letting it go on. So yeah, my coworkers were super pissed, yelled at me, and gave me the cold shoulder for years. Which, TBH, was A-OK with me. My friend and I also learned just to text from there on out, lol!

    1. ISuckAtUserNames*

      Wait, if you forwarded it to your friend how your coworkers get back on the chain? Unless your friend deliberately copied and pasted the emails from the body into the To field, even if they replied-all to your email it would only have gone to you.

      1. LQ*

        With an appointment it will go to the whole group depending on your settings. It definitely happens with the way our outlook is set up. Even a forwarded appointment the reply somehow goes to the meeting scheduler as well as the forwarder. It’s great if you want it to work that way…

        Luckily the way I know this is from a simple “Oops! Sorry about that thought I’d included everyone.” (Which went to everyone rather than just the person who forwarded it to their boss, which I was actually really annoyed about and had been trying to avoid.)

    2. Manders*

      Holy crap, I’m amazed she wasn’t fired! I wonder why she expected her coworkers to just be cool with that.

  64. SW*

    My academic department in grad school has its own library. Once a month the librarian sent out a list of all the new resources, books, etc. she had acquired to the departmental listserv, which went out to all faculty and grad students.
    An ABD grad student who I’d never met meant to forward the email to a colleague not in the department. She added the line, “You might find this useful, unlike all of the other crap she is always sending out.” Why yes it went to the entire listserv, including the librarian.
    The librarian, humiliated, decided to retire early less than a month after that and we were without a head librarian for 6 months while they found a new one. I think there might have been a half-hearted response from the ABD grad student.
    I was so mad. Especially as I was the librarian’s employee and saw how brilliant and well-read she was.

    1. Treecat*

      Ugh, as an academic librarian I have had similar (not that bad but not far off) experiences dealing with faculty/grad students who think I have nothing to offer them. My fantasy is that someday the goddamn departments have to negotiate their own half million dollar contract with Springer Nature, paid out of their own department funds. (It will never happen, god forbid faculty actually have to be responsible for the resources they take for granted that allow their work to be done.)

  65. Zephy*

    Years ago, I was part of an organization that works in about two dozen cities all over the US. For context, the vast majority of people in this organization are under 35, although the 35+ crowd certainly knows how to have some fun with reply all as well.

    The email lists for “everyone in the entire organization, nationwide” and “everyone at this specific branch of the organization” had very similar names, so one day, someone clicked or typed the wrong thing and accidentally sent an email to all 25 sites about a clipboard that had been misplaced at some event or another. People started chiming in from all over the country, dutifully reporting that the clipboard wasn’t there (and also gently ribbing the message-sender for mixing up the “everybody” and “everybody here” email lists)…but then the pictures started. Someone at another site made a joke about having the clipboard but not giving it back because it was having such a great time, and then other people sort of latched on and started taking pictures of clipboards in unlikely situations, with props, wearing sunglasses on the beach, doing laundry, having lunch…and replied-all to the email chain. It went on for almost two days before the leadership shut it down. I wish I would have had the foresight to save or screenshot those emails; it’s been 5 years since I left that job and I still get the giggles thinking about Clipboardgate.

  66. Spreadsheets and Books*

    Not exactly a reply-all but definitely an email/listserv snafu. An assistant at one of our business units accidentally emailed all of the details of confidential expense accounts to all 25,000 company employees at around midnight on a Saturday, including the CEO and the rather infamous head of our company and our sister company.

    I disregarded the email when it showed up because it didn’t really make sense to me, but when we saw legal and all of the risk management people running around on Monday morning, the gravity became clear.

  67. NJ*

    When I was a student an email got sent out to the entire graduating year (at least 6000 students) about the deadline to order academic robes for graduation. One student missed the deadline and replied to all 6000 explaining that he had been busy with his job but please please could they make an exception to let him get his robes. The result was a reply-all campaign where half the student body pitched in to convince the organisers to let him get his robes. There was a hashtag and everything. In the end he was allowed to order them and during the graduation ceremony when his name was announced he got a special cheer from all the students who recognised the name.

  68. fposte*

    The early days of listservs were a goldmine for this kind of thing. In my favorite, our professional organization had a listserv for a key platform topic that was the focus of a major committee. One subscriber apparently felt that a participant’s exchanges with the director on the listserv were less than sincere and sent a private email to a fellow subscriber about participant A kissing director B’s ass. “Private” email was, of course, sent to the full listserv, including participant A and director B.

    Probably was a bit awkward for a while, but their careers seem to have survived.

  69. Not Actually Jane*

    I share a first name with the HR director for one of our clients, and both of our email addresses are formatted like, so I’ve ended up on a LOT of email chains that I wasn’t supposed to be on. Let’s just say that people at this company have many, many feelings about office supplies.

    (I will say, though, that the tale of the Notorious Paper Clip Thief – someone brought in fancy paper clips from home; hilarity ensued – made for a surprisingly gripping whodunnit.)

    1. Becky*

      I’ve nearly assigned the completely wrong person to tickets because my team member’s sister also works in the same company and their userIDs in the system are just one letter different, like: jsmith and jmsmith.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      My organization works with a lot of public entities, and one of my coworkers has the exact same name as the chief of police for our city. A decent number of city employees work with my coworker and the police department. Some of them apparently just type “John Smith” without checking which John Smith they’re emailing, and my coworker has recieved some VERY interesting emails.

      1. Not That Jane Doe, The Other One*

        Not a work thing, or a reply-all thing, but my personal email address is like Gmail ignores periods, so it’s the same as janedoe@gmail. I get emails for janeldoe, jandone, all sorts of things. Within the last few months, I have received several pictures of horses, because Jane in Colorado is buying a horse and asked her friends for recommendations; high school grad photos of Jane in New Jersey’s daughter; extremely graphic emails describing a hotel tryst for one of the Janes, dunno which one; several emails from home depot about Jane in Colorado’s new granite countertops (possible also the Jane buying a horse? Her neighbor is also wondering if she’s seen their lost dog); several emails from the assistant of a jewelry-designing Jane in Missouri; and increasingly insistent emails from David’s Bridal requesting that Jane’s daughter’s bridesmaids come pick up their (awful, ugly, black taffeta, 1980’s puff-sleeved) dresses.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I have the same issue with a gentleman in Chicago (very involved in his church and his Masonic temple) and a young man in NYC (who goes out for some very fancy meals, which I hear about because his OpenTable reservation confirmations somehow go to me). I kind of enjoy getting the inside scoop!

      2. Not Actually Jane*

        Phoebe – Department secretary and owner of the sparkly multicolored paper clips in question. Prided herself on bringing fun to intra-departmental memos (…yeah) which was why she spent her own money (she made sure to mention that in every single email) on special paper clips. I should probably mention that she was going through some personal issues while all of this happened.
        Carl – A DASTARDLY THIEF OF OFFICE SUPPLIES and relatively recent hire. I still have no idea what his actual job was.
        Lisa – A temp in her first job out of college.
        Molly – Department manager. Skills include resolving interpersonal disputes and crafting scrupulously bland emails that somehow convey a tone of “That’s why I got a fucking master’s degree. So that I can listen to you chucklefucks whine at me about paperclips.”

        Phoebe realized one day that she had fewer of her special paperclips as she should have had. She sent out a department-wide email blast, cc’d to who she thought was Jane-from-HR, demanding that the thief come forward and threatening unspecified retribution if they did not fess up by a certain date.

        Carl, the culprit, had apparently had no idea that these paperclips were such a Thing – he’d taken them from Phoebe’s desk when he ran out and couldn’t remember where the supply cupboard was. However, when he received the email, he realized that not only were they indeed a Thing, but that he had just pissed off the department secretary a few months into a new job.

        So he framed Lisa.

        According to him, he knew that Lisa’s temp assignment was almost over, and so her chose her because she’d be out of the line of fire soon enough. (Not true, as it turned out – she wound up being offered a permanent position in another department.) This didn’t save her from getting screamed at by Phoebe when a few sparkly paper clips, and a sparkly-paper-clipped document, were found at Lisa’s desk. However, when someone examined the actual document, they noticed that it was from one of Carl’s projects – and which Lisa had no reason to have at her desk. Carl confessed, and that’s when Molly stepped in.

        Molly didn’t really care about the paperclips, but she very much DID care that someone in charge of handling confidential information had gone to such lengths to cover up a minor mistake. Carl got fired. I have no idea if Phoebe was ever reprimanded, but given that Lisa didn’t quit on the spot, presumably SOMEONE apologized at some point? I hope?

        1. Anonicat*

          This…this story is going into the AAM hall of fame, alongside the Duck Club and the person who took the documents down a country road and furtively burned them.

        2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          That’s incredible. I gasped at him trying to frame poor Lisa.

          Also, is it possible to learn Molly’s magical email tone skills?

        3. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Fired over paperclips! I love it. And I am going to try to use the word “chucklefucks” in future conversations.

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      I had the same name as someone in HR at a previous job. I got a lot of e-mails from new hires with their W4s and payroll setup forms and things like that. I just wanted to scream NO! DON’T SEND ME THINGS WITH YOUR SSN AND BANK ACCOUNT ON THEM!!!!

      However she must have been very popular, because I got a lot of lunch invites via IM for her too. Sadly she was located on the other side of the country, because 1) she must have been a cool person and I would have liked to meet her and 2) I would have loved to take all these random people up on their lunch invites.

    4. Lalaith*

      My husband and another teacher in his district (used to be the same school!) share the same last name and first initial, so they get a lot of email and interdepartmental mail meant for each other.

      Also, this reminded me of a time at my company where several of us were in a group Skype about some testing we were doing (from home, after hours). One guy in the group shares a first name with someone who used to work here, and the person who created the Skype chat added in the wrong guy. And I seemed to be the only person who noticed this. So our team lead is assigning tasks and asking this dude what he’s doing, and he’s like “sorry, can’t help, doing laundry”. I finally had to point out that we had the wrong person (I really figured that everyone else would figure it out, or that Wrong Guy would say something, but he seemed pretty content to play along). Poor Right Guy was about to get a reputation for being uncooperative!

    5. ChauffeurMeChaufeurYou*

      My sister and I share a last name. We worked at the same company, for a few years, and I was in HR. She got a lot of interesting HR emails that were meant for me.

      She shared the same FIRST name with the payroll director. She got interesting emails meant for payroll as well.

      She’s fortunately super professional and never let any of the info slip. I only knew that she was sometimes copied on payroll emails because I would be copied (as the relevant HR person) as well.

    6. lazuli*

      I had to file two privacy breach reports on my previous manager — for whom I worked for only four months — because she kept cc’ing people on emails by just typing the first few letters of their names and letting autofill do the rest. We work in mental healthcare. Both times she sent confidential patient information to people outside the organization in unencrypted emails. Luckily she sent them to people at other therapy agencies, so it’s not like they went to the general public, but still. And then people would just “reply all” without checking the list of email addresses.

      She would never notice. She often complained about other people’s lack of attention to detail. I would just leave copies of the privacy breach reports in her inbox. For this and other reasons, I’m so glad I’m not working for her anymore.

  70. AW*

    We needed some system down time for a core system that was used nearly everyone in the business. An email was sent out to let people know when their office would be impacted and what they needed to do. One region was sent an email with these details and some replied to all complaining how busy they were and how inconvenient it would be, to which someone else replied all which included the epic sentence

    “If you are looking for sympathy, you’ll find in the dictionary somewhere between shit and Syphilis…….”

    1. Emma*

      AAAGH! My newest coworker said this to me a few months ago but she skipped the “in the dictionary” bit and just said “sympathy is halfway between shit and syphilis!” and I was SO CONFUSED.

      It had been a long day, my brain wasn’t working any more, so I just smiled vaguely at her, went back to my team’s office, put my head on someone else’s desk and moaned “what??? What just happened???”

      It makes so much more sense now!

    2. Safely Retired*

      That was my wife’s exact words when trying to educate some maturity-lacking subordinates about the difference between life at work vs life elsewhere.

  71. Luna123*

    This is fairly small potatoes, but it gave me a laugh:

    My boss sends out a trivia email once a week to the support staff. Sometimes she puts a reminder at the bottom of the email that you’re only supposed to reply to her with your answer, not hit reply-all. One day, a coworker somehow sends in her trivia answer not to the boss, or even all of the support staff, but to everyone in our ~30 person firm. With no context. Just an email with a list of Disney villains.

  72. Edianter*

    The university where I went to grad school uses an online platform for classes where the professors can post assignments, etc. and everyone in the class can email each other through the platform. (Helpful for organizing group projects, etc.)

    The university enrolled all students (undergrad and grad) in a class on the platform called “Campus Safety.” It wasn’t a real class, just a way for them to provide us with resources that we might need.

    Well it was approximately .05 seconds before some students figured out they now basically had a campus-wide email list, and the “I need a roommate!”, “Please fill out my survey, it’s for a class!”, and “Wanna buy my old Accounting textbook?” emails started flying, with reply-alls to each one cascading shortly afterward. Some poor undergrad got (reasonably) fed up with this, and sent out an email basically saying “No one gives a F*** about your stupid surveys, stop emailing us!”

    A few hours later, that same student sent another email apologizing for their previous one, in a way that made me believe they had been thoroughly reprimanded by the university. Big surprise that the email function in the Campus Safety class was thereafter removed.

    All of this went down over the course of less than a week. And it was hilarious to watch.

  73. Skippy*

    I replied all to an email sent out by a work friend. The friend was in charge of a new system that had been updated in a way that did not please a large proportion of its users. The morning it was rolled out she was inundated with phone calls from users complaining about the changes, and demanding that they be changed back so that the system worked as it had before.

    She sent out an email to all the users of the system (several hundred senior people in the company, including me) explaining that the changes were required to comply with new legislation, giving some guidance in navigating the new system and offering to help anyone who was struggling. I, as a joke and having heard the general tone of all the phone calls she had been getting, replied NO YOU FIX IT NOW THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Except I had replied to all.

    I got a lot of phone calls from people who wanted to tease me about replying all, there was a whole email chain of people teasing me as well, and one team now comforts each other when someone does something stupid by saying that at least they aren’t Skippy. I also had an extremely awkward phone conversation with our Managing Director in which I had to explain that it was a joke, I was friends with this woman (who reports directly to him), and was trying to cheer her up after a morning of painful conversations. It took me asking my friend to phone the MD before he completely believed me.

    On the positive side she thought it was hilarious so I did achieve my aim.

  74. FaintlyMacabre*

    I wouldn’t call it a disaster, but at one place where I worked, the head of the company would send out weekly motivational messages. I don’t know if others replied to him privately, but one guy would always hit reply all, with something like”wow, so thought provoking” or “humans are amazing!!!!!” Never could figure out if he wanted his arse kissing to be public or if he just didn’t know how reply all worked.

    1. Kaybee*

      heh this is probably my personality injecting itself into my reading, but I read those responses as sarcastic.

  75. 42*

    I told this one once before, but here goes:

    About 20 years ago I worked in health care as a clinician. Our division had a VP that was also pretty friendly with my boss, so he’d sometimes hang around in our staff room waiting for my boss to meet him for whatever.

    One time I walked into our staff room, and the VP was the only one there. He said, “Hey there 42!, how are you today?”, and trying to strike the same casual/friendly tone as he used, and–follow me here–trying to make wordplay on the title “Your Highness”, I replied “I’m good. How’s your VPness today?”

    Say it out loud, and then take a moment to let it sink in.

    1. Jay*

      I was at a workshop where we did the Myers-Briggs personality test and used it to inform our group work. One of the axes is J (udgement)/P (erception). One of my friends was strongly Perception oriented and got a lot of feedback about that. Afterwards, he said “I will need to spend some time contemplating my P=ness.”


  76. Jack Be Nimble*

    I used to work for a huge international brokerage firm. Our day-to-day work involved clients’ personal data, including their social security numbers and banking information. We were often targeted in phishing scams, which usually took the form of fake document-sharing sites and instructions to sign in to access client paperwork. The emails, which were sent to the all North America mailing list, were obviously, laughably fake: full of misspellings, bad clip art, and watermarked stock photos.

    One day, an executive hit reply-all, and sent out an irate email to chew out ALL OF THE STAFF IN NORTH AMERICA because he always signed in but couldn’t ever access the non-existent documents. He used reply all to tell everyone in the continent that he’d fallen for the phishing scam REPEATEDLY.

    About ten minutes, we got a notification that his email had been recalled.

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      Fortunately, he was too high-level to work with the data the rest of us had access to. No one’s information was compromised, but I really hope that he never lives it down.

  77. Blinded by the Gaslight*

    Two of my colleagues and I worked at a college, and were exchanging funny videos one slow summer day. I shared an office with one, and the third was in another office on campus. #3, in replying to the last video #2 and I had sent, shared with us a youtube video of this male duo who play the piano, uh . . . *hands free*. B and I received the video, and while we were marveling at it, we received an absolute panicked phone call from our friend, who scream-cried into the phone, “OH NO, OH NO, OH NO!!! I just sent this to the entire district! Oh god, help!! What do I do?! What do I do??! Oh my god!” So, two colleges and a district office all received a video of dudes playing a piano with their junk. And that was how we all learned that that “recall” feature on Outlook does NOT do what you’d hope it does. Thankfully, she was suitably self-shaming enough for superiors to give her a finger-wagging. But, yeah . . . that was fun!

      1. Blinded by the Gaslight*

        No yeah, fair point. Actually, up to the point, we’d been exchanging mostly funny animal videos. And to clarify, you couldn’t actually see any junk in the video–it was implied junk. Things probably would have been more serious if there was full frontal junk. But lessons learned all around, for SURE.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          Ah, makes more sense. I mean, still wrong, but yeah.

          “Implied junk” is now my favorite phrase.

          1. Blinded by the Gaslight*

            I had to look online to see if I could find the original video. They are an act called The Freaking Brothers, and appeared on Greece’s Got Talent, and apparently had a sold-out show in Las Vegas (naturally). If you’d like to share implied junk with all your work colleagues, YouTube will provide. :)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And that was how we all learned that that “recall” feature on Outlook does NOT do what you’d hope it does.

      Honestly, every time I get an email saying “Soandso would like to recall X message,” it just makes me read a message that I might have otherwise ignored!

      1. Blinded by the Gaslight*

        Same. Apparently folks who designed the recall feature don’t understand reverse psychology. They should mask it as something completely innocuous-sounding. “SoandSo would like to recall the TPS cover sheet.” Nobody’s rushing to read that!

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      My story isn’t quite as bad.

      I ended up coming into work on a weekend and got to witness a similar frantic scene. One employee was sending a music video to another coworker, not a big deal, but the song was really no where near appropriate for a work setting… let’s just call it explicit rap. Not mainstream and would basically be one long bleep if ever played on the radio. Instead of just the coworker she managed to send it to the entire company.

      Luckily for her it was the weekend super early in the morning (she worked nights in our monitoring group)… and being that she was in one branch of IT she was able to get a hold of the on-call email admin who was able to delete it from the server before the damage was too bad.

    3. Aerin*

      Occasionally a get a call from a user who wants to recall an email, and I have to explain to them the very, very specific conditions under which Outlook will successfully recall. I don’t think “make a virgin sacrifice under the full moon” is officially one of those conditions but it might as well be.

  78. City Girl*

    Nothing too terrible but:

    – Manager sends out list of available shifts to her team of 50+. People reply all to say “I can take the 3PM shift on Wednesday.”
    – Also commonly sent as a reply all rather than a new email: “I can no longer work the 3PM shift on Wednesday. Can anyone cover it?” Sometimes a reason was given as to why they could no longer work the 3PM shift but not always.
    – Not a “reply all” but one time, I noticed that a staffing agent at Staffing Agency forwarded my cover letter and resume to her colleague with the city and state that I lived in, nothing else. This staffing agency has multiple locations and staffs in multiple cities so it was not unusual. The colleague was the one who reached out to me and I ended up taking the gig.

    1. Zephy*

      I mean, that second thing isn’t that egregious. It can be kind of annoying, though, for sure.

      At OldJob I would send a daily email to a group of about 60 people, asking for volunteers to do specific tasks. A lot of the headaches caused by people replying-all could have been avoided by BCC’ing, probably…but by the same token, if they just replied to me directly, I’d have to send another email letting everyone know that Task A had been claimed, so the net effect was still the same number of emails clogging everyone’s inboxes, and it was less work for me to let people Reply-All.

      1. City Girl*

        #2 isn’t annoying because they “reply-all” but because I got one of those emails almost every week, sometimes at 2PM indicating that they can no longer be at their 3PM shift that starts an hour later.

        Usually what should happen is everyone replies to the manager what shifts they are available for and the manager sends out a final email to everyone as to who has what shifts.

  79. EBStarr*

    This wasn’t at my job exactly, but it started with someone messing up at their job…

    My freshman year at college, some staff member sent an email to the whole class without bcc’ing us, in the days just before email distribution lists were a common thing. The first reply-all email was some kind of publicity email for a sale, or possibly a band gig: free advertising! Of course this immediately devolved into more publicity emails (we were a very entrepreneurial class), followed by the usual “please stop replying all” cycle of doom. Somewhere near the peak of the debacle, a dorm-mate of mine, let’s call him “Dean,” even wrote back to say he was going to start “polishing his glocks” if people didn’t stop.

    Well, I had completely forgotten about this by the time I started dating Dean three months later, but years later a bunch of my friends immediately cracked up on hearing that he was my ex, because the glocks email had remained an inside joke to them that whole time. So I mention this to Dean, and come to find out, dude wrote his email thinking “glocks” meant “knuckles.” Apparently he was threatening to punch everyone, not shoot them. He was not exactly a big guy and didn’t mean to scare anyone… but it was, erm, ill-advised. (TBH I had no idea what a glock was either until this all came up!)

    1. Zephy*

      Oh, man. Can you imagine something like that happening today? Dean would probably have been arrested, at minimum.

      1. EBStarr*

        Totally! This was post-Columbine, so it’s still pretty surprising that the worst thing that happened to him was that he was teased about his terrible joke a few years later.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, jaw-dropping! How did people respond? Was there a lot of pretending they didn’t notice with a few snarky condolence notes?

      1. LawBee*

        Oh, I got so much good-natured grief over it. For weeks! I was completely mortified but everyone seemed to understand it was a typo and it eventually blew over.

        It is burned in my memory forever, though. FOREVER.

      1. LawBee*

        They most certainly did, hahaha. Many offers to help me out with that (in the “hands you an o” way), lots of condolences, you name it.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oh man! In my job I have to use the words “count” and “public” so often, I have my MS Word set to automatically correct both of them, just in case. I feel your pain, man.

      1. Anonicat*

        I have my email set up to autocorrect retards to regards, because have you ever noticed how close g and t are on the keyboard?

  80. Karen from Finance*

    The worst I’ve seen was during the aftermath of the Pulse shooting. There was a company email for people in the LGBTQ+Allies program with condolences for what happened in our community etc etc, and someone replied all commenting about elections and gun control. To which someone else replied with their views on gun control, and it went on for a couple of emails and people started joining in. Have in mind that thousands of us were getting these emails watching these people argue, and the distribution list included locations all over the world meaning the majority of the people weren’t even US-based. It was so inappropiate.

    1. IEL*


      My mum works in academia and a couple of years ago she got an email on the staff mailing list about a series of LGBT*-themed talks for pride month. It’s a generic canned email that they get every time the university has an event. But people started replying all to say they weren’t in favour of that kind of thing and people replied to them (and to all) saying they were bigots, and basically it devolved into the senior teaching staff arguing about gay marriage. My mum was giving us daily status reports and it went on for a week or so before eventually petering out.

      1. Polaris*

        At least you’d end up with a definitive list of who on the staff you absolutely shouldn’t trust.

  81. stump*

    Our company set up Outlook so the rank and file employees are restricted from the “reply all” function. *sigh* What a wasted opportunity for tomfoolery.

    1. City Girl*

      A company that we work with set up their email system so that email addresses such as “” is also restricted from “reply all.” That idea is ingenious to me too.

  82. Becky*

    This one is fairly minor, but it was funny.
    Our department head sent out a department-wide email asking for personal phone and email address for use in emergency situations (is company phones or email were not usable for some reason). The head of development accidentally replied all with his personal (yahoo!) address, and then 5 minutes later replied all again saying “well, good thing I was giving my junk email and not my real one.”

  83. JLS82*

    When I worked for Audi corporate a while back a trainer was in my phone right next to my best friend. I accidentally text him so many times that we are now friends. Luckily nothing insanely humiliating but some not quite work appropriate talk nonetheless (cocktail hours) considering he was my superior. Luckily he was a really good sport about it and thought it was hysterical. And then I got reading glasses haha.

    1. Avocado Toast*

      For awhile, I was working closely at my part-time job with a guy named Mark and my roommate was also named Mark. Mark 1 texted me to let me know we were closing because of weather, and I ALMOST responded to him instead of texting my roommate “ON MY WAY HOME I NEED THE TV AT 8 TO WATCH PRETTY LITTLE LIARS”

  84. Talkradio*

    I attend a statewide community college and a promotional email went to every address in our entire region – 5 campuses of employees and students. Someone with an innocuous question used reply all and it wound up with 300 reply alls within a few hours. People begging it to stop, people promoting their Snapchats and SoundCloud’s, lots of moaning and b*tching. I thought it was pretty funny, personally. IT eventually stopped it but not before it got very, very hostile.

  85. Anon Today*

    Not a horror story, but amusing – front desk sent an email to the whole building saying they found $10 on the 2nd floor. Someone replies all “If it has a picture of Alexander Hamilton on it – It’s mine!” Another person responds “Yes but what’s the serial number?” I emailed the first individual (did NOT reply all) and thanked him for the laugh. Luckily, it didn’t turn into a frenzy and died down pretty quickly.

  86. AKchic*

    I used to manage a large email list for a group of staff members. Some of them were not… tech savvy. Yeah, lets say that.
    I was not in charge of them. I was merely the program assistant sending out the emails for my, and their, boss. Most emails would have attachments they would need to look over. Every email would end the same:
    “Please familiarize yourself with the attachments enclosed. If you have any questions, please direct them to Boss at {phone number} or {email}. Do not reply or reply all with your questions as I will not have the answers.”

    Without fail, every single time, the same two people would reply all to ask questions of the group, most of the time without even reading the attachment(s). A few others would attempt to reply or call me to ask questions.

    I really don’t miss that place.

  87. Erin Withans*

    Brown University’s alumni list had some internal system email go out to everyone, and then just… hundreds of “unsubscribe”, “Take me off this list” and “Stop hitting reply all, people!” responses. It eventually had moments of performance art, as people just gave up and asked if anyone had restaurant recommendations in Virginia.

  88. someguyscallmeshawna*

    When I was working at an agency, all contractors and freelancers got weekly email reminders to submit timesheets/invoices. One freelancer attached her invoice to an email and replied all, so everyone was able to see the rate she charged.

    1. Avocado Toast*

      My department head in grad school definitely sent someone’s timesheet to all the grad students…I totally forgot this happened until this moment.

  89. anonymous shark*

    I work at a large legal services nonprofit full of social justice warriors who argue for a living (I am a SJW, but I don’t argue for a living). About twice a year, there are vicious fights full of personal attacks on the organization-wide listserv … about Israel and Palestine.

  90. Long Time Listener/First Time Caller*

    Never commented before, but I have two great stories for this…

    I used to work at a lage company with many offices all over the world. The CEO sent out a company-wide email with a very cheery year-end retrospective of business achievements for the year and encouragement for the coming year. Someone in the UK office accidentially hit reply all and proceeded to mock the CEO with some British slang that amounted to “what a cheery twit.”

    Another time (same company) a male and female employee reply all-ed to a company-wide email and proceeded to have a very inappropriate conversation in which, among other things, the male employee invited the female employee to give him a lap dance. They realized their mistake, but no apologies were ever issued and we didn’t hear if either one of the employees were disciplined.

  91. Schnapps*

    I work for a reasonably large organization in terms of Canada. It’s public sector, with a large, unionized workforce. Way back when, we were on strike, so exempt (non-union) staff were handling everything – from their normal day to day activities to cleaning bathrooms. This was a 13 week strike – the second longest in history for this org.

    My then-boss was on a mailing list with his personal account (a listserv if you will – configured such that if you hit reply, it replied to the listserv address, not the sender). The listserv was some sort of newsletter and a friend of his had directed a question to my boss by replying to the newsletter, asking something along the lines of “Are you cleaning toilets?” To which my then-boss replied, “Well, I work at City Hall – I’m scrubbing $h!t anyways!”

    On this listserv were a couple of local news reporters, who ran with this. That email made it onto the old “Death by Email” website.

  92. Shark Whisperer*

    This is not so much a reply-all story as an emailing entirely too many people story. In my office, when you telework, you email your manager at the beginning of the day and again when you sign off. Just your manager. You update your calendar to let everyone else know you’re teleworking. Recently some dude I’ve never met decided to send his signing in and signing off emails to the entire division. One person did reply all to say “why are you doing this? we don’t need to know this information,” but I don’t think that had any effect. Luckily, the dude only teleworks once a week or less, so it’s not that many emails.

    At an old job, I had a coworker who replied-all to every single group message with a 1-3 word message, like “thanks!” or “congradulations” or “good to know.” It drove me batty!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      I worked somewhere where the Reply-Alls to going-away messages were (mostly) extremely political. Like, senior people would be very pointed about who they didn’t and didn’t Reply-All to/about.

      That place was a joy, as you can probably imagine.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I have that coworker. They have a pathological NEED to reply-all to every. single. group message, and 99.9% of them are informational emails only. We do not all need to know that you understand, buddy, but thanks for emailing all of us. Again. With a one word response.

      To be fair, he’s relatively useless in general, so it’s at a BEC-level response for me currently.

    3. Ingray*

      Ohhh my workplace has a person who sends short replies to all group emails too. I guess there has to be one.

  93. TheOperaGhost*

    Not email reply-all but similar:

    I work for the state government, which uses a text alert system to inform people of delays/closures due to weather. One winter there was a storm coming, which was supposed to start getting really bad right around morning rush hour. I live an hour and a half away, and by the time I needed to leave there was still no alert. I decided to roll the dice and stay home. The alert announcing the delay or closure, I don’t remember, finally came around 7:30. This was followed by a text inviting people to connect to a conference call to discuss the weather situation. I figured it wasn’t meant for me, but for the small team that makes the decisions about weather closings, but decided to call in anyway.

    Cue an unending chorus of “*beep* – has connected” interspersed with people complaining about how they were at work already, how horrible the roads where, people verbally announcing their presence, people complaining that they couldn’t hear anything over the beeping, how stupid this was, etc. Etc. I got about 10 minutes of entertainment while I sat on my couch and then left the call.

  94. Super dee duper anon*

    COO (60ish year old woman – this will be relevant) sends out an all employee email with basic company update. CEO replies all “Thanks grandma”. Apparently that is his affectionate nickname for the COO as her daughter had recently given birth to her first grandchild.

    Before learning the backstory it sounded awful. I had only been with the company a couple of months and I was seriously wondering if I had made a mistake.

  95. theMotherOfCats*

    In grad school, we were all automatically added to the school’s Listserv, through which we would receive relevant emails about important deadlines, events specific to our field of study, etc…these emails always came from an administrator or a professor within the department (maybe the occasional email from a student council member). In the fall of my first semester, in response to a pretty benign email (I forget what the subject matter was, but it was from a faculty member), we all received this glorious message:

    “Okay for all you grad students born without any technology etiquette let me educate you:


    Announce your events to the relevant humans. Nobody else cares. Probably most of them don’t care either. It’s bad enough we can’t opt out of this stupid thing.”

    Which, of course, set off a flurry of angry reply-alls calling out the anti-reply-all reply-all-er. It was amazing.

  96. lisa pizza*

    someone accidentally sent a request to a distribution list for the largest department in my company. an afternoon of reply alls ranging from “i don’t think this was meant for me?” to “please remove me from your list” to “stop replying all” to “stop replying all to tell people to stop replying all, you are part of the problem” ensued. my team tried to set up a betting pool with all the replies.

    1. LQ*

      Oh! We totally did betting pools on which people would reply all, how long until they stopped, who would say “stop replying all”. It was awesome! (They eventually took the large distribution list permissions away from everyone but two heads of the department.) I loved the betting on the reply alls.

  97. Librariannie*

    In college, my group of friends and I decided to pool together and order a sweater another friend in the group had been pining over in the J. Crew catalog for months. Some friends hadn’t ponied up, so I sent out a group email, forgetting that some of these people were not nicknamed in my address book. I ended up sending several strangers an email saying that I would “break their kneecaps” if they didn’t pay up soon. Lesson learned, check the To: field.

  98. J.*

    I think my favorite was the time I was on a (admittedly really boring) conference call, and someone had forgotten to put their line on mute. They were talking to someone in the background so loudly that we couldn’t carry on, and we could hear her say, “Yeah, I’m just on this really boring conference call, what do you need? No, no, it’s fine, I don’t need to pay attention.” When she finally stopped talking after like the longest 2 minutes of my life, the person running the call said, “Well. Now that we can return to our really boring conversation, I’d encourage everyone to mute their phones when they’re not currently talking.”

    1. Drew*

      I was at an event where there was a presenter on stage and a roaming presenter in the audience with a wireless mic. At one point, we started to hear sounds like running water coming over the speakers — and it we quickly realize that the roaming presenter had stuck the wireless mic in his pocket and was in the men’s room, doing what one does there. The session came to a total halt (because why wouldn’t it) until the tinkling music stopped, and then we all paused, waiting — would he wash his hands?

      He did. The stage presenter said, “Oh, thank God” and continued with her talk.

      When he returned to the auditorium, we all applauded. He looked confused for a few seconds, then blushed about as crimson as I’ve ever seen.

      1. teclatrans*

        This is my favorite story in the history of forever. (I think you have shared it before? Still my fave.) Especially the “Oh, thank God” and baffling applause.

      2. Sleepless*

        Something similar happened at the teaching hospital where I went to school. A professor finished his lecture and left. The next lecture started, but some random voices and background noise could be heard over the classroom sound system. The professor still had his microphone on, and he was walking around in the hospital talking to people. Everybody started wondering if they were going to start hearing bathroom noises. Somebody finally went to the hospital to tell him to turn it off.

      3. NeonFireworks*

        I was at a workshop in 2005; it wasn’t large, but it brought people from all over the continental U.S. and beyond. When one of the presenters opened her computer and put the Ethernet cord into it, her computer automatically logged her into MSN Messenger in the background, and while she was giving the beginning of a slideshow, her husband showed up in a pop-up box at the right corner of the talk going, “Hey! Paula! You’re online! How’s the work thing going?”

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I work in administration for a hospital system. We once had a massive town hall of like 300 people called into a webex (lots of remote folks, also a wide spread department) and for reasons that were never quite clear, the presenter didn’t mute the callers even though we all kept asking her to do, she just kept interrupting herself every two minutes to remind people to mute themselves. The chorus of “NOOOOOOOOO” when a desk employee who’s phone was not muted had a back-and-forth with a patient including asking for their social security number and other PHI and PII was … well, we drowned out the presenter, and luckily also the patient’s response.

  99. Miss Fisher*

    Not so much a horror story, but gave me a brief state of panic. Someone accidentally sent out an email to the whole company, thousands of employees. This was accidental. I had left for the day. When I got in the next day, I was panicked when I had over a 1,000 emails. My work comes through via emails. They were basically a bunch of replies saying you sent this in error, followed by a multitude of emails that basically said do not reply all. Those emails made up the majority of what everyone received.

  100. Le Sigh*

    When I was in undergrad at a large public university, our advising department was backlogged and it was holding people up for class registration. They sent out an email blast on a Friday asking the juniors on the email list (so, a LOT of people) to please respond with their student ID # and certain info so they can do a quick online approval on classes, so we could register (the details are a little fuzzy since it was so long ago, but that’s the gist of it).

    Well, you can see where this is going…pretty quickly, people start reply-alling with a lot of personally identifying information. Student ID #s, names, other information. People respond saying uh, hey, don’t reply all, you’re exposing your information. It quickly devolves into people yelling at each other, lecturing, ALL CAPS, name calling, telling jokes, selling basketball tickets (and then someone admonishing them that it’s unethical to sell student tickets, etc.). Hundreds of emails — and this is before emails nested, so my inbox was wrecked. Emails poured in all weekend.

    The person in charge of this, I imagine, came back to a horror show on Monday (the days before checking email was so ubiquitous, so I suspect they hadn’t seen it all weekend). That morning, a sternly worded email the junior class goes out calling out bad behavior and in some cases, possible violations (like, selling basketball tickets), and telling us to cease emailing this chain immediately, and if we want to register, to get our info to them ASAP, but DO NOT REPLY ALL.

  101. Laura*

    Background: my job had done a nice thing for newer and lower level employees. But they needed a PR win last year so they changed it to something nice for the community. Still nice for employees but not as nice as before. I’m not thrilled with the change but I know it could not be done at all. The day before Thanksgiving, HR sent out an email that should have been nice but eye rolling to those of us getting used to the change. 20-30 people replied all back asking if they could pay for it to go back to the way it was (50k/300/month so not happening). Coworker and I were laughing because it was all in the department next to us. Their directors and VPs were all off for the day. We knew it would not be good come Monday.

  102. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

    This wasn’t at work, but someone in our faith community sent out a newsletter to the listserv that had the date wrong on some event. This guy replied all, saying “You are mistaken. The date on X is actually Y. I suggest you send us all another email with the correct date.”

  103. Jane*

    This isn’t exactly a reply all “mistake” as I think it was mostly on purpose.

    I was taking a class that was designed for professionals (so all students were professional adults, supposedly). I was in charge of organizing our class project. Our teacher had some very strict ideas about how he wanted the project done, and a lot of them didn’t make sense to us, as the students. I’d tried to clarify/offer alternatives to the teacher, who had written a very sharply worded email back to me.

    I composed a group email to my fellow students, saying that the teacher had responded poorly to our ideas and we would just have to do what he said the best we could. I said it in a way that showed I thought our teacher was being unreasonable and difficult, and referring to his sharply worded email to me as “yelling” at me. (I do feel he yelled at me for asking the questions.) Maybe that wasn’t the greatest thing to do, but it was a small group and I thought I was just talking among my fellow students.

    One of the students decided he needed to let the teacher know what my words were, so he replied all BUT ADDED THE TEACHER. Who then saw everything I’d said, and replied all, refuting the fact that he had been sharp with me and also that he was right.

    It was kind of humiliating and I still to this day don’t know why that student did that. That student was a bit odd in a lot of other ways and I never had any idea what he was thinking.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      This has happened to me too. Both at work and in a professional group I was in. I was livid.

  104. DCGirl*

    Not quite a reply all, but at my company a piece of equipment went missing from a locked room (a SCIF to those of you in government or government contracting) to which a finite group of people have badge access. After waiting for the piece of equipment to find its way home, it was decided that an email should go out to to the badge holders asking for its return. Unfortunately, the email was sent to ALL employees, most of whom had no prior knowledge of the existence of the SCIF or its location. It was also blazingly apparent just who had borrowed the piece of equipment when he had to walk it through the halls in order to return.

  105. Phy*

    Not my story but it still makes me giggle. Someone at my dad’s work lost an earring near the elevator and sent a building wide e-mail to keep an eye out for it. My dad’s friend meant to forward the e-mail and make a joke about losing his cockring near the elevator but accidently replied all instead.

  106. Anon For Email Disaster*

    Not exactly reply-all… My husband worked at a small company where the email addresses were initials at domain dot com. So, since his name is Fergus Octavius Warblesworth, his email was FOW @ company . com. Because of this, people often shorthandedly referred to one another by their initials. So, a typical email might be, “Hey, RDS, let’s meet with FOW about the TPS reports. Thanks -MKR.”

    Things got tense between FOW and the bosses at one point and FOW got another job. He hadn’t yet given his notice when he got an email bcc’d to him with no subject line. The body of the email was about how the bosses needed to meet up to find a time to fire FOW but they were having trouble with scheduling. Husband pretended he didn’t see this and very sweetly gave his notice the next day when the original email sender was out of the office.

    He assumes this happened because boss meant to make his initials the subject line but accidentally put it in the BCC line. Oops!

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      It would have been classic if he would have replied to the email…

      “Hey next Tuesday works for me! But you know whenever the team can get together is fine”

  107. 867-5309*

    I was just out of school working for a PR agency. One client – or rather, an individual at one client – was especially difficult and would rant because we hadn’t sent something (we had) and so forth. She was common fodder to b*tch about. Well, one day I’m working at a satellite office and emailing this client when she replies back, “This isn’t what I asked for. Where this, this and that.” I forwarded it to my boss with a note, “Once again, what is she smoking? That information is located here and here in the email below.” Didn’t forward. Replies.

    The client was a company owned by a relation to the agency founder and CEO. I was reprimanded with a week off, no pay, and no longer allowed to work at the satellite office.

    Years later the CEO apologized and said “laying me off” for one week was the wrong thing to do.

  108. ISuckAtUserNames*

    Fairly early in my career at my current company (so, probably 15 years or so ago now), one of the hotshot sales reps was trying to make a sale to potential big new client. We had an automated process we could use to update some customer information, and my coworker and I were asked to run this process prior to the sale, but then we had to back it out and rollback to the old data because Hotshot had lied to the customer and told them that we wouldn’t update this information (viewable to the public) unless they signed a contract.

    So, they sign the contract and we get told to re-run the whole automated process again (it takes a day or so) and I replied-all, intending for my coworker, something along the lines of “Do you think she means it this time?” or something snarky. This email thread contained at least one VP and other higher-ups and I was pretty low on the food chain at the time, so it was pretty cringeworthy, but Hotshot gets all defensive and I’m sitting over here ticked off because she LIED to a big client and I would be the one to train them to do the ongoing manual updates of their information and if they made comments about us not updating their info without paying I would be stuck either being a party to her lies or calling her out on it.

    Fortunately the main VP on the email thought my response was kind of funny, and held no illusions about this particular individual, so it wasn’t a career killer or anything.

  109. Dr. BOM*

    The one time I reply-all’d, it was about the new health insurance policy. Everyone at the company then got to learn about how many cavities I had and was looking to get filled. It was embarrassing, but I’m at a different company now (plus I’ve had my cavities filled).

  110. Scooby-Doo*

    A couple years ago, on an email chain announcing a new (female) hire in one of our branch offices, a sales team member replied all with:

    “(City) Office: If you’re blonde, you’re hired!”

    That was an uncomfortable one.

  111. Extra Vitamins*

    My favorite was one done deliberately. People in the place I was working voted to go on strike, and the announcement went to everyone. Someone then did a reply-all with a 10MB attachment high resolution image of a wrench. Chaos followed.

  112. TeapotDetective*

    I wish to god I’d saved this, but it was ten years and three jobs ago.

    Accidental company-wide email was something innocuous – I think it was a congratulations to a retiring coworker. Cue the usual flood of “I don’t know you but congrats!” and “please remove me from this list” and “stop replying all!!!”

    And then as the foolishness continues, someone replies “is this real life, haha”
    And someone else replies “Is this just fantasy?”

    I think it got most of the way through the second verse before IT was able to kill the email chain.

    1. Anonicat*

      I imagine that whenever there’s a new reply-all problem, the IT group starts singing, “I’m just a poor boy…”

  113. 867-5309*

    Here’s what I don’t understand about the reply-all madness. As someone noted above, she knew the email was likely sent in error and deleted it. If it’s not part of your job and you see the “to” field is “company-wide” or some large distribution list, why the heck to people reply.

    “Remove me from this list.” DUDE – it’s a company list. And if you aren’t sure the email was meant for you, a polite note to that person does the trick.

    1. Nines*

      This always confuses me as well! And then I’m just left wondering do they a) not understand how email works? b) are messing with people or c) so self-absorbed and lacking in attention to detail that they just didn’t notice the clear indicators of why they got the email.

  114. logicbutton*

    A coworker once replied-all to a department-wide (hundreds of people) email from several days earlier about quarterly projections or something equally boring with “Sounds great, I’m starving.”

  115. seller of teapots*

    Oh, Lordy, I have one.

    I was upset with a coworker for posting something in a public channel that, at the time, I felt made me look bad. I interpreted it as an attention grab. (Ugh, I was an ass.) In my frustration, I was texting another coworker about the situation, and included a gif of Ursula saying “pathetic.” Of course, I sent it to a group chat, including said coworker.

    Who was absurdly gracious about it, and that taught me more about not being a mean-spirited ass than almost anything I’ve been through before.

    Still cringe, still grateful for the learning opportunity, still don’t put complaints in writing over text or email.

  116. AptNickname*

    I worked at a large financial institution with many divisions. If I remember correctly, this poor misguided woman emailed not just just her division but the whole corporation with a request for the recipe for the cheerio bars from their last potluck. Of course a bunch of people jumped on the chance to tell her she’d emailed everyone, but many hit ‘reply all to do so. Then came the cascade of people hitting ‘reply all’ to scold all the people who had replied to all. It cascaded from there, and I never did find out about the cheerio bar recipe.

    1. ISuckAtUserNames*

      And, see this is where I’d get myself fired by waiting about a day after the hubbub has died down and replied-all with “So…did anyone post the recipe? I love Cheerio bars.”

  117. Bored IT Guy*

    Someone (let’s call him Tim) at my company tried to send his team a “I’ll be out of the office today, I’m not feeling well” email. Instead, it went to everyone in the technology department of (large company) – about 2,000 people.

    In addition to the usual flood of “Take me off this mailing list” and “Don’t use Reply All” and “I’ve moved everyone to BCC to stop the reply flood” messages, there were also a few folks who decided to make it a reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off … One person just replied with “Save Tim”, another said something about a missing red corvette, and someone else photoshopped Tim’s picture from the company directory into a screen capture from the parade scene in the movie.

    A few years later, (long enough for most people to forget the whole instance) Tim left the random channel in the companywide Slack instance, someone replied to that with “#SaveTim”

  118. Kat*

    Once I hit “reply all” on the wrong email, and sent an email to every person in the entire national company I worked for (approximately 1,400 people). The email simply said:

    “Jeremy Piven.”

  119. Beth*

    Oh, holy heaven in a handbasket. One of the bad moments in my life led to an even worse one.

    Late in the 1990s, when email was still new or at least newish, I somehow hit Reply All on a slightly risque email to the guy I was dating at the time. It went to everyone in our volunteer group. I realized it with horror ten seconds later, screamed, died a little, and quickly sent another email to everyone, telling them that the email was private, PLEASE DELETE WITHOUT READING. And I crossed my fingers; everyone on the list was a good friend of mine, and our volunteer activities had led to a high level of mutual respect and trust.

    A few weeks later, at a very public gathering of the group, one of the senior members — a man I would have trusted with my life, my password, and my bank account — announced that he had a special presentation to give me. Since I tended to do a disproportionate amount of hard work for the group and usually saw the credit go to someone else, I was thrilled; hey, hurrah, I’m getting a positive moment of attention!

    I was presented with a nice box, inside of which was . . . a T-shirt printed with the most embarrassing and intimate line from the email.

    I think I went completely white. I snatched it out of the man’s hands, balled it up so that nobody could see what the t-shirt said, and stormed off. Another friend of mine came after me asking if I was all right; I told her “No.” I got my ass away from there and later cut up the T-shirt and threw away the pieces.

    The now-former friend who has pulled this stunt tried to reach out to me soon afterwards — with the line “Gosh, I’m sorry I seem to have upset you, but you have to understand that I didn’t do anything wrong because that email was public, and there’s nothing wrong with fun practical jokes.” (For the record, I have always hated practical jokes.)

    I managed to survive the public humiliation, but it has never completely stopped hurting. I lost all trust in him, of course, and did my best never to have to work with or interact with him again. I eventually resigned from the group some years later, since the whole issue of working my ass off without getting any credit or respect only continued to increase.

    (The next volunteer group I joined gave me an award at the end of my first year, a real one . . . )

      1. Beth*

        Yeah . . . I was still in the process of learning not to trust people who treated me badly, not to devote time and energy to groups that took me for granted, etc.

  120. RedBrickDream*

    I teach middle school. About a decade ago, one of my classes (sixth grade or Year 7s) discovered the alias that allowed them to email every student in the middle school. It started with a few messages on Friday. By Saturday, they had crashed FirstClass.

  121. One legged stray cat*

    I worked in an office that was pretty good about not hitting reply all. The rare times it did happen, people were good about recognizing what it was and ignoring it. Then we got a new executive. The executive called us all in about a week after he was hired to talk about the direction he was planning on taking the company. One of the topics he was most passionate about was not hitting the reply all button. He said there was a big problem with it at his last company and that it caused a lot efficiencies. He said if he had his way, he would have IT disable the reply all button.

    We didn’t think much of it until about two hours later when that same executive accidentally hit reply all. We chuckled about it, thinking that he would be embarrassed, but then it happened again. And then again. In one month he accidentally hit reply all nineteen times. The worst part was since he was a high level executive, some people thought that they were supposed to follow his lead. We ended with five different “STOP WITH THE REPLY ALL” email chains that clogged our system.

  122. Valegro*

    A university I worked for sent the entire class list for a competitive graduate degree program a spreadsheet of every student’s undergrad GPA. Some of them were around 2.0 and it went down BAD. Thankfully there were no names on it.

    1. Iden*

      Oh, this is fascinating. I am in law school and GPAs/class rankings are published after the end of every semester (without names, of course).

      1. Valegro*

        The problem was that students were being accepted to an extremely competitive program who couldn’t handle the coursework while other students were rejected and had high GPAs. I don’t blame the students at all for being upset as there was another component that I don’t want to get into.

  123. CleverName*

    Many years ago, the superbowl was between the teams from my company’s two offices. The president of one company made a “bet” with the president of the other company. Good natured stuff, the winning team would get banners congratulating them in both offices.

    We have a lot of older guys in the field who aren’t super email savvy, and don’t always get professionalism / office norms (because they don’t work in the office). Cue some mildy inappropriate dad-jokes sent to the entire company. Nothing crazy, maybe 5 or 6 emails. Then, a field guy who’d been with the company 20+ years and was well-respected (and maybe feared by younger guys) replies to the entire company “Could you cut this crap out? Some of us have work to do.”


  124. misplacedmidwesterner*

    Story from a friend. A company wide email went out announcing a new office opened in very desirable foreign country. This is a large major company. Someone replied all and wrote a very smarmy email all about how they would be perfect to work in or lead that office. Their wife was from said country, they spoke the language, had family ties, lots of business experience, etc. Basically probably a decent cover letter but looked very brown nosing as a email to what he thought was the CEO, but was actually they entire company. Then he sent a recall message alert and somehow triggered thousands of autoreplies (out of offices). Almost crashed the company servers doing so.

    My story: our organization had implemented a new process/system and it wasn’t going well. People were really angry. They sent out an email with more news about an update, but instead of using ORG-ALL which only two people are allowed to email, they used each department’s list all together, so HRDEPT-ALL, FINANCEDEPT-ALL, etc. A supervisor in another department hit reply all and wrote a scathing “here is everything that has gone wrong with this entire project and why you personally are a terrible person” email. Another supervisor from a different department jumped in to agree. People started piling on. My department head emailed just our department and reminded us that this was not appropriate ways to talk about grievances, and these emails were unprofessional and there would be consequences. She told us all basically to stay quiet. Proud to say my entire department did. About an hour later the head of HR came on, chastised everyone who had been in the email chain, and publicly read the riot act to the supervisors who had started it all. Along the lines of you are managers and have a duty to work with the company to promote projects and support us, bring up concerns in meetings yes, but you need to be publicly supportive. Great popcorn drama for all of us to watch for a few days.

  125. First Sea Lord*

    The communications person at a local school district was supposed to share the personnel file of a staff member with a lawyer.

    It was somehow sent to the entire district.

    It turned out that this staff member had sexually harassed minors while he was a teacher. He was also running for public office.

    He is now neither a teacher nor a public officer.

    1. seller of teapots*

      Is there any chance that the communications person didn’t actually make a mistake? Because if so they are the hero of this thread.

  126. pretty bird*

    My company sends out a digest email to the entire 500 person staff every morning. It’s used for announcements – things like announcing training opportunities, company-wide updates, the parking garage is undergoing maintenance, etc. Pretty standard stuff.

    A few years back a senior level male employee accidentally replied-all to the morning digest some fairly NSFW photos. Think shirtless selfies in the bathroom mirror… holding a wrestling belt. He tried to recall the message but by that point dozens of people had opened it. From where I sit I could hear him panicking on the phone with IT trying to get the message removed.

    He ended up going home early that day and worked from home for the rest of the week. I don’t know if he suffered any repercussions from it but he still works with us.

  127. Laurelma01*

    Years ago I sent an email out to the faculty regarding student evaluations. Auto correct got me. It said “student evils” when I had typed in “student evals.” Got a lot of flack over that one.

    1. Catsaber*

      When I worked university help desk, I often caught myself mistyping “students” as “stupids”, because I was trying to blow through all my tickets so fast that I’d get careless with typing. A few instructors got emails regarding “your stupids have contacted me about the quiz…”

  128. Iden*

    Not email, but it’s close. I was a staff administrator for a private middle school right after graduating from college. We had a student who was in the process of being expelled for making violent threats against the school. Because the student’s family involved a lawyer, my boss told me to answer any phone calls from them and to let it go to voicemail (not sure about the rationale, but okay). Well, one day family member left me a voicemail containing very sensitive information. My boss asked me to send the voicemail to her inbox. I thought, “well, of course I can do that. I am technologically savvy. No problem.”

    Oh, how my confidence was misplaced. I forwarded the very confidential voicemail to the ENTIRE SCHOOL. I started receiving numerous phone calls saying, “Oh, I don’t think you meant to send that.” Thankfully, I was able to quickly ask IT to remove the voicemail from everyone’s phones, which they did. The head of the school handled the situation so poorly — instead of privately scolding me and sending a “please delete this voicemail” memo, they held an emergency after-school meeting, admonishing us to forget what we heard, don’t repeat it, blah blah. Of course, that made the gossip 1000 times worse. I wanted to sink into the floor and let the sweet release of death wash away my shame. Possibly the most embarrassing moment of my life.

    For some reason, IT disabled voicemail forwarding after that.

    1. CJM*

      “I wanted to sink into the floor and let the sweet release of death wash away my shame.”

      Kudos for that beautiful sentence! I’m sorry you felt that way, but I bet we all have at some point. (I know I have.)

    2. coffee nap*

      I’m so glad someone brought up voicemails sent to everyone.

      I worked at an international travel agency (RIP travel agencies) in the 90s. As part of my training on their phone system, I was told a cautionary tale of someone who used the office voicemail system to leave a drunken message for a coworker-friend *detailing and critiquing* the sexual encounter she had had with another coworker after the office Christmas party. It went to everyone in this large, international company. She was not fired, but, oh, the humiliation.

      And also, let’s not forget the Little Mermaid, and one of the most legendary, most forwarded voicemails known. I had friends at this school when this happened, though I was not there myself. It’s in Act One, here.

  129. Anonymoose*

    This isn’t really a reply-all story, but I love this story and I think it’s close enough. Before I got married, my last name was a very common one in our area, and there are more than a few people at my large company with this last name. My first initial is J., so, not incredibly uncommon either. One day, I received an email with a lot of employee names and salary information. I was busy and didn’t think too much of it so I didn’t respond right away, but when I was finished with my task (my general work is not at my computer) I had over 40 emails that were all “reply-all” with the INCREDIBLY high ups of some department talking about laying people off, complaining that people make too much, etc. I guess this is how these people do business in their department, but that was an interesting day because they were being sent to me, Jane Applegate, instead of Jen Applegate.

  130. BlueClearSky*

    We’ve had some epic ones at my company, one of my favorites is that they sent out some updates to the travel policy regarding who can approve what amount of expenses, and note that all bookings should be done through our 3rd party travel agency.

    This guy who is known for being an arrogant ass replied all saying he didn’t REALLY have to use that booking agency if he could find a nicer room at a better deal, did he?

    The CEO replied to his message and said it means exactly what it says and he certainly does not want all of the employees on this thread wasting time searching travel sites to save a little bit of money. I wish I could frame that reply.

    We also had another mess-up (although not reply-all related) where a salesperson changed a marketing e-mail subject from “Now is a great time to buy!” to “Now is a great time to eat a dick!” and accidentally sent it to a customer.

  131. Project Manager*

    A while back, my division (a few hundred people?) got into a reply-all chain about something not work-related. I don’t remember what it was – maybe the results of the March madness competition? – but every time the chain appeared to be dead, it resurrected with a few more messages. This went on for over a week.

    When the chain resurrected for the fourth or fifth time, I deliberately replied all with no text, just two screenshots showing how the “Ignore Conversation” function works in Outlook.

    Immediately after sending that, I thought, “Oh no, what if people think I meant that to be nasty instead of just funny???” But I quickly received IMs, emails, and drop-by visits in my office from people laughing their heinies off, so hopefully everyone took it the right way.

  132. CJM*

    A few years ago there was a reply-all blowup at our large, well-known, global company, and the story made the major news outlets. It was very embarrassing to the company, which brags about all the knowledgeable, smart people who work there — many of whom responded with their own reply-all emails saying “knock it off!” and “take me off this email list!” One report says nearly 23 million emails resulted.

    On a far smaller scale, I accidentally sent an email to the wrong person. My sister worked for a boss who played favorites and invented lame excuses to cut my sister’s full-time hours to part-time so she could give those hours to her pet employee, a brazen bootlicker who’d put most bootlickers to shame. My sister was in good standing at her job and fought hard to keep her full-time status. One day in the thick of it all, she emailed me at work to ask for advice on how to respond to her boss’s latest attack. But my sister didn’t forward her boss’s email to me; instead she attached her boss’s email. So I had to open the boss’s email to read it — and that’s the email I responded to with a scathing rebuke of the boss’s integrity and behavior. I didn’t realize that I’d just directly emailed my sister’s boss until the moment after I sent it, and I hadn’t set up my work email with a delay so that I could recall the email. I can still clearly recall the physical feeling of shame and dread that washed over me like a fever. I immediately called my sister, explained what I’d done, and apologized profusely. To my great surprise, she was unconcerned because she thought her boss wouldn’t figure out what happened. She was wrong, and in short order her boss emailed us both and suggested we be more careful with our emails. Ouch. My sister lost her full-time status (as expected and probably in spite of my mistake), but she found a second part-time job and eventually regained her full-time status at her main job. Not a happy ending but an acceptable one, I guess.

  133. Catsaber*

    One of my former bosses was a big schmoozer who liked to flatter people, mostly the higher-ups. Sometimes his flattery got really awkward so he’d backpedal. It was painful in realtime conversation, but even more painful in email. One day, a mass email goes out about a holiday party or something for the staff, and someone does a reply-all to thank the sender for organizing the party. Not to be out-thanked, SchmoozeBoss replied all and thanked the thanker, thanked the sender, and started thanking random people, and threw in some holiday puns. Then other people started tacking onto him and making their own jokes. SchmoozeBoss then responded with some REALLY awkward comments (like borderline sexual), realized his mistake, and started backpedaling with multiple emails. Then other people responded to try and soothe him, like “Oh it’s okay, don’t worry about it.” I thought my head was going to explode from the sheer uselessness of the conversation.

    1. Plain Jane*

      My old job used to send out emails congratulations emails when a salesperson reached their goal. Inevitably, two or three people had to reply to all with Way to Go, Susan! instead of just emailing Susan. Like they needed credit for their congratulations. I don’t miss that place.

  134. Plain Jane*

    I used to work for a large company that had three corporate locations and hundreds of small branch offices scattered around the US. I worked at one of the small branch offices in the Midwest.

    One day we got a transfer employee I’ll call Ron. Ron was transferring from our corporate location located in the south from our call center team. Ron was basically going have the same position as the call center, just supporting local clients over the phone and in-person.

    Ron was kind of annoying. He was the type of person who’s not nearly as funny as he thinks he is and didn’t know how to read the proverbial room.

    This company wasn’t great at communication, so Ron did not ask to be removed from the call center team email list because he knew he’d learn important info in a timely manner that he still needed for his job. No problem, except this team email list also used this list for team emails like, Don’t forget about the potluck tomorrow, please stagger your time going to HR today for open enrollment so we have enough coverage on the phones, Printer A isn’t working so you need to send your print jobs to printer B, etc. Ron would reply all to each of these emails saying something like, “I can’t use Printer B in (our Midwest state)” as a joke. Funny remark the first time but he kept sending replies like that to every email that didn’t involve him because he thought it was hilarious. He got removed from the email list.

  135. frastucl*

    I have two, but both involve the same mistake because I do not learn.

    Long ago, I worked at toxic start-up led by incredibly mean CEO. He sent an Outlook invite about for something or other. This guy who worked for me replied to/forwarded the invite, but to me with a comment like “can we skip this?”. But when I received it, it looked like it came from the CEO. I was confused. He was asking me if we could skip his event. So I replied to the CEO asking for clarification. Big mistake — the CEO was furious (with me, fortunately). Past me was an idiot in that moment.

    Second was nearly the exact same thing. Different start-up, but this CEO was not mean, just not aware of what was going on with the different teams. As a result, he’d complain about something not yet getting fixed, completely unaware that the team or individual responsible was up to their eyeballs fixing an even bigger fire. Anyway, he thought it’d be a good idea to schedule lunch with a group of random employees in the company. I was dreading it & replied to/forwarded the invite to my boss explaining that I “really, really, really” don’t want to do this. This resulted in me inviting my boss to the lunch & CC’ing the other invitees. A few days later, my boss e-mailed me why he thought face time with the CEO would be good for me (it wouldn’t have been). A few days after that, my boss & I got uninvited to the lunch. No one else ever said anything directly to me about it. The company imploded a few months after that.

  136. Mado*

    To start with, these men were fired before the end of the day.

    A former job had an internal message board. One afternoon, the music folder (of all places!) boasted a magnificent misfire. An error of prodigious proportions. It was an email between two teammates that must have been accidentally dragged or forwarded to this public folder.

    In this far-ranging email, our company of over 2500 people unwillingly learned a little about A’s sexual history, including that she was on work probation for table dancing at a company conference event. B slept with A, and Email Guy 1 wanted to sleep with D, but E gave Email Guy a novelty magnet so clearly she wanted him. F left the company without finishing his work. And Email Guy 2 was grateful to own a digital scale for his weed dealing and buying (illegal at the time). And what kicked off this exchange? A female employee had asked for a ride home, and the men joked about demanding sexual favors from her in exchange. Real classy stuff. And such a range of inappropriate work topics!

    Here’s a representative but redacted sample from this work of American literature: “Apparently every time she’s gone to Quaker Steak she’s gone home with someone. She’s cool, but not really attractive in my book. I guess if I was drunk enough I’d think about it… Heh. I think she’s cool, so I’m cool with just being friends if nothing comes of it. But I wouldn’t mind having a female friend who likes gobbling on my c***.” Another quote from Email Guy 2: ” As far as G, I think you should try putting your d*** in her and if she doesn’t want it than I’d quit wasting my time and hone in on the [job role] or that hot foreign chick that lives across from you.”

    For kicks, I just looked up the guys’ names on LinkedIn — nada. If they’re there, they’re using different names. And it’s 14 years later!

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I once got a scathing email (along with everyone else in the company) from our CEO about emailing being for business use only. No personal correspondence was allowed and any infraction would lead to immediate discipline to the employee. This was so out of left field that everyone was scratching their head about it.

      I asked one of our floor supervisors what was up, and he explained the following story.

      Apparently an employee emailed an internet joke (remember these from the 90’s?) that managed the trifecta by including; sexual content, extreme racist language, and was super derogatory to women. This would have been bad enough, but instead of sending it to his friend Dave, he sent it to Dave the CEO.

      He was fired immediately.

  137. ab*

    My very first day at a large company with around 30k employees IT sent a confusing company wide email by mistake. My work phone had just been set up with email. at the end of all of the chaos, I had THOUSANDS of reply all emails. Take me off this list, what is this about, STOP REPLYING ALL.

  138. Kate*

    I was seconded to an overseas branch of my company, where they aren’t wild about non local staff. I filled in a purchase order exactly as I’d been told to, which involved writing my name, which was very clearly foreign, on the receipt and submitted to finance.

    Finance sent a mass email with a photo of the receipt as an attachment to everyone asking, in the local language which I’m not fluent in if they knew who’d submitted it. Multiple people replied all pointing out that it had a name on it. People replied all about how the foreigners are always making mistakes. People emailed me personally to check I’d seen it. My boss emailed me apologising for teaching me wrong, but not on a reply all.

  139. BlueWolf*

    Sadly we haven’t had any super exciting reply-all drama. We do get the occasional list-serv email where one person will reply-all with some innocuous comment or question that only relates to them, but it never goes farther than that.

  140. AC*

    This is a “insert the wrong distribution list” horror story.

    At my last job, I worked in a regional office of a company with locations across the US. The senior manager in my regional office was trying to send a routine “weekly Narnia office update” to a distribution list of senior management across the company, but accidentally sent it to a distribution list of the company’s largest department, basically cc’ing 300+ people of all levels of seniority in half a dozen offices across the country.

    And, of course, the first lines of the weekly update went into detail about one of my colleagues who was on a PIP and how that was progressing (not well)…

    I sat about 10 feet from the senior manager and all of the sudden I hear him let out this like primal moan of distress. For a brief moment before the email popped up in my inbox, I honestly thought he had found out someone close to him died unexpectedly based on the sound he emitted. He then quickly ran into a conference room to confer with people at HQ on what to do, and about 20 mins later “retracted” the email in Outlook. The thing is, “retracting” the email only removes it from your inbox if you haven’t opened it yet, which obviously everybody had at that point.

  141. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    I wish I had seen this one earlier!

    A customer missed something very evident. In an email I typed, “John Smith has reached a new level of stupidity.” I hit reply instead of forward.

    I did some extreme grovelling to the customer. Luckily, he was very forgiving.

    Lesson learned, “Never put anything in writing that you would not want on the front page of the New York Times.”

    1. London Calling*

      Oh yes. One supplier was being particularly irksome and I forwarded her email to a colleague with a message along the lines of can you believe what a pain in the rear end this woman is and isn’t isn’t bloody obvious what I’m telling her, can’t she read? re-read it, thought about it, toned it down considerably to something like I guess we had better do this, and pressed send – to the supplier.

      Got a somewhat frosty ‘I think you sent this to me by mistake.’ God bless whatever told me to read it before sending

  142. The Squad Father*

    SO GLAD our company switched to Gmail specifically because I have my inbox set so that I can “undo” a sent email within 30 seconds after hitting send.


    I don’t have any horror stories like this (fingers crossed I never do), but my supervisor does! She and our manager are good friends outside of work and have been since long before they started working together. As friends sometimes do, they tell a lot of gross jokes that are fine in private, but not in a professional setting (and they don’t do it in a professional setting unless they know they’re alone). So once my super declined a meeting invite with the CFO because she was sick. When our manager sent her a “Get well soon” message, my super accidentally Reply All’d that she had explosive diarrhea and had sent the email from the toilet. It was mostly in jest (she had an upset stomach, but she was exaggerating the extent of it for a laugh), but she was MORTIFIED when she realized–HOURS later–that she’d sent it to all of us.

  143. Jennifer Walters*

    This is so timely. A co-counsel on a case bcc’ed a client on an e-mail with opposing counsel last night. The client replied all and included the phrase “Never communicate with these people again!” I’m still laughing about it.

  144. MaiaBelle*

    Not the worst case of this, but I used to have to email certain checklists to one of the teams in my company every time I did them (which could be 20 a day, sometimes). Our mail lists were based on location, so I was supposed to be emailing “ _locationteam” but one day, not paying attention, I emailed “_locationusers” so everyone in our particular office was getting copies of these irrelevant to most checklists! Not my finest hour

  145. Anna*

    Ooh I have one.

    I’m a translator. Once I applied to a translation firm and a few hours later, they emailed me with a document (someone’s rental contract) and asked me what I would charge for a translation. I replied. So far so good.

    Another few hours later, I received a few more emails – from other translators, with their rates. All lower than mine, one MUCH lower than mine. Turns out they had been in the bcc, while I was in the ‘To’ field, and they thought I was also part of the translation firm. Got some useful information on my competitors’ rates this way.

    I emailed the man of the translation firm, to report that he had accidentally put me in the ‘to’ instead of the bcc field (and that I would rethink my rates – they were a bit high). The email bounced. Tried another address I had of the same firm – bounced as well. To this day I have no idea what happened. Did the place suddenly fold? Did they block me after realising their mistake?

    I also emailed the translator with the very low rate, a polite email that sorry I had received your mail but please realise that those rates are ridiculous and you can’t live on that kind of income. She actually replied and thanked me, she had not realised those rates were not just low but truly unreasonable. So at least one good thing came out of it.

  146. LavaLamp*

    Oh boy do I have one!

    We had a guy at my old work who was really combative about things that don’t matter.
    The way we received our work was thru email distribution lists that gave us the schedule of what tea pots were coming up to be painted and when they needed to be painted by. These lists went to everyone and the procedure was to just delete what wasn’t an account you did work on. They sent them to everyone because the teapot schedulers did not know which account the teapot painters were responsible for especially since accounts were often reassigned due to complexity, skills and whatnot like that.

    Anyway, this guy hated getting emails that didn’t pertain to him. HATED it. One day one of the teapot designers sent a heads up email because she had more visibility on upcoming projects since she worked directly with customers. He responded to the email FOUR SEPARATE TIMES; and in each email it was “See how much of a time waster this is?” “Now you have to delete this” and various nonsense like that.

    Truly do not know why that guy lasted as long as he did. 80% of the WTF emails I received were from him.

  147. nnn*

    Someone accidentally sent an email requesting something mundane like a password reset to the general distribution list of a national organization (thousands and thousands of people).

    Someone else replied all with something like “Why are you sending this to me?”

    Thereafter followed a cascade of people replying all with “Stop using Reply All!” rendering email unusable for at least half an hour.

  148. Anon for this one*

    When I was in college, my campus’s chapter of the College Republicans invited Charlton Hesston from the NRA to speak. They sent out a massmail advertising the event, which prompted a blizzard of reply-alls screaming about the politics of gun control, as well as the predictable “take me off this list,” “stop hitting reply-all,” etc. The ability of students to massmail the entire campus was taken away after this fiasco, and Hesston’s appearance was mysteriously cancelled. This incident happened around 2000 or 2001, so email was a relatively new thing at the time, and it was a preview of the horrible screaming match American politics would turn into about fifteen years later.

  149. Jay*

    I spent a blessedly brief period as a contractor for a telehealth urgent care company (I’m a doc). One day they sent an announcement of change of policy out to the list of contractors and didn’t mask the list. Someone had an autoreply set that went back to “reply all,” and then reproduced itself. FOR DAYS.

  150. Lana Kane*

    I work for a very large health care system, we employ something like 12,000 people in the state. A few years ago, a poor soul in IT accidentally sent out a very specialized email to every single one of those 12,000 people.

    It all started with the first person to hit Reply All within a minute or 2 of receiving it. “This is not for me, please remove me from your list”. Never mind that this was clearly not a “list” type email, and was obviously sent in error. The a few more came in: “Why am I getting this?”, “This isn’t for me, remove me immediately”.

    The dozens more making the same demand. By now, some of the original repliers are demanding to know why they are still on “the list”.

    Some people are starting to realize that this was clearly an error, and that all the Reply Alls are exacerbating the problem. Trying to help, a couple reply saying “Please stop Replying All, this is why you are getting so many emails. Just ignore it and it will stop.”.

    Since no good deed goes unpunished, those good-hearted Helpers are now being told to “stop emailing me! I told you to remove me from THIS LIST!” Another good one was, “You must stop immediately or I will report you!”

    All in all, I received hundreds of emails over the next few days, as people trickled in to their Outlook boxes, flipped out and, of course, Replied All with their intense displeasure and please to be removed from The List. I’m still amazed my email didn’t crash!

  151. hiptobesquared*

    I have had my application email reply-all’d back to me with comments meant for probably their superior. Twice.

  152. Pilcrow*

    For background, this company had Novell GroupWise for email (2001-ish) and reply all was actively discouraged. The reply all function was not shown on the main toolbar; you needed to go down a few menu selections to get to it. Reply all was not, and could not be, accidental.

    On day IT sends out a mass email saying they needed to reclaim licenses for a program and asking people 1) if they had the program and 2) if they needed it or if it could be taken off and used elsewhere. People were supposed to reply to the message with their answers. IT specifically mentioned to *not* use reply all. (I think you can see where this is going…)

    There began a full day of replies of people answering whether they had the program and if it could be removed, then the replies of people chiding the use of reply all, then the replies of others saying to stop replying. IT had to shut down the exchange server and trap the email to keep the system from crashing.

    Considering the reply all function was buried (and I know some people didn’t know how to find it if they wanted it), I have to think mentioning to not use reply all created the problem in the first place.

      1. Pilcrow*

        Good question. Looking back on it, I have to wonder why IT couldn’t audit the workstations remotely for the program in the first place as all the software distribution was centrally controlled. Some weirdness there, for sure.

  153. AnonyNurse*

    I had one that was useful. My unit at very large hospital had new leadership. Manager just hated me. I still have no idea why. I was working as a tech while in nursing school. Old manager had worked with me on a schedule that allowed me to keep up with school — nights, weekends — and make rent. New manager changed me to to a day shift schedule. I thought maybe she was confused (people are generally delighted when someone wants the weekend overnights). I sent an email to new manager and old manager and some others trying to get clarification. They dropped me off the reply chain as they discussed amongst themselves. And then new manager added me back in to say they couldn’t accommodate my request. I could see the whole chain. Including where she wrote that she was trying to make me quit by giving me a schedule she knew wouldn’t work for me.

    I wish I could say I parlayed that into a different/better role in the hospital. But I just gave up the full time job and went to as-needed. And got the hell out of there as soon as I could. That’s when I realized that all the bullying and BS at that place was not about me. It was a toxic work environment, at what is also one of the most lauded pediatric hospitals in the country.

  154. animaniactoo*

    Well it wasn’t an accident, but I wasn’t allowed to live it down until pretty much everyone who was here for it is gone.

    The HR manager sent out/forwarded that stupid e-mail about how cell phone numbers are about to be released to telemarketers and you had to call THIS NUMBER (that was sometimes the Do Not Call registry) to opt out. As an FYI head’s up to all employees.

    I replied all with the following message, no header, no greeting, no signature, nothing. Just this:


    People seemed to feel it was both harsh and hilarious.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      I agree it was both harsh and hilarious.

      And also somewhat ill-advised as I try not to upset HR managers as a general rule (and boy, is it a struggle).

  155. cookies*

    This thread just reminded me of this. At my first office job (a small attorney’s office), we got an office-wide email from HR in April-ish about the summer picnic, asking us to RSVP with how many people we’d be bringing (SOs, kids, etc).

    I unknowingly hit Reply All and said “Just me.”

    It was still a joke when I left the company two years later.

  156. Masquerade*

    Recently at my work a bunch of office supplies went missing from the room they’re stored in.
    Employees of the department are allowed to take them at will but I guess such a huge amount was missing that they decided to send out an email to everyone in the department just making sure it wasn’t an outsider helping themselves to a free supply.

    Someone in the department sent a reply all message stating that they had seen another employee (who is allowed to take supplies) in that room around the time of the alleged “theft” and to check with them and their boss. They decided to include the person’s complete job title and full name, including their middle name which I’m not sure if they even use at work.

    It just felt icky and incriminating, especially since that person can use the supplies and definitely should not have been sent as a reply all to the whole department!

  157. MsMaryMary*

    This isn’t a reply all story but a distribution list story. I have a client where our services include meeting with a committee of their employees periodically. Naturally they set up a distribution list of people on the committee to send meeting agendas, materials, follow ups, etc. Imagine my surprise when one day the secretary of the committee sends an agenda outlining the search for a new consultant and proposals from two of our competitors.

    Our main contact did call and apologize as soon as she realized I was copied. We made a counter proposal and kept the account. But the next committee meeting was *awkward*

  158. A New Commenter*

    This isn’t a reply-all issue but it is an email fiasco that caused minor hysteria.

    On the day of 9/11/2001, I was in college. The entire campus was stunned by the events of the day. Nobody had any frame of reference for what could happen next. Any horrible thing seemed possible.

    Several hours after the second tower had gone down, every student got an email in their inbox titled “DRAFT NOTICE.”

    We all panicked at the title, because our first irrational reaction was to assume we were being drafted. Like into the service. For war.

    It was just an email that the president was sending out to the college with a statement about the tragedy. He had clearly sent a draft to be edited before sending to the whole school, titled it “Draft email,” and then when he forwarded it to the entire college, forgot to change the subject line. He was VERY apologetic. I felt so bad for him.

  159. Paula*

    I worked at a large auto supplier and the person in charge monitoring legal and ethical, as well as rolling out corporate guidelines on it accidentally sent an inappropriate joke to all on her L&E list, instead of her one colleague. It went to thousands. Our system allowed you to easily pull back such an email, but once she realized what she did, she didn’t know how to pull it back.

  160. Nodumbunny*

    Can I share a related story from the Cro-Magnan days before email? I was working for an elected official and among my duties was answering letters from constituents who wanted to share their views on various issues. We were getting a bunch of mail on a topic I don’t remember, but let’s say it was funding for military retirees’ health care. Normally, I would draft a response letter on the topic and someone junior to me who was in charge of correspondence would send a copy of that letter to everyone who wrote in on that topic. However, I’d also gotten a letter on that topic that, at the bottom, expressed a conspiracy theory of some type -something along the lines of “I think aliens are controlling the minds of the school board.” So before I wrote the general letter, I wrote this person a letter responding to the issue of funding for military retirees’ health AND responding to the conspiracy theory “I’m confident aliens aren’t controlling the minds of the school board.”
    You guessed it – the junior staffer sent that letter to every person who had written in about military retirees’ health – hundreds of people got a letter from their member of congress responding to their concern and ALSO reassuring them that aliens were not controlling the minds of the local school board.
    We had to send out an apology letter.

  161. Elizabeth West*

    Not exactly reply all, but once at a new job, the company owner asked me to make a contact list that included management’s cell phones. I was only supposed to send it to him and the other managers, but I accidentally clicked the entire company email list instead. He was not pleased.

  162. Nerdgal*

    Back in the stone age, I worked for a company that used a mainframe based precursor to email. There was a story going around in fundamentalist religious circles that the world would end on a certain date. A very religious co-worker used the address “all” to tell everybody at our site to repent, in case the story was true. Said he knew he would be in trouble but it would be worth it if he could save any of his fellow employees from going to hell.
    IT had already deleted the email by bvb the time I got to work, but I saw a copy that someone else managed to save. That was the last time that the “all” address was used!

  163. K8 M*

    When I worked for a Very Large Company, someone, somewhere in the global community sent out a “Happy Holidays” email and for unknown reasons sent it to the entire global distribution. Tens of thousands of people. Then, the real disaster started when people started replying all with “Thanks! Happy Holidays from China!”, from every location. Then the “unsubscribe”, “take me off this list”, “stop replying all”,” JESUS, YOU IDIOTS, STOP REPLYING ALL!” emails. It went on for DAYS. They finally shut down email to get it cleaned up.

  164. Anonforthis*

    So this happened in 1999 (so 20 years ago!) when I had a brief contract assignment between full time jobs. I was working as a recruiter at a computer sales company. Someone had sent me an email infected with a virus, which I did not realize, and which somehow replicated itself so that when I replied to any email, the virus would be passed along. So, yep, you guessed it, I accidentally hit “reply all” to a company wide email….and inadvertently spread the virus to the entire company. Needless to say, I was not asked to stay at that company. Ugh.

  165. Pebbles*

    Back long ago, before our email servers were upgraded to use single instance storage (SIS)* everyone in the company received an email invitation to a holiday party. The next business day after the party, Coworker A used the invite to reply all and sent a goofy picture of something that happened at the party with Coworker B to the entire office (about 1200 people). Now, this wouldn’t be especially noteworthy except that Coworker A pasted the photo inside the email as a bitmap which was a few megabytes in size. This then took some time to reach people as the email server was busy saving 1200 copies of this bitmap, but as it reached people, some decided to reply all (again to the entire company) to respond “Ha, ha” and the like, again including the photo. Then others would reply all saying “Please don’t reply all”, also including the photo. All of these copies quickly slowed our email server to a crawl as it valiantly tried to keep up, making copy after copy of this photo, until finally it gave up (it had run out of space) and no one was able any emails for quite some time thereafter.

    I would like to think that some lessons were learned from this, as IT quickly got permission to upgrade our email server to SIS, attachment size on emails was capped at 1 MB, and we all got an email (once it was back up again) to direct people to a shared server space rather than attaching documents if at all possible, and to please think before replying all.

    The worst part is that no one seems to have saved a copy of the photo that started it all.

    * Single instance storage (SIS) takes multiple copies of a file or an email and replaces them with a single shared copy. This saves space and increases performance. In the case of emails, reply all’s with an attachments would save a single instance of said attachment rather than a copy for each person the email was sent to.

  166. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

    Ohhh my favorite is actually kind of adorable. Back in the day (9ish? years ago), I worked at a company that was made up of lots of smaller mostly autonomous units, but with shared service departments and a shared large building (21 stories, but narrow). We had email list servs for each floor and for the whole building as this place had maintenance issues due to being Very Old. At the time, office services had not yet restricted the whole building list for reply all. This was a mistake! They were moving peoples’ offices around, and someone who had been holed up in the same digs for a long time was trying to give away a small tree they had nurtured over the years. Office services sent out an email trying to give it away with a photo. Within 5 minutes, someone emailed that is was very irresponsible because that tree has a disease! And thus commenced a long reply all chain to the whole building, about the health of the tree, its potential lifespan, care instructions, disagreements with the previous care instructions, and then several “please for the love of all that is holy stop replying all” reply alls. It was pretty amazing because it was so innocuous, but kind of a classic stereotype thing for our industry.

  167. Kitty*

    Local government for a major U.K. city – someone accidentally emailed every city employee (thousands of people) asking them to make sure they completed their childcare survey, as many had missed the deadline. It was obviously only meant for those signed up to a specific childcare programme. Reply-all responses came in for DAYS, most along the lines of those already mentioned in this thread, though my personal favourite was “I haven’t had time to complete my childcare survey as I’m reading all these hundreds of emails”. Lol.

  168. Amethystmoon*

    In my last job when I was still fairly new, we had a 40-50 page reply-all e-mail chain. The dept. dealt with highly perishable goods, so I understood the concern, but yet as a mere support person, there was sadly nothing I could do about it. To avoid specifics, the tea leaf truck driver had messed up his log book and took a nap at a time when he shouldn’t have. This resulted in the load of tea leaves being delivered late, and these particular tea leaves would lose their freshness if not being delivered on time. After all, it wasn’t as if it was tea pots being delivered. However, us mere support people were being copied on this novella-length e-mail chain, having no real authority to do anything about it other than to ask our bosses, and our bosses were already on the e-mail chain. I’m not sure what happened to the tea leaf truck driver after the whole debacle.

  169. Teacher McTeacher*

    A few years ago a dull email was sent in error to every employee of our large school district (serving around 60,000 students), and the reply-all’s asking to be removed from the chain apparently overwhelmed one man who sent everyone this message:
    “Subject: RE: What is wrong with all of you? Why are you replying all to
    request being removed? We are ALL getting your request… 100’s of them.
    Please stop!

    Wow, I’ve been deleting these retarted “reply all” emails and now I’ve
    lost all patience. It’s official. [School district] hires the stupidest fucking
    people on the planet.”

  170. philosophical_conversation*

    Ok…this didn’t happen when I was working, but when I was in school and it’s too good not to share. I would have hated to be the IT department as well as the person who sent the initial email!

    Ever year before spring break, my university would send out an email detailing the shuttles they provided to get to the airport. This email would go out to the entire student body. One year, they forgot to BCC the campus, instead they CCd everyone. There were really no issues and no one realized this until one student accidentally hit “reply all” to the email with a question about what shuttle they recommended to get to the airport for a flight at a specific time. This reply went out to the 7000+ people who received the initial email. To say the least, chaos ensued.

    People started replying left and right to this email thread. Eventually, a someone’s response auto-corrected “Spring” to “Sprinkle.” So, everyone started calling spring break “Sprinkle Break.” Another person started asking questions about Omaha, Nebraska. Soon, a Facebook event was created for “Sprinkle Break in Omaha!!”. At this point, we were about 400 emails in and the entire thread consisted of people talking about airport shuttles, sprinkles, Omaha, and the many, many people who just responded “Unsubscribe.”

    A few days later, it was finally broken. Not by IT or a campus administrator, but by a series of people who decided to start spamming the email chain with – I sh*t you not – about twenty copies of the entire script of “The Bee Movie.”

    The best thing about this entire situation is that the university did the exact same thing less than year later.

    1. Bees!!*

      I’m a graduate assistant at a large private university. Last year the undergraduate president of the College Democrats club sent out an email to her group reminding them that in their next meeting they would endorse a local candidate for an upcoming election. Only she somehow managed to send this email to the entire university listserv — all faculty, staff, and 20,000 students. One student, apparently a conservative, replied-all to chastise her for using university email for liberal purposes(?). A few others jumped in within minutes, adding their opinions about free political expression or writing “please unsubscribe me.” Soon undergraduates started replying-all with jokes and memes.

      The thread was shut down shortly after a student sent out large excerpts from the script of Bee Movie.

    2. Karen from Finance*

      Script of the bee movie! I remember when that was a sort-of meme. Oh, the internet. You weird wonderful thing.

      This story made me chuckle out loud.

  171. Consulting Queen*

    Jumping in late, but I work for a global company (about 60,000 ees) and once we received a message because we were all added to a mailing list by mistake. People thought it would be funny to start sharing the weather reports from where they live and it quickly got out of control. They had to shut down our email to clean up the mess — but it was a lot of fun to watch for the first hour or so!

  172. Tricksie*

    A medical professions student was on “supervision/probation” for a failed drug test, which meant they had to go to counseling, promise not to use specific substances (including Adderall, though they had a Rx for it), have frequent drug tests, etc.

    Student freaks out before an exam, takes Adderall, then immediately realizes they have screwed up and have an upcoming drug test.

    Student goes to email their friend “Fergus” to ask them to pee in a cup and fake the drug test.

    Except…student messes up and actually emails ALL employees at “Fergus General Hospital.”


  173. Works in IT*

    Someone attempted to reply all to only his team to complain about my manager.

    He did, admittedly, remember to take my manager off the reply all. But his “ugh this guy’s a jerk” email went out to everyone ELSE on the email chain… including everyone in my department EXCEPT my manager….

  174. shirtforbrains*

    I was barely out of my teens in my first-ever internship at a prestigious finance firm, and my manager asked me to order T-shirts for an upcoming team building event. A few days later I get the quote back from the vendor and type up a needlessly long intern-y email to my manager (we can get this many T-shirts, there will be X number of sm/md/lg T-shirts, each T-shirt will cost Y… yada yada). I was feeling super proud and accomplished until I got an email back – from the VP. apparently, I had clicked on some mailing list that my manager was a part of (?) instead of just him. All it said was “great. next time, spell check”. To my horror, I looked back to find that in my rush, every time I meant to type T-shirts….. I had put T-Shits. And then informed the entire C-Suite of how many, and what SIZE, or Shits we would be receiving.

  175. Sled dog mama*

    My current supervisor has an interesting interpretation of what the mailing list “everyone” does. He regularly forwards (and by regularly I mean 9/10 times) emails sent to the whole company with no added information just a “don’t know if you got this”.

    The one that really irritates me is when a new department head/director of something is put in place we get a company wide email alerting us to the new person. We always get at least one response “congratulations” or “so happy to have you!”

  176. misskleio*

    We have a VIP donor who is … a little on the shady side, but being a VIP, we always just have to kiss her butt when she calls with a request.

    She wanted to host an event that was against our org’s rules and emailed me, my boss, our finance officer, our president, and her business partner. My boss removed VIP’s email from the list and replied rather tamely, reaffirming why we couldn’t do it. She forgot to remove the business partner. Finance officer? Replies with a far less tame email, calling VIP donor out as a shyster and basically questioning her integrity etc etc.

    He wasn’t wrong but you’d better believe her partner looped her back in on the nasty emails. It was … uncomfortable.

  177. July*

    I worked in a call center that did customer support for a bank. We were staffed 24/7, including holidays. If you had to work on a holiday, you’d be given a handful of bingo cards when you clocked in. The site supervisor on duty would send many, many emails over the course of the day that said just “B19” or whatever. When you had BINGO, you’d reply all. Once your win was confirmed you could go pick out a prize.

    So that does not seem terrible. I mean, it might even seem like a fun way to liven up the experience of working Christmas. But every single email went to the entire listserv. If you were lucky enough not to work Christmas, you’d come back to, literally, 100 bingo calls. Plus people were responding to the emails like “B19! I need B20. Get it together, Kevin. Lololololol” and “Congrats on winning, Shellie xoxoxoxo” Plus, all the BINGOs. And the announcements of the prizes won. My personal record was 537 bingo-related emails.

    1. City Girl*

      Was there no way to ONLY email those who were working, rather than EVERYONE on the whole listserv?

      1. July*

        Oh, they totally could have. But they didn’t. I think the thinking was that they were demonstrating to the whole staff what a not-so-terrible thing spending Christmas getting yelled at my clients was.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Oddly we play a lot of email bingo in my team. Since I organized the first game I made the rule that all Bingo Call emails and any responses have to start the subject line with “BINGO: ” This way people can set a rule to auto delete if they don’t want to participate.

  178. Dust Bunny*

    Library/archives listserve (notorious for generating blizzards of out-of-office replies): I posted asking a question about handling a particular type of artifact (we’re an archive but have a higher-than-normal percentage of non-paper artifacts for legitimate reasons). The first reply was some dude from a bigger archive commenting that we must be blissfully overfunded and overstaffed if we had time to dink around with so many extra artifacts. Yes, he intentionally posted that to the listserve.

    Somebody else replied-all something to the effect of “who p*ssed in his cornflakes?” followed by some actual advice. But the lead-in made it pretty clear that the email should have gone only to me.

    Nobody called the replier-all on it, though, I think because the first reply was so out-of-line.

  179. uranus wars*

    I have 2:

    One lame on. I sent an email to a list of 10,000 recipients from my personal work email instead of the general box that doesn’t get bounce backs. At least it was to the right audience, but it took me a day to manage it and a year later I still get random questions I can’t answer.

    One pretty good one. I once worked with Jane Doe and was often flabbergasted at her inability to grasp simple tasks and office norms. So I decided to Since we were in a cube farm I decided to email my friend Jen Dough that “Jane Doe is a FU@KING moron.”…well fingers go fast sometimes. jdoe got the email instead of jdough. Damn auto-fill.

    1. City Girl*

      At OldJob, we had an employee who’s first name was “Jane”, although she didn’t work on the same team as my boss and I.

      The client my boss and I worked with is also named Jane. Guess which Jane got my boss’s internal meeting agenda?

  180. Alli525*

    This didn’t happen at work, but during my time at college (a LARGE state school, ~20k undergrad alone) we had some sort of glitch where the reply-all ban didn’t work and I think we all got 500+ emails in the span of a night? It might have even topped 1000 emails – just everyone replying “please stop” and “why does everyone keep hitting reply-all” and eventually just sending jokes and memes. It was a NIGHTMARE and it all happened after the IT dept had closed for the night, so there was no way to stop it. But at least it was a funny nightmare.

  181. mithianlee*

    Our office “fun committee” sent out a mass email about the oh-so-fun Biggest Loser competition they wanted us all to engage in. My female coworker mistakenly replied all explaining how she had recently had breast augmentation and was concerned it would skew her results whilst also providing her weight and measurements.

    She took the rest of the day off after that.

  182. anon this time*

    This is not my horror story (in fact, it’s a delight to me), but it’s someone’s horror story for sure. I used to be on the email list for a professional organization for my field. It was low-volume and mostly job openings, job moves, etc (small industry.) As is true for many email lists, hitting “reply” replied to the list (effectively reply all rather than reply to sender.) Anyways, one day someone sends a message to the list: we’re hiring a senior teapots maker. Immediately, I mean honestly no more than five minutes later, someone replies and says, “Hi, I’m really interested, can we talk about this sometime this week?” This reply, of course, went to the entire list (which no doubt included this person’s boss and colleagues.) The best part? Said person was at that time in a job that I had also applied for, and obviously not gotten. Schadenfreude!

  183. JKP*

    I had setup a large marketing email list for all our company’s clients. I setup the list so that only a couple people in the office could send to it, to avoid accidental sends and reply-all disasters.

    Then I had a small problem with an email I sent not formatting quite right, so I sent a support request to IT before I went home for the day. When I came in to work the next morning, I discovered that the IT staff had changed the list settings to allow anyone to send to the list and then preceded to send a bunch of test messages to the entire list while they were troubleshooting the problem. Which then created a cascade of remove me requests and a huge reply-all nightmare that had lasted 12+ hours until I returned to work in the morning and could shut off people’s abilities to send to the list. And then I caught all the flack for what happened because I was the one who set the list up.

  184. JustaTech*

    A couple of years ago I got an email from a radio station I donate to asking what “gift” I wanted for my donation that year. Problem was that they didn’t have a system for sending those kinds of emails neatly, so it was just an email with every other donor’s email address in the “To” box.

    Within minutes there were dozens of emails chastising the radio station (run by high schoolers) about email privacy as well as another dozen or so saying things like “I want a tote bag” “Can I get the CD?”.

    When I replied I must have checked a dozen times to be sure that I was hitting “reply” and not “reply all”.

  185. Kelly L.*

    There was a glitch at some point in Mac Mail that emailed my out of office message to everyone I’d ever emailed. Oh, and they got it as many times as they’d emailed me. I got about 600 of them myself. My immediate boss got thousands. Most people laughed it off, but I had one lady, who got one copy of it, send me a snippy reply to the effect of “I don’t know why you sent this to me, as we only corresponded that one time years ago.”

  186. Not a robot*

    I work for an organization that has about 5,000+ employees and sends out email broadcasts as a means to communicate with the masses. One time, an employee managed to reply all to the broadcast and sent out a mass email to all 5,000+ employees about something totally not company related. Thankfully most employees knew not to hit the reply all button and respond to the guy, but quite a few did. Pandemonium broke and IT was scrambling to shut that email down. Needless to say IT promptly disabled the reply all button on the broadcast.

  187. Moose*

    One Friday morning, someone accidentally sent an email to the company’s contact list for users of our accounting system (read: nearly everyone) instead of the email address that manages support for that system. She immediately replied all and said “sorry everyone, this was a mistake, please ignore!” This did not stop dozens of people in the company–including people from our offices in England and Germany, whom I didn’t even know were included in this email list–from replying-all all. day. long. First it was responses to the original mistaken email saying “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong person!” or “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Then it was different people replying “She already said this was a mistake” or “Can you take me off this chain please?” By then, original responders must have seen her email apologizing, because THEN it was a bunch of reply-alls like “Oh, I see, sorry!” Then other people who must not have seen the apology email started emailing everyone “This looks like spam” or “Don’t engage! This is clearly a spammer!” Those emails prompted responses from others saying “She already said it was a mistake” or “It’s not spam, see her second email.” THEN it was a bunch of people (very ironically, in my opinion) replying “Stop replying all!” and “Can we please stop replying to this message?” And then people started joking about

    The chain went on all day with emails of varying levels of annoyance, confusion, and amusement from across three different countries and half a dozen offices. I office I work in is a large open floor office, so you always knew when a new email came in because all of a sudden multiple people would laugh or groan at the same time. It was total chaos. Eventually the emails petered out. I saved all of the resulting emails in a folder titled “That time the company fell apart” and look through them occasionally when I need a laugh.

  188. Phx Acct, now with dragons*

    I have one that happened recently. It didn’t involve a ton of people, just an angry customer, customer’s lawyer, and the owner of my company (boss).

    The customer was disputing the scope of work on a contract and refusing to pay. He is well-known in the industry for defaulting on contracts and gas lighting contractors. He’ll say one thing, and then later in the email chain claim “I never said that!!” or “You said in your last email XXX!”, when we can ALL see “XXX” was never said. He doesn’t seem to understand how email works. He also becomes verbally abusive and will curse up a storm.

    In this particular email chain boss confirmed that yes, the contract was complete, and payment was due. Customer became angry, abusive, and threatened to sue. Boss politely said that was fine, but that all future communication should come through the lawyer as he was disinterested in further verbal abuse and obvious gas lighting.

    To which the customer replied, “Why would I do that? [Lawyer] is a worthless piece of XXX, and is probably under investigation for fraud, anyway!”

    We got paid, customer had to find a new lawyer. It was FANTASTIC.

  189. Alex the Alchemist*

    HOO BOY DO I HAVE ONE! Reply-all is always a horror in the master’s program I’m in. One of the professors a couple years back sent out a “happy holidays” email to the entire graduate program, nobody was BCC’d, so all 100+ of us could reply all. This was sent mid-December, with folks replying-all to say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy holidays,” and even one person replied-all with a discount for her business. By the end of December, I thought we were finished replying-all and that I’d never have to see another email in that thread ever again, but New Year’s came around and everybody wishing one another a happy New Year started it all up again!

  190. Kreacher the Teacher*

    Teacher Appreciation Week: a local franchise owner for a pizza place gave a 50% off your whole order deal to teachers and staff who brought in their IDs, which was sent out to the whole district from the franchise owner’s sibling-in-law. In previous years, the deal had been 1 free pizza. Some jerk in the district replied-all complaining about the lack of freebies, then it set off a cascade of one-upping expressions of gratitude, plus the “please stop replying all” and the “unsubscribe” emails.

  191. MoopySwarpet*

    I really feel like email programs should at the very least warn you if you hit reply all and the list is more than x number of recipients. Something like “are you sure you want to send this reply to 150,000 people?” Like the emails that warn you if you mentioned an attachment, but didn’t actually attach anything or the ones that warn you about you file size being too big. Obviously, that wouldn’t help when it’s a list or group account, but would help when someone just dumped all their address book into the cc box instead of the bcc box. They could probably even have settings for “warn if address is” or whatever lists you’re signed up for.

    We don’t have much trouble with “reply all,” but we do have occasional annoyance when something is sent bcc to everyone, but no one knows who it was sent to and all send it to the person who needs to have it without copying the others who were bcc’d (since they don’t know who might have been). This has resulted in me receiving a dozen copies of an email that was also sent to me.

    1. Anon for this*

      Our Outlook is configured that way. When you add a distribution list it tells you how many people you’re emailing.

  192. Jadelyn*

    A few years ago we all got to watch one branch’s discussion of their Secret Santa plans when someone forgot to put the all-staff distro list on the BCC line for a generic “happy holidays, each branch will be doing their own party so check in with your local branch manager for details” email, and one branch started using reply-all to tell each other what they wanted and stuff.

  193. christina*

    This one could have been much more humiliating than it was, but I still cringe thinking about it.

    I just got a promotion to a new team and started working on a new project. I sent an email about said project to my team using our team listserv, and then forwarded the email to my boyfriend to show him the cool project I was excited about. In the email to him (as was our occasional habit if we weren’t seeing each other in person), I also told him what I was wearing that day. He replied, something like “so proud of you! you look cute today, love you sexy *kiss*”

    Turns out, when I sent the email I sent it “from” the listserv address, so when boyfriend replied, he actually replied to the listserv. I didn’t even notice until one coworker told me and I. Died. And panicked and prayed to god and all that was holy that we didn’t use any of our private pet nicknames or that I didn’t include the color of my underwear (or lack thereof) in my outfit that day.

    What can I say, I was young and stupid and have never used work email for anything remotely personal again, ever.

  194. Sleepytime Tea*

    This is slightly the opposite of a reply all horror story, but I think it’s hilarious. I was told by my boss that we had to do a time study, and to e-mail the entire department with instructions on tracking their time over a 2 week period in a spreadsheet that they were then to return to me. We also track our time in another system, so this was redundant in a way, and I KNEW that people were going to be pissed about it and there was going to be stupid, angry reply-all e-mails about it.

    So I created an Outlook template to send the e-mail out with that disabled the reply all option. We didn’t have a distribution list, so if you wanted to actually reply to everyone you would have to type everyone’s name in, and even the angriest of people probably wouldn’t put in that effort.

    Sure enough, I got some angry e-mails (don’t shoot the messenger, guys), but because they couldn’t reply all they just sent it to me, my supervisor, our manager, and then some other choice people within the department who I guess they thought would also be angry about it and share their outrage? Or maybe they started typing everyone in and got tired of it. Either way, it was highly entertaining to frustrate people with the lack of option to reply all and confirmed that some people do indeed do it on purpose.

  195. MechE31*

    I worked for a large (15,000+ employees) company. Someone sent an email with a 7MB embedded image advertising their kid’s holiday fundraiser. Instantly the reply all’s start coming to remove me from your list. By about an hour in, 100+ reply all’s with the embedded image had come through.

    It bogs the server down to the point that 1 line emails are delayed by hours and by the end of the day, the whole email server had crashed.

  196. Rachael UNGER*

    I worked in the scheduling department of a medical office. There was a new procedure that came out via email, and our manager replied all “I wonder what kind of stupid questions I’ll get about this”. It was meant to go to her buddy in a different department. She had to go to each person (about 50 of us) and apologize to each person. It was so gratifying because she was viewed as a Golden Employee.

  197. ONFM*

    Municipal govt story – one of the elected officials was hosting a holiday party and had her admin assistant send invitations to Department heads – but she accidentally sent it to entire departments instead, using the department- wide distribution lists. Front line employees started sending reply-all RSVP messages. Hilarious and awkward. Department heads had to send out messages UNinviting everyone. Now it’s a joke every winter – “Let’s see who gets invited this year.”

  198. Cindy Pao*

    My story:
    PreviousCompany had email lists to which you subscribed and unsubscribed. You control your email.
    A manager sent an article link out to one of the lists with a joke at the end of the email. A storm of reply-alls started by people who had subscribed themselves!
    At one point, a friend replied to me and one other person, “If you pay me $100, I’ll click Reply All to be unsubscribed.” I almost paid him to do that :-)

  199. Reply-All Dating*

    In grad school, a friend with a Not Uncommon Man’s Name ended up on a mailing list with all the other people called [NUMN] in the university. The creator of this list had met a student called [NUMN] in a bar, but failed to get their contact information or last name. So, he decided to try and track this student down by emailing every single person called [NUMN] in the university – faculty, students, staff – to see if they wanted to go on a date with him.

    The list creator didn’t get a date, but the recipients eventually agreed to hold a [NUMN] meet-up event, to bond over the endless [NUMN] spamming they’d all suffered through and perpetuated.

    1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      Whoof. That’s hilarious on one level, but if I’m reading the pronouns of your post correctly it’s also a massive level of obliviousness from the original guy, who was basically risking outing the ‘real’ NUMN to everyone in the university.

  200. Miss SHE*

    After a few years with my company, I got a new boss (who was a new hire). Around one month later, he replied to an e-mail chain asking me to do some simple task or another as part of a project that the larger group of people was working on (the subject of the e-mail). Problem was, immediately after that, he accidentally replied all to that same group (of managers and supervisors), including myself, asking someone to make sure I did the task because he did not think I always “followed-up” on things. Ouch.

    One, I didn’t think that was an accurate sense of my work and two, I’m not sure how he thought he could accurately come to that conclusion after being my boss less than a month! At the time, I was very upset at his comment, but was told by a few of the people he copied, including my former boss who had moved to another department, that he was off-base and not to worry about it. Now, I can look back on it and laugh because it just adds to the story of his incompetent reign over the department. He eventually received a sort of lateral demotion a couple years later.

  201. Picky*

    I had to send a delicate email to everyone. I was very careful about wording, got it just right, and bcc’d everyone. It included a confidential way to voice concerns about the issue and a description of the official action that would be taken as a result of people’s feedback. Yeah, so. One person replied to me (not the official channel for voicing concerns) and added everyone else’s email to the cc field–because I had bcc’d, she could not just hit reply-all. She added over 100 email addresses, sent a really personal, mean email to/about me (not the person responsible for the bad news, I was just the messenger), and let loose the dogs of war. After that the reply-alls came hot and heavy. Things did not end well for the original cc’er, who was demoted not long after, and although the reply-all event was not the main reason I’m sure her judgement was a factor.

    1. Krabby*

      As someone whose boss is constantly asking her to “send this to everyone but X department,” my battle with email lists is perpetual. Taking the time to add in that many emails… that is malicious to the nth degree.

  202. Stephanie*

    Not mine, but a friend’s: someone sent an email to an all-department listserv for faculty and grad students. Someone else replied all to the entire department asking the original sender for his weed dealer.

  203. Phony Genius*

    Let’s just say that if you’re sending an e-mail that says “EVERYBODY STOP REPLYING ALL!!!!!,” you’re throwing gasoline on the fire.

    I have seen this multiple times at my job, which means nobody ever learns.

  204. That Work from Home Life*

    I work for a vendor in the publishing industry. Big publishing companies are notorious for scapegoating vendors when they are at fault. We often joke this is the entire reason they hire us– so they can blame us for anything that goes wrong. Anyway. One of the managers notified our internal team of an absolutely insane schedule change, but for some reason also included our contact with the client on the email. This isn’t usual practice, so most of us replied to the email professionally. Except for the office dipshit who clearly didn’t look at all the people listed in the email chain (about 6) and he replied all complaining about how this was typical of these people and they were probably going to blame any issues that arose because of this on us.

    Our internal team was HORRIFIED. We usually use Slack to groan about this kind of thing. But the client took it on the nose and handled it really well. She replied back that we should let her know if there were any issues and she’d be happy to help us work through them. She was cheery rather than frosty, which was a much better reaction than I’d have had in her shoes! Then again, the schedule change wasn’t her fault personally, so I expect she sympathized with us on some level! Still. The cringe level was high.

  205. Fox Horse*

    I worked for global software company that had about 10,000 employees world wide. An IT team accidentally added the email distribution for all employees to several of their internal team distribution lists. It was meant for company wide announcements only but now we were all included in their discussions regarding their project. On top of that, some technical issue prevented them from removing the all employee distribution list. The emails started with their dialogue of trying to figure out a problem, realizing the error and then discussing the many failed attempts to correct. This team was mainly based in Asia so the emails started late evening and as Europe woke up and then the Americas the emails started piling up. When I arrived in the morning on the West Coast, there were already several hundred emails. Whenever an employee hit reply, their email was automatically a reply all. Thousands of employees hit reply with a request to be removed from the distribution list and things began to spiral out from there. For the most part it was amusing watching people plead for the emails to stop, others lose their tempers and rant and others to egg everyone on with sarcastic comments. I used Outlook rules feature to automatically direct all emails to my trash folder but others complained for months of finding old ones in their inbox. I still judge some of the people I know who had tantrums in that thread or threatened to have the entire offending team fired. The problem was resolved about 24 hours later. During all hands later, our CEO addressed it, apparently in that time over 50 million emails were sent and one person that had an affiliation with the company that required an email but a tenuous relationship called the FBI over the matter. It still gives me a laugh years later.

  206. Katherine*

    The Executive Director at the non-profit I worked for about 15 years ago would bring in donuts or bagels and cream cheese for the staff in our building once a week or so and then the receptionist would email everyone to let us know that there was food available in the breakroom.

    One fateful day, she mistyped “bagels” as “beagles” and she was teased about it all day! She was going through a really tough time in her personal life (had just left her abusive husband, was trying to homeschool her kids while working outside the home for the first time in a long time) and I think the teasing almost made her cry that day.

  207. Anon_for_this_one*

    Not really a “accidently hit reply-all” story, but: When I was 16 y o my mum accidently discovered that I was into BDSM. So what does a caring parent do?

    She send a message (thinly veiled in the sense of “a friend of mine has a problem: her daughter …”) to ALL of her contacts, especially our family and her new BF, asking them to forward it to all of their contacts and so on, until someone had advice what to do. (because for some reason she thought she needed to do something to ensure my safety? and she thought that was the way to get valuable information?)

    Then she sent me the answers. I still have them somewhere. They are very funny and those who are trying to be helpful are NOT.

  208. Phx Acct, now with dragons*

    Oh! I have a second one that happened Friday! My son’s jr high mistakenly sent out “Your Registration Card is Overdue” emails from every teacher, to every student. So that’s 6 emails, per kid, 700 kids in the school. Admin has both of my email addresses and my husband’s so we received an initial 18 emails.

    The registration cards were due in October, so MANY parents freaked out, replying to all.

    The school realized the error and sent redaction emails, while some of the teachers sent out their own “reply all” apologies.

    Solid Chaos. Would recommend 100%

  209. Rachel*

    Mine wasn’t a reply all but was worse!
    My boss, the CFO, sent an email request for something quite insignificant and just not necessary. I had been overworked for 3 – 4 months as we were having financial problems and the company laid off a ton of staff in the finance department (work more with less!).
    The CFO email started with – I decided to forward this email with a really horrible response (think WTF is she thinking??????) to my co-worker whose email was – unfortunately for me, the employee email also started with CF and I ended up SENDING DIRECTLY TO MY BOSS!!
    I did not get fired and it was not even mentioned, but I could feel the tension in the air every day following. I eventually quit that job due to overwork and do not use her as a reference.

  210. People like shiny things*

    I knew it was time for a personal day when I accidentally hit reply-all to an email from HR responding to an employee complaint about another new employee that she thought wasn’t up to snuff. HR’s response had been basically that it was a personality clash and the complainer needed to get over it. Thank God HR had already limited the email thread to 2 managers and HR herself, and dropped the employees involved. But the dread fear – swooping – oh shit – feeling made me realize I was doing too much and needed a break!

  211. KB*

    A back office employee that sent an email to every person in our organization, intended only for franchisees but received by employees, franchisees, and franchisee staff – it had instructions to franchisees on how to not give staff raises.

    The reply all threads were insanity. Eventually tech deleted everything, and reprimands for continued reply-all emails were threatened.