why do people get stuck in “reply all” hell on email lists?

A reader writes:

Can we get a definitive ruling on the etiquette when someone accidentally emails an incorrect distribution list in a large office? Today I went to lunch for 40 minutes and came back to 239 emails — someone emailed the wrong distribution list for a request (I heard there were over 1,000 people on this list, though I don’t know for sure). It always starts with few people emailing back and replying to all that it’s the wrong list, but then more people pile on. Soon we are in a “reply all” hell of emails saying “please remove me from this list” or “I received this in error.” Then it inevitably descends into “please stop replying all” and “why are people replying to all?”

Today it got so bad that my Outlook crashed. I have now received 430 emails less than 70 minutes, it’s descending into madness! Senior people are even replying to all. (They should know better!) I’ve seen it maybe 12 times in my 10-year career so far and every time I just delete after I see that the person has been alerted and I don’t reply all. Shouldn’t all of us just delete after we see the first couple emails alerting the person to what happened? Why are people piling on? People are saying they need to be removed from the list when these are large lists that include everyone in a division and obviously are needed for some reasons to communicate certain messages to everyone. Plus replying all doesn’t remove you, you have to email the administrator of a list in most cases. (I used to do that job in an old role.) Note: This is for internal email lists of employees only, no one external if that changes anything.

P.S. In the time I wrote this email, it climbed to 495 emails in less than 90 minutes! My Outlook is having so much trouble processing it that I haven’t been able to delete as the emails come and at this point would really like to see how high it goes…

The definitive ruling you’ve requested is: STOP REPLYING TO THE LIST.

But it won’t work.

It’s a fascinating riddle of human behavior that otherwise reasonably computer-savvy adults who know how this works still cannot resist the impulse to reply-all to these threads. It’s like people who lean on their horn in traffic — they know it’s not going to make things move any faster, but they have an overwhelming desire to express their aggravation and so they do. The “please remove me” and the “stop replying!” emails are the horns in the traffic jam.

To be fair, there are also people who truly don’t get how this works — who don’t realize they’re replying to the whole list, or who haven’t yet read the other 238 emails and thus don’t realize they’re not helpfully pointing out something that hasn’t already been spotted.

But most people are doing the equivalent of leaning on their horns in frustration.

It’s counterproductive but they get an instant of satisfaction.

The best thing to do when you’re in the middle of this kind of reply-all madness is to sit back and be entertained. You are witnessing a large-scale demonstration of humans being weird, and not all of those are funny but this one is, and when you can laugh, you should.

{ 306 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. MuseumChick

    Some people really enjoy doing something small that cause chaos. Reply-All-Email-Hell is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Kind of like when someone in a comment section will leave a comment they know will get people’s blood boiling just to watch everyone lose their mind.

    Reply
    1. Hiring Mgr

      I wish as a society we could rise above this sort of thing. Perhaps we’re not fully evolved yet to grow beyond such pettiness.

      Reply
    2. CTT

      That happened at my college when they accidentally allowed reply-alls on a school-wide email. It was obviously people enjoying creating a bit of chaos (and tbf, Rick-Rolling, advertising lit magazines, etc., was more fun than “please remove.”).

      Reply
      1. Wendy Darling

        I went to college in the very early 2000s at a small liberal arts college with a profoundly mediocre and very tiny IT department. There was an UNMODERATED mailing list that went to all students and faculty. This list went on merrily hosting giant campus-wide flame wars until one day a professor got one of those old Outlook Express exploit viruses that emailed itself to everyone in your address book and infected 2/3 of the campus. After that they started moderating the list…

        Reply
        1. Magenta Sky

          Yeah, we had that happen with the corporate office of the national franchise we’re part of. In the time it took me to set up a hard filtering rule on the email server, I got at least 400 copies of the virus.

          Reply
        2. Mine Own Telemachus

          I had the same situation (mid-00s, small liberal arts college, almost no IT) and the football team’s booster club figured out that they didn’t need to make an email list. They could just “select all” from the list of student emails and send it out that way. But instead of cc’ing or bcc’ing, they would literally just put all 1400 of us in the “to” column.

          Using the old school outlook, it was IMPOSSIBLE to access your email when one of those was sent as just loading the giant list of emails would crash it.

          Reply
      2. PublicServant

        My sister was in your class! This got some amazing newspaper coverage (assuming it’s actually the same school)

        Reply
    3. Grrrl Drivrrr

      It’s called “shit posting” in a lot of internet places. Often also accompanied by Michael Jackson eating popcorn gifs.

      Reply
        1. Susie

          The rick rolling has evolved. I know several people that have cross stitched a QR code to the video and framed it in their house, just waiting for people to scan it and see where it goes.

          Reply
  2. Lysislove

    The best thing to do is create an Outlook rule that anything with that subject line automatically goes to your trash.

    Reply
    1. SilverIris

      This is the genius-level content I’ve come to expect from this community! Would have never thought of this, and it is elegant and immediate solution.

      Reply
      1. valentine

        Right, reply-all abuse is a great time to test your filters.

        They should remove the confirmation step from permanent deletion and give it to reply-all.

        Reply
        1. female peter gibbons

          I once asked someone to stop CCing me on a thread and she said “That’s too much for me to worry about” so ever since that statement, I’ve done this. I put Microsoft Outlook rules on all conversations I don’t need to be a part of, that sends anything with that subject line to a folder I never look at again.

          I don’t have to ask anyone else, I just have to worry about my own inbox, problem solved.

          I’m in a company where somebody CCs me into a thread of 20 people to ask the tiniest question, and once I’ve answered, they still CC me on the thread needlessly. Happens a lot. So I have to fight it with these folder rules.

          But like the person above said, for those gigantic threads I guess the trash is even better.

          Reply
          1. Database Developer Dude

            I asked a co-worker once not to reply-all to a list where one person was asking all of us questions, and the reply was “feel free to add me to your spam filter”. I won’t type my reply here, as the filters would block it.

            Reply
      1. cosmicgorilla

        The ignore function is indeed a beautiful thing. That is, until some genius decides to change the subject line.

        The real kicker are the myriad of folks who reply all to say, “stop replying all!” and forget to bcc

        Reply
      2. TamiToo

        This is the best function of all time, and I want to give a giant hug to the person who created it. Someone sends out “Happy Birthday,” or “Happy Work-aversary” e-mails out at least once a week, and everyone sends out a reply-all suck up e-mail. It’s maddening! If you want to send someone well wishes, send it to THAT person, not the entire organization. I certainly don’t need 100+ e-mails from everyone in the company with sparkly gifs wishing them happy whatever. The “Ignore” function has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

        Reply
        1. Life is Good

          Oh, how I wish I had known about this at my old dysfunctional company! There would be a company wide email about how we won (more like bought) Best Workplace of the Year again! The same 400 or so people would reply all with “we rock” “I looooove my work family” “of course we are!”, ad nauseam. It would go on all day and even later in the week, when those who were off the day it came out caught up to it when going through their emails. You could tell who the suck ups were in that org.

          Reply
      3. Natatat

        I’m very late to this thread but I never realized this ‘Ignore’ function existed in Outlook, so thank you!

        Reply
    2. animaniactoo

      Oooh! Good plan if it’s a unique subject line.

      Corollary to that: My “rules” list grows by the day as I manage to avoid more and more cold-call emails. I’ve learned not to “unsubscribe” to any of these e-mail bots, but some of them are amazing about altering their names/subjects/e-mail addresses just enough to get through again.

      Reply
      1. Lou

        Why not unsubscribe? Is that along the lines of letting them know they got a “live” email address?

        Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          Also, since these are completely cold-call e-mails (of the level that you haven’t even done enough research to figure out that I am not the right person to send this to), I’m taking the precaution of being in keeping with the company’s “Don’t click on any links in emails from senders you don’t know/trust” rule.

          Reply
      2. Drew

        If you filter on the word “unsubscribe,” you will catch almost all the spam emails with very few false positives, and it also segregates the “you bought something online once and now we’re going to tell you about everything ELSE we sell” messages that you might or might not want to get. Just check your junk folder every day or so for important emails that may have been trapped and ignore everything else.

        (Credit to John Scalzi for this awesome suggestion!)

        Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          Hmmm… I just did a search to see what popped up using “unsubscribe” as a search term, and came up with a number of e-mails that I do want to keep getting. Will have to decide if it’s worth setting up the rule to include all “unsubscribe” but exclude all “Adobe” “MyFonts”, etc.

          Reply
        2. Lynn Whitehat

          So filter out anything with an unsubscribe link? That sounds like it would filter out all groups large enough to have an organized email list. A lot of those are groups I joined on purpose, and actively participate in.

          Reply
          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            You should be able to make exceptions for the ones you are actually interested in. But if there’s a lot of them, then it may not be worth it. It takes me so little time to just identify and delete the spam that I don’t bother with filters for them.

            I also have successfully unsubscribed to actual vendor newsletters that I have no interest in, yet the previous person who did the buying just complained about the junk mail and didn’t click the button, smh.

            Reply
            1. Mongrel

              “You should be able to make exceptions for the ones you are actually interested in.”

              Haven’t checked on other mailing systems but the Outlook rules are arranged in the order they’re used so you can have your ‘Llama fanciers newsletters’ rule applied before the ‘unsubscribe’ rule

              Reply
        3. Seeking Second Childhood

          I’m trying to figure out the exact format for “on behalf of” that I see in the spam emails I get multiples of. (No, I do NOT want to come to your clothes shop in Manhattan to buy a custom-made suit. I’m 100 miles away and I work in a casual environment anyway!)

          Reply
      3. Ranon

        I get a lot of cold call email from legit companies that I just don’t want to talk to, in cases where they don’t actually have an unsubscribe system set up I’ve found replying with “Unsubscribe” in the subject and a link to the compliance guide for the CAN SPAM act in the body to get me off those lists very quickly.

        Except for the local AT&T salespeople who really ought to know better, now I just forward those to corporate

        Reply
    3. Nea

      Or just a key word from the subject line. Last time there was a reply all storm in my office, some wags decided to start deliberately using it to send memes around, slightly changing the subject line so that even people who’d tried to ban the original email were getting the “humorous additions.”

      Reply
    4. Aerin

      Yup, this is what our helpdesk tells people who call us when there’s a reply-all going down. Most of the people who call in generally just want a way to make it stop, but then there are the people who think they’ve somehow been hacked, or who just want to let us know it’s happening because they thought we’d somehow missed it.

      I personally think they’re hilarious. My rule filters them all into a folder where I can go back and read them when I need a laugh.

      We haven’t had one in quite a while, though. I think they locked down the big distribution lists so only approved accounts can email them.

      Reply
      1. Venus

        > I think they locked down the big distribution lists so only approved accounts can email them

        This is our solution. It works quite well! I haven’t had a reply-all problem in all the years I have been here.

        Reply
    5. LGC

      I like you.

      (I have a modified version of this where when my coworkers get crazy with the reply all, I just use a quick action to shove everything into the trash.)

      Reply
    6. Essess

      This is exactly what I do when this free-for-all explodes at my office. And if I was a manager, I’d be having a discussion during performance review time with anyone on my staff who contributed to the reply-all problem about the appropriate business etiquette around reply-all and how distribution lists work.

      Reply
    7. jf

      There are a handful of people in my agency but outside of my division that spam the division-wide email group when there are one or more smaller email groups that (they know) are purpose-built for their inquiries. I have a rule to mark-as-read all emails from those people so I never have to see them.

      Reply
    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yes! This and “ignore.” I have yet to see a reply-all kerfuffle that doesn’t go quickly into a downward death spiral.

      Reply
    9. Cafe au Lait

      Yep, we use Google for work email and it’s super efficient to filter out the subject line into trash. Then the next day I can delete the filter if necessary.

      I’ve inadvertently caused a “reply-all” nightmare. I was very apologetic.

      Reply
      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD

        Come on, describe the nightmare, you can’t leave us hanging!

        We had one at my office last week. 500+ e-mails telling the original sender that they were not the right person to get the message about a noise in one of TPTB’s office

        Reply
        1. Kitryan

          I’m not Cafe au Lait but I can tell my reply all story – I try very hard to follow rules on using the correct email groups and so forth so when the IT dept sent out an email with instructions to use a new email group for support requests, that’s what I did when my printer wasn’t working.
          Turns out that I was the first person to send to this new email group and also, the group wasn’t set up correctly. It actually included, as far as I could tell, the whole company (a regional theater) AND all the subscribers.
          I was so angry that I was the one who looked like I didn’t know what I was doing and I was also the one getting all of these replies (when they weren’t replying all) about how they thought this email was misdirected. And then I had to spend most of the rest of the day answering the ones where answers were appropriate. Even though it wasn’t my error and had nothing to do with my job (costume department, nothing to do with IT, subscribers, marketing, or anything at all like that)
          At least my original email was short and polite.

          Reply
          1. Wendy Darling

            My company has a list called BitlockerEncryption that is actually supposed to just be a notifications list for any issues regarding the bitlocker encryption (e.g. at one point the company changed how encryption keys were backed up and let us know).

            For some reason, though, ANYONE can send mail to this list and have it distributed to everyone at the company with an encrypted computer. Once a month or so someone either 1. emails most of the company asking for their key, or 2. sends their key to most of the company.

            Reply
    10. Zombeyonce

      Unfortunately, this can’t solve all reply all mishaps. At my work we have a ticketing system and you can submit a ticket by emailing a specific email address. Sometimes this email address will be included in distribution lists which begins the strange hell of every single reply all creating a brand new ticket. The ticket then sends an email confirming it was created and people reply back.

      This begins an inevitable afternoon of trying to delete all the tickets and respond to people commenting in their new tickets asking, “Did I just create a ticket? I don’t understand what’s happening.” And also tracking down the person that first put our ticket email on the distribution list to tell them sternly it has to be removed immediately and must never be added back.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Have you shared this before or are there multiple people dealing with this particular brand of insanity because I have definitely seen this mentioned.

        Reply
        1. Zombeyonce

          Nope, first time sharing! But not surprised it’s happened elsewhere.

          It’s terrible because there’s no way to avoid it beside education, and that just isn’t effective with a 15,000 person organization. The email address has to be internally public and there are a large number of people that can create new distribution lists across the hundreds of departments.

          Reply
          1. Lexi

            This may actually be fixable – most modern lists add a bunch of email headers to try and avoid being marked as spam. Maybe ask your vendor?

            Reply
        1. Zombeyonce

          It’s nice when I need to catch up on an audiobook while just deleting stuff, but not so nice when I have actual work to do.

          Reply
      2. President Porpoise

        I had that happen last week – only it was an external email repkying to our internal ticketing system telling us that a ticket had been created, but without copying any info fron the original email from our system. Ticket looping nightmare!

        Reply
    11. Silver Fig

      FYI to anyone else on Outlook for Mac: basically every cool trick to avoid this nonsense is not available on our bare-bones version. *pouty face*

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        I’ve been using Outlook for Mac for years and the ability to setup rules as the OP of this thread described has been possible for at least 5 of them. It should be under “Tools” in the top menu.

        Reply
    12. Wendy Darling

      This works great unless/until the email storm gets so bad it knocks over your company’s mailserver, which happened TWICE when I worked at a huge company.

      Both times were actually… pretty fun? There was a sort of school’s-out atmosphere because nothing could be done that required email, and people ended up getting just TONS of work done that didn’t require email because there wasn’t email to interrupt them. It was definitely not the worst thing that ever happened there.

      Reply
      1. Isthisme

        This is exactly what happened when we had a reply-all storm at my office last week. (I suspect that OP might work at the same place.) The impact was so bad that you couldn’t actually get into Outlook to do anything, let alone setting up a rule to filter out the endlessly multiplying emails.

        Reply
    13. Andy

      I do this, but I get paranoid I might miss something. So mine go into a folder called “Why am I getting these?”

      Reply
    14. Kuddel Daddeldu

      The best thing is for IT to set up a rule in the system, limiting the number of addressees to (say) 20 for mere mortals. Anything larger must be sent by IT – so the only potential culprits of reply-all hell are IT who should know better.

      Reply
    15. Gadget Hackwrench

      THIS.

      And for gods sake stop calling IT to yell at us about how we should be able to “put a stop to this.” We can’t. Ya’ll are doing it to yourselves. Stop.

      Reply
      1. SunnyD

        At my company IT can delete certain threads from the server. All the emails get sucked back out of everyone’s inboxes like they never existed.

        Reply
  3. Mike C.

    At my company an HR rep will get on and tell people that replying to these sorts of emails constitutes a waste of company resources and will be punished accordingly. That tends to end things rather quickly.

    (International firm,. 150-250k employees around the world). +

    Reply
    1. pleaset

      Or even a very senior level leader replying to everyone in BCC, pointing out that replying all this was demonstrates a lack of professional attention.

      Reply
      1. Big Bank

        Hilariously we had an issue like this (1k+ people on the distribution) and the reply all madness had been going on for 2 days. So high level so-and-so sends out a separate email etiquette note, discussing the issue and how folks should know better and be more careful about reply all, ect. Not 5 minutes after, another big wig replies to the original “please remove me from this distribution.”

        Nowadays we have email popups that show up and tell you “this email is going to 250 people, are you sure?” I haven’t seen a mass issue like this happen since. People still use giant distributions for the totally wrong thing, but if I know who they intended to reach I’ll usually send a side cooutesy note that they used a mass list by accident.

        Reply
    2. BRR

      This seems overly harsh but I kind of love it. I don’t know what it is about reply all that makes people lose their common sense.

      Reply
    3. EMW

      Yes. The CEO’s administrative assistant once said to stop replying all and that stopped it.

      In this specific case, the email was sent to the wrong list during an off shift and it was something along the lines of “We’re having issues with this system.” So everyone on the off shift replied all to confirm it was an issue at their site. I woke up to 300+ emails. In their defense, the people working off shift did not realize how large the distribution list was. Then first shift woke up and the “please remove me” emails started.

      Reply
    4. Skeeder Jones

      When this happened at my company a few weeks ago, that exact email was sent and no, it did not end things. Bottom line, people are stupid.

      Reply
  4. Matilda Jefferies

    90 minutes! That’s an impressive level of Reply All Hell – usually these things are over pretty quickly. I was going to suggest you go for a coffee and come back when the dust has settled, but who knows how long this could go. Can you put on a podcast while you sit back and watch your email implode?

    Reply
    1. Skeeder Jones

      Our company had one of these episodes on a Friday afternoon that carried through the weekend and halfway into Monday.

      Reply
      1. Matilda Jefferies

        Wow. I had no idea! Maybe I’ve only worked for comparatively small companies. That is definitely longer than a coffee break!

        Reply
      2. Feline

        Oh, yes, I’ve seen these last several days, then the people who were out of the office during the reply all storm got back from vacation and replied with unsubscribe pleas over the coming weeks.

        Reply
  5. Clorinda

    The same thing happens here and in other fora. How many times have we seen massive chains of comments all saying basically the same thing? I’ve participated in such events. Let he who has not replied all cast the first stone.

    Reply
    1. pleaset

      “How many times have we seen massive chains of comments all saying basically the same thing?”

      I think that here this is considered a feature by some.

      Reply
    2. Phoenix Programmer

      That’s pretty different. This is not a live feed like email. There have been times I wrote a comment as commenter 0 only to be #22 saying the same as 11 people up chain after I click post.

      Reply
      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

        Timing is everything.
        On (less…. professional) fora like the YouTube comments section, it can be both mildly amusing, and faintly sad to see 6 people post “First!”, all in the initial 36 seconds of an upload.

        (I’ve done it myself here – not the “first” thing – that’s just embarrassing!)

        Reply
  6. Zac

    On Gmail and Google-provided email, you can “mute” the thread (keyboard shortcut is “M”) to automatically archive future responses.

    Reply
  7. Amber Rose

    I still remember the day a glitch caused literally every email sent by anyone to be copied to everyone else within the company. Only the first 100 or so were regular emails, the rest of them were “remove me from this list” and “stop sending emails you morons.”

    I had 2000 emails by noon. They had to actually shut down the server to clear it. It was very funny.

    Reply
    1. Bryce

      Back in… must’ve been 2003 or 04… there was an email virus that was grabbing fragments of people’s emails and then sending itself onwards using them as cover to appear legit. Created a huge amount of chaos for a lot of people because it wouldn’t grab things you sent but rather things people sent you; figuring out who was actually infected was a chore and a half. To make it worse, I worked at a national laboratory at the time and while there *shouldn’t* be any classified information on the unclassified network everyone was worried someone would see something they shouldn’t for more than just embarrassment reasons.

      Reply
    2. Midge

      Hah, what chaos!

      Back in the day there was some glitch either with my email or with a Yahoo group, and my email to that group kept being sent over and over and over. I was getting nasty emails back about it, and of course when I tried to respond to the group to explain that it wasn’t anything I was doing and I was powerless to stop it that email got sent over and over and over. So I didn’t try again, but continued to get new nastygrams from people who either didn’t understand or who found joy in getting their aggression out on strangers.

      Several years later Audible had an email that kept getting sent to me over and over and over, every few minutes all weekend. I got a nice monetary credit from them out of it! I’d like to think it was because I alerted them to it politely instead of sending them nastygrams.

      Reply
    1. Zombeyonce

      Best part of that list? A Cisco reply allpocalypse that included “recipes for broccoli casserole[citation needed]”.

      Reply
  8. Detective Amy Santiago

    I think a big part of the reason that so many people Reply All is because people don’t actually ever read anything.

    Reply
      1. RVATACOCAT

        I hate voicemail but I read email the instant I see it. I have 6 unheard voicemails currently. Zero unread emails.

        Reply
    1. Collarbone High

      I think there’s also a sort of self-mindedness sometimes where people aren’t realizing they’re one of hundreds of members of a list.

      I used to work in communications for a state agency, and our department would send all-staff emails on behalf of high-level personnel. I was always amazed by the number of people who would reply to policy changes like “Bob – here are my thoughts on this” as though the lieutenant governor was personally emailing them to ask their opinion.

      Reply
      1. Nanani

        Like the people in public forums who waste everybody’s time with “I don’t know” answers.
        Dude, the thread was started so people with a clue could figure it out. It’s not a personal request for your input.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          I’ve encountered that with the “customers’ questions and answers” segment of products on Amazon a few times. Like, someone asks a specific question about the product and some clown will take the time out of their day to type out “I don’t know that” in response. Like. Maybe just. Don’t?!?

          Reply
          1. Grapey

            Amazon sends out targeted emails with specific questions if you bought the item, complete with a text box for you to answer into, so I could see how an internet unsaavy person thinks “Oh, someone in particular must be directly asking me a question. I should reply.”

            Fortunately, Amazon has seemed to improve the process by including an “I don’t know the answer to this question” link under the text box, which I assume just kind of exists as a placebo for people that didn’t know typing into the text box creates an actual reply.

            Reply
            1. Myrin

              Oh wow, guys, I can honestly say that I did not expect that – like Alison, you’ve just solved an ongoing mystery for me! (Also, I’ve never gotten one of these targeted emails in my life – I had no idea that’s a thing.) The more you know!

              Reply
            2. Jasnah

              Oh man this solves so much confusion for me. “How big is this bag?” “I don’t know, I purchased it as a gift for my daughter and she likes it.” OK thanks for sharing Carol…

              Reply
              1. Don P.

                I mean, you’d also think Amazon could filter out replies with “I don’t know” in them, but I’m not a bazillionaire.

                Reply
                1. Nanani

                  You’d think they could ask the manufacturer/supplier/somebody other than Random Purchaser, though.
                  This is amazongly lazy of them.

          2. Ron McDon

            Yes! I’m always astounded that people take the time to type a reply saying they don’t know the answer to someone’s question…

            Reply
          3. The Man, Becky Lynch

            I blame this on Amazon constantly pushing us to answer questions and leave reviews. So it leads to getting frustrated and responding with “IDK man IDK”. or “It’s fine, I guess.” reviews.

            My biggest complaint was how hard it was to finally get those obnoxious nudges to stop and I’m computer savvy. So I can see why many don’t think to figure out how to unsubscribe and just respond with nonsense.

            Reply
          4. EMW

            Oh this is actually because Amazon will email people the questions posted to people who bought the product. It looks like the question is directed specifically at them. In that case it makes sense to respond to this email “Does this work for cats or only dogs?” with “I don’t know, but it worked well for dogs.”

            Reply
            1. Mockingjay

              JC Penney does the same. I bought new drapes a couple of months ago. Got an email the other day: “Do these work for patio doors?”

              Reply
            2. Le Sigh

              I always wondered why people bothered to go out of their way to write in “I don’t know.” That makes way more sense.

              Now if only we could solve the riddle of people who don’t understand that reviews aren’t the way to handle customer service complaints for bad shipping or something similar. Or who just fundamentally don’t understand the product, like the person who complained that an air mattress lost air after seven days because they were using it as a full-time bed. Well, yes, it’s going to lose air after seven days!

              Reply
              1. JKP

                I buy dollhouse stuff, and the reviews are worthless because of the sheer volume of people leaving 1 star reviews because they thought they were buying a full size entertainment center for $2.

                Reply
                1. Le Sigh

                  Truly, those are my favorite. You had to realize, no? And even if I ever did something that silly (hey we’ve all drunk-ordered on Amazon, right?), I wouldn’t leave a review to tell the world about it.

                2. Julie K

                  Apparently, there are people out there for whom a review saying “This is not a full size entertainment center” would actually be useful information. Sadly, they’re not going to read the review before they order.

            3. NotAnotherManager!

              Yes! I am embarrassed at how long it took me to figure that out. (I think those emails were going to my spam folder, but then my order confirmations were also getting sent to spam, and when, I changed my settings, I went from just order/shipping confirmations to ALL the Amazon emails, including 412 questions/day.)

              Anyway, once I figured it out, I got a lot more sympathetic to the “I don’t know”ers.

              Reply
          5. Sydney Bristow

            I think it is because Amazon emails people who have bought that item to ask if they can answer the question. People seem to take that question literally and for some reason feel obligated to respond.

            Reply
            1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

              I sort of don’t want to (because I’m not sure it’s not against the commenting rules), but there is a delicious irony between this comment thread and the one above it regarding several people all providing exactly the same answer, but because of timing, are all responding to the same initial question…

              Reply
          6. smoke tree

            My favourite example of this was when I came upon someone who took time out of her day to give a 1/2-star rating to several books in a variety of categories along with the explanation “I didn’t write it.”

            Reply
        2. Mongrel

          My two biggest gripes with with queries on forums;
          1) Didn’t read the question. Did you try doing X even though I tried X! is on line 2
          2) Jumping on Zebras. I used to do tech support for a company and like to think I’m pretty good at troubleshooting but it annoys the hell out of me when you see “I had that problem when the cat was chasing a fly and managed to hit the secret key combo that borks hard drives until you enact the secret ritual, have you tried that?”

          Reply
            1. Mongrel

              For me it’s normally cutting myself on the case, so minor blood sacrifice then adding more LEDs. Cussing is encouraged

              Reply
  9. HRJ

    They can get their point across by just replying to the person who sent it. I’ve noticed with some mass emailings you actually have to go out of your way to reply all as opposed to just replying, and people still do it.

    Reply
    1. Me (I think)

      Yes, but in some systems the default is still “reply all” and many users don’t know this. They think they are only replying to the sender. Or they don’t notice that there are others on the recipient list.

      Reply
    2. R.D

      I was caught in one a year or two ago, where every reply to the original email automatically went to the entire distribution list.

      It was even more hilarious because you would get multiple chains of “unsubscribe” followed by “Please don’t reply all” then “I didn’t reply all. I sent my email to XXXX@XXXXX” then “If so, then why did I get it” with a screen shot of their inbox.

      Added bonus, the original email was sent to a “suppliers” distribution list, so it wasn’t internal to one company and many of the email addresses on it had auto replies of “your ticket number is XXXXXX. Please allow 24 hours to respond.”

      My absolute favorite part was that though people eventually stopped responding, they didn’t actually fix the distribution list, so 2 days later it restarted. I assume someone came back from vacation, so 500 emails and felt the need to shoot out a “please don’t reply all” email, only to have 20 people respond to them to shut up.

      Reply
      1. RVATACOCAT

        Same thing happened to me before. Part of a listserv, and it somehow malfunctioned and all replies were somehow going to the entire group. I had never had a reply-all fail before that day. I had replied to a very sweet, older coworker whom I adore, just letting her know that I’d gotten her reply…and then everyone had it. It was terrible. But to defend myself, I did NOT reply all! There was an email that came out much later to explain that there was an issue with the group’s server, and all emails were being ceased until they fixed the problem.

        Reply
    3. mcr-red

      I was going to say, I don’t understand how this happens, because everything I have, there’s a reply button and a reply all button.

      Reply
      1. Wendy Darling

        Some distribution lists are set up so that if you reply to the message it replies to THE LIST instead of to the individual sender, so you can end up with some really gnarly accidental email disasters.

        Reply
    4. Alexis Rose

      for the “please remove me from this list” emails, I suspect its because the person demanding that knows that the original sender isn’t the list manager, so they reply all in the hopes that the list manager will read it and take them off. Then, other people see that someone asked to be freed from the reply allpocolypse and go “OH, that sounds great! Me too!”

      But what both these groups of people don’t realize is that they CAN’T be removed from the email thread if its a list that the original sender doesn’t manage (I work in government, so.many.email.lists) AND that even if the person COULD remove them they WON’T because sometimes your Director needs to send a memo to everyone and you need to be on that list!

      In short: reply all fiascos are hilarious but people really should just not engage.

      Reply
  10. Lena Clare

    Oh yes, this gets my goat too, along with PDFs that open in the browser window, and key pad tones left ON on a mobile phone. (WHY??)
    Sometimes it is funny though! And I’m glad to see it doesn’t just happen in my place of work. I love Alison’s analogy that it is the equivalent of people tooting their horns in a traffic jam, that’s just so evocative.

    Reply
    1. jf

      PDFs in a browser window: is this supposed to ne bad? Since my agency will not spring for Acrobat Professional, I have Chrome set as my default PDF viewer. More features than toddler-Acrobat and faster to boot.

      Reply
    2. ArchivesGremilin

      What’s wrong with having PDFS open in a browser tab? I’d personally much prefer that than opening acrobat which is cumbersome.

      Reply
      1. jf

        I’m so habituated to ctrl- or cmd-click that this rarely happens to me. Now, don’t get me started on links that bring you immediately to the new tab at this point!

        Reply
  11. hermit crab

    I can offer a possible preventative measure! The custom in my office is to BCC large internal email lists. So if you want to write to the XYZ Division, you leave the “to” field blank, BCC the list, and then the first line of the message text says “XYZ Division in BCC.” If someone actually wants to reply all, they have to take an extra step — there’s no way to do it accidentally.

    Reply
      1. hermit crab

        When I started here, it took me a while to realize it too! As SilverIris points out below, it’s best for one-way communications or other messages that don’t need group discussion, but if you’re contacting a 100-person department those are probably the kinds of you’re sending anyway.

        Reply
      2. Lucy

        In Europe where we are bound by significant privacy legislation in GDPR, I find that people get good at using bcc and minimal distribution lists, and VERY good at removing people from circulation on request.

        But there’s still plenty of scope for a Reply-all disaster (the NHS example is now legend)…

        Reply
      3. Works in IT

        Also useful when the email is a form letter telling people “you need to take this training course. Your supervisors will be notified”.

        Most people get TOUCHY about other people knowing they need to take a mandatory training course which they think is punishment (it’s not, but they don’t want to believe that). Bccing people hides their names from the others on the list.

        Reply
    1. Washi

      …isn’t this what everyone does? I always figured the reply all problems happen on the rare occasions when someone forgets to put the list in the bcc. If the default is to put everyone in the normal To line, I’m surprised there aren’t more reply all kerfuffles!

      Reply
      1. EMW

        Sometimes I use the BCC line, people end up forwarding the email and asking so and so to be added to the list. Even if I put the list name in the email. So for some lists I do put it in the To line, and there’s never been a Reply All issue with this specific list.

        Reply
        1. Mongrel

          Ours is not available on the create e-mail window, you can access it from the Address Book though. It’s worth checking in there :)

          Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      After a couple of reply-all kerfuffles, our IT added a message that pops up when you add the all-staff email address to an email, regardless of whether it’s on the to, cc, or bcc fields, which says “You are sending this email to all staff. Please be sure to use BCC to avoid unnecessary email chains.”

      Reply
  12. Former Retail Lifer

    My company sends out a list of the top sales closers from the week before, and there are always lots of people that decide to reply all to congratulate the one person they know on the list. It’s maddening when that list comes out because everyone’s email blows up for the rest of the day. Reply all should really be punishable by death. ;)

    Reply
    1. BRR

      I had a coworker, mid-level, do this for all new employee announcements. I created a rule that any message from them to all staff goes to the trash.

      Reply
    2. LawBee

      That happens here with every bar acceptance/good outcome/etc. Lots of reply-alls that just say “congrats!” or “woo-hoo!” At some point, they start getting performative, which can be entertaining to watch.

      Reply
      1. JokeyJules

        we have two staff who do this, and it truly seems like they are in competition with each other to extend the “better” congratulations.

        Reply
      2. Mockingdragon

        Oh my god, yes. My old job sent out birthday announcements and the number of people who replied-all to wish the person a happy birthday was baffling. None of the rest of us need to know you said happy birthday!

        Reply
    3. Jadelyn

      Ugh, this. Like, it’s very nice of you all to send congrats, but just send it to the person you’re congratulating, not everyone.

      Reply
    4. NW Mossy

      Relatedly, replying all to thank one person on the string for Doing A Thing? STOP IT. Thank just the one person if you must (which I argue is unnecessary, but some people care a lot, so fine), but me as unrelated observer? Don’t clog my inbox, friends.

      Reply
      1. RVATACOCAT

        I will send thanks pretty routinely (as we’re a social bunch), but to the person that I’m thanking, and to that person’s manager if they really went above and beyond. But yes, other than that time when Steve from Accounting saved the day using his CPA shield to deflect the Death Ray, only one person needs to be sent a Thanks for The Thing email.

        Reply
  13. SilverIris

    As an email sender, one preemptive strategy to avoid descent into Reply All Madness is to put your email address in the To field and the distribution list in the BCC field, making Reply All is impossible.

    This only works for truly one-way communications, where you’re actively trying to prevent replies. When you need an actual discussion on the chain this is not the right solution. But it can help as a best practice on those one-way communications that need to go those full company lists.

    Reply
  14. Not All

    Every time this happens in my agency, I think they should add a section on reply vs reply all to our mandatory annual IT security training (and that you have to keep retaking it until you get 100% on that section!). (We also get what I call “performative congratulations” where people reply-all to mailing lists of hundreds if not thousands of people for notices of retirements, transfers, etc….those are almost more irritating to me!)

    Reply
  15. ThatGirl

    This happened once at my last job, which employed about 6,500 people worldwide and had dozens of office locations. It was some kind of company wide alert that got sent in error and within minutes there were hundreds of “unsubscribe me!!” replies to everyone. It was a hilarious mess.

    Reply
    1. JJ Bittenbinder

      The last time that happened at my previous job, it was a mass email regarding termination of an employee—mistakenly sent to about 8000 people, mentioning the terminated employee by name! It was a total shitshow.

      Reply
  16. LaDeeDa

    When I get an email that I shouldn’t be on, and forward to the appropriate parties, I will even write; “no need to include me in your response.” BUT THEY ALWAYS DO!
    To prevent this BS– All of my “mass” emails the recipients are in the BCC, field and the To field is MY email, so if people reply all, it only goes to me.

    Reply
    1. LaDeeDa

      PS. I teach this in my manager course, my intern and new grad class, as well as my hi-po class. BCC. BCC.

      Reply
    2. BadWolf

      I recently got on a local artists mailing list. The first mail had everyone in the “to” field. I replied (just to the sender) that she should consider using the BCC field so everyone didn’t know everyone’s email address and to avoid reply-all fails.

      Thankfully, she kindly accepted my advice and swapped to BCC.

      Reply
    3. Don P.

      Some people don’t understand that “you don’t have to do X” often means “please don’t do X”.

      Reply
  17. (Former) HR Expat

    In my new job (approx. 1500 employees), the CEO expects us to reply all to any welcome emails; he reads all the responses and will call people out if they don’t respond. Ugh

    In my old job (circa 130k employees), we had this happen a couple times. It was a global distribution list, so we would spend 8 hours in Reply All Hell. After about 2k emails in 2 hours, we started laughing. Then an hour later the email server would crash Every.Single.Time.

    Reply
    1. Matilda Jefferies

      Your CEO has the time to read 1500 welcome emails, cross-reference them against the staff list, and harass people who don’t respond? That is bonkers. I’m so sorry!

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        Yeah, like, how in the world does your CEO have time for this? Like, does he not have an actual job to do?

        Reply
      2. (Former) HR Expat

        Yep. He’s quite the control freak. HR is the only exception to the rule (hooray for me!). I know that I’m going to be deleting emails for a couple days when there’s a new announcement coming out.

        Reply
    2. pleaset

      ” the CEO expects us to reply all to any welcome emails; he reads all the responses and will call people out if they don’t respond. Ugh”

      He actually can cr0ss-reference a list of 1500 to see who did not reply? That’s incredible.

      Reply
    3. goducks

      This may be the most outrageous thing I’ve read this year! A CEO who takes the time to cross reference 1500 people’s responses (presumably pretty frequently, even in a low turnover environment, there’s frequent movement with that many employees) and to personally follow up with people who don’t respond to these emails.
      Wow. Is this his only duty???

      Reply
  18. olusatrum

    Wikipedia’s entry on “Email Storm” has a bunch of entertaining examples of catastrophic reply-all cascades! Luckily, I’ve never actually experienced one – so far I’ve only worked in small companies that can’t reach critical reply-all mass.

    Reply
  19. SilverIris

    *nodding vigorously* Yes! Performative emails are like nails on a chalkboard, and have the total opposite the effect intended. They generally make people feel irritated at being part of an intrusive and performative email storm, not happily integrated into a collaborative and congratulatory environment.

    Reply
  20. dealing with dragons

    I think this can be solved on the other end – BCC! Make the To or CC fields be the people who would need a reply, then in the body say: “[Some List] on BCC” and maybe some filler about contacting IT if you’re on the wrong list.

    I think it goes both ways, tbh. IT can also block most people from emailing certain lists (like we have an “All Employees” list that only C levels and their assistants can use).

    Reply
    1. CSD

      Came here to say this! Limit who can email those bigger lists and you eliminate part of the problem right there! Also – bcc is your best friend.

      Reply
    2. CB

      +1

      Our staff email list is setup so that our management team (six individuals) and our office manager are the only ones that can email the office distribution list without approval. Otherwise, the email gets put in a queue and the office manager or their boss have to approve it before it goes out. We have a team of 30, but a similar method is used for all-staff emails at our university.

      Reply
  21. Not Me

    I used to work for an international corporation with more than 200k employees and every so often someone would send an email to the wrong distribution lists and the reply-all chaos would actually crash the email system. It always made me giggle to see all the “stop replying to all” replies that were replying to all themselves.

    Reply
  22. beebee

    I once worked at a company that had one of these go into the thousands of emails (it was a really big company). I would be pushing the scrolldown button repeatedly and see nothing but a wall of unread emails from this chain. One of my coworkers coped by replying with GO STEELERS graphics. As “leaning on the horn” responses go, at least that one made me laugh.

    Reply
  23. Art3mis

    I love it when this happens and some moron has “request confirmation email” set to default. Guess what, I’m hitting yes on that one, you did it to yourself.

    Reply
  24. Marie

    My husband once sent that meme of Jean Luc Picard face palming to the entire company after a 3 hour reply all fest finally died down only to be resurrected at the end of the day for another 20 minutes.

    I’m not saying this is a GOOD idea, but it did get him quite a lot of praise from his colleagues.

    Reply
  25. Ella

    Thank god my office uses gmail, so even if there’s a massive reply all thread it all ends up helpfully under one, easily ignorable and/or filterable line in my inbox. (I haven’t used outlook in a very long time, but I suspect it also has a way to have every email with a specific subject line automatically filtered to either the archives or trash.)

    Reply
  26. JKP

    Whenever I’ve set up large distribution lists, I set them up so only a few approved senders could send to the list, and any others went to moderation and had to be approved first.

    But even that didn’t totally work. I put in a support ticket for an issue with one list, and the IT person who answered the ticket after I left for the day 1) turned off moderation for the list so anyone could send to the list and 2) sent a few test messages out to the 10,000+ list. When I returned to work in the morning, the reply-apocalypse had run for 12+ hours of multiple different time zones, racking up thousands and thousands of messages. And this wasn’t an internal list, it was a client list. Cost a LOT of business.

    Reply
    1. only acting normal

      I just realised that’s why I haven’t seen a reply-all debacle in years, despite being in a big company. They’re really strict here on who has permissions to use mass distribution lists.

      Reply
  27. Ginger

    I think anyone who “replies all” to one of these should be mandated to take a elearning course on inbox etiquette or email 101.

    Reply
    1. BadWolf

      After our last reply-all mass fail, the joke was that those who reply-all would be on the short list for the next round of layoffs.

      Reply
  28. Amanda

    Wow! This is still an issue? The two last organisations I have worked at both keeps large distribution lists. But only very few people can send email to them. If you want to have an email sent one of the lists you have to send it to one of the admis with the Power, who will send it on if deemed appropriate. If anyone else tries, the email will bounce with a “you don’t have permission to send to this list” response.

    Reply
    1. Let's Bagel

      Yes! Us too. I’ve been reading through all these comments wondering how my company could possibly be the only one who does this.

      Reply
  29. EMW

    Ah yes! This can be rectified by limiting who can send emails to larger distribution lists in the directory. One company I knew did that, and even though I regularly had to send emails to this list, my email would go to moderation by someone who wasn’t even at the site, and then critiqued (this was a form email) when all my other coworkers were just able to send the email. Eventually, I created the email, sent it to a coworker, and they sent it out instead.

    This bothers me along with an organizer of a conference call asking everyone to mute their own lines, and leaving the entrance/exit noises on for calls with more than 20 people. I was on a call with 200 and the first 7 minutes was the entrance noises. Then the organizer muted everyone’s line. But it didn’t mute anyone who joined after that point. So people would join late, ding, and then have background noise. I wanted to scream “YOU ARE THE ORGANIZER LEARN HOW TO MANAGE A CONFERENCE CALL!” Especially after the fifth plead to “Mute your lines, you’re being very disruptive and making the call take longer.” This was especially bad as it was a $$$$ consultant providing training for us on how to use their task management system.

    Reply
    1. Moray

      I was on a webinar once where only the moderators were unmuted…but one of the moderators put the call on hold. So hundreds of people were treated to his endless tinny hold music while the other moderators tried to figure out how to mute him.

      Reply
      1. EMW

        That’s beautiful.

        My other good story is about a department wide conference call. 200+ people, VP presenting out goals and such for the upcoming year. They don’t turn off the ding, and apparently it HAS to ding once for every single person. So the call started with 10 minutes of dings. Then, at minute 15, someone puts their phone on hold. And everyone can hear it. Their solution? End the call, and have everyone call back in. It’s now minute 25 after the entrance dings finishes. VP starts going through the material. At minute 30 someone puts the call on hold again, and I can only imagine the organizer flipped a table, and then said they would reschedule.

        Reply
    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

      We once had a listener on a 200 person town-hall style conference call who was apparently listening while she worked. Checking patients in. At a hospital desk. Without muting herself. At the first “Ok, and what’s your social security number, please?” the entire call interrupted the presenter (because they refused to mute anyone) and basically drowned her out so she wasn’t blaring PHI onto the conference call.

      And they still wouldn’t mute anyone.

      Reply
    3. The New Wanderer

      Yes! We no longer have reply-all-pocalypses at my company because of distro list lockdowns, but man do we have the worst large-group telecons. I want to boycott any telecon/Webex that has over 4 people where any of the following is true:
      a) everyone is on their honor to mute themselves (that never, ever works and few organizers are willing to call people out even when the system clearly identifies who’s making all that noise),
      b) the organizer leaves on the entry/exit beeps for every caller (this is a bug, not a feature!), and/or
      c) any featured speaker who hasn’t learned not to exhale directly into the microphone. Worse than nails on a chalkboard!

      I think that Webex has a feature where you can disconnect a caller, I wish more organizers would use it.
      Also I’ll allow it if they just have technical difficulties in setting up because that would take me to 0 telecons that meet my criteria and I do have to attend something sometime.

      Reply
  30. blink14

    This has happened quite a bit recently on a listserv for a professional organization that I belong to. Finally someone last week emailed back saying that it may look like you are the only recipient, but in fact all of these emails are going to every person on the listserv.

    I think that is part of the problem – with the list basically Bcc’ed, it does look like you are the only recipient. Only if you really pay attention to the “From” text with the email open (at least in Outlook) does it become someone what clear there’s a listserv involved.

    Reply
    1. Librarian of SHIELD

      I was on a listserv for children’s librarians a few years back. One year, a school librarian forgot to suspend her membership for the summer and somehow set up her out of office message so that it sent a reply to EVERY email. So every time someone sent a message to the list, the entire list got this woman’s out of office reply. It was a pretty frantic day of people replying to the out of office replies about how this was inappropriate, only to get ANOTHER out of office reply. I think by day 2 the listserv’s administrators were able to remove her from the list, but for about the next year, every time an out of office reply got sent to the list, the whole group reacted with “Not this again!!!!!”

      Reply
    1. Lunch meat

      My favorite part of that is there’s a button that comes up asking if i want to read the full article.

      Reply
  31. SisterSpooky

    I group my emails in outlook by conversation which I love for many reasons, and in this case it would all just pile up under a collapsible header and not muck up my inbox.

    Reply
  32. sofar

    A similar phenomenon (@ here) is taking place on Slack. We have a Slack room for the whole company (500+ employees). Everyone except our office managers generally ignores it, and unless you have alerts set up on the room, you’ll only get a little red Slack alert if someone uses @ here. Which brings us to what went down at work the other day.

    Someone in our company @ here’d the room to ask some mundane question about breakroom supplies. So everyone at the company got the alert. Immediately someone replied (using @ here) that @ here should NOT be used in this room, as it’s a nuisance. Someone called that second person out for using @ here when lecturing someone for using @ here (and used @ here in their response). Then, all hell broke loose. People were using @ here to ask to be removed from the room or expressing surprise the room existed. People started replying with @ here to give instructions about how to leave the room. The original poster replied with @ here to apologize for using @ here. People were using @ here to discuss the etiquette of using @ here in the all-employee room. And trolls then started piling on with great merriment, using @ here with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, everyone from the CEO downward were getting little red *pings* nonstop in their Slack alerts.

    At one point, someone walked into the stairwell (our office has multiple floors) and and started shouting into every floor to please stop.

    It was my favorite day ever.

    Reply
    1. Nanani

      This also happens on Discord.
      Well managed servers make @ here (and its evil twin @ everyone) non-functional for all but a few top admins.

      Many servers are not well managed.

      Reply
  33. Alice

    I would like there to be a rule that if you MUST reply all in this situation, you have to include a stress-reducing cute animal picture.

    Reply
    1. EMW

      Oh this will crash the email servers even quicker due to the larger size of a picture vs text only. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

      Reply
  34. J

    Know what else bugs me? When I cc someone(s) relevant into an email thread, and the other party continously removes them/does not reply all. I included them for a reason… Even when I repeatedly re-add them, they take them off.

    Basic email to/cc/bcc rules and etiquette should be taught at ALL JOBS because so many people have no idea.

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I only remove a CC if an external email CC’s inappropriate people in our organization. Case and point, I have people send things to my email and CC our general mailbox, I remove our general mailbox because they have nothing to do with anything, it just clogs up their box.

      If it’s someone in your organization, I’ll reply all, every time because sure, that’s your choice and a lot of people have multiple tracks to keep going.

      Reply
    2. No Tribble At All

      T H A N K Y O U
      Our mortgage agent and realtor both refused to use ‘reply all’. So I’d send an email to Agent, cc my husband, and then they’d only reply to me. Or Hubs would send the email and cc me, and they’d only reply to him. There’s /two of us/ buying this thing. We both need to know thingsssss.

      Reply
      1. Kivrin

        We had this problem with our son’s teacher, who continually insisted that she had emailed both of us but only one would ever get the email. We eventually had to solve it by creating an address on our server that went to both of us and asking her to use that one. And liberally using the reply-to field.

        Reply
    3. Mr. Shark

      My company is CC crazy, they will copy everyone and their boss as a CYA method. When it gets down to it, I’ll remove some of the CCs so we can actually get to the people who need to be on the e-mail and who actually can get the work done. Having everyone copied just invites managers to ask for the status when there could be actual productive e-mails that solve the issue.

      Reply
  35. EMW

    My best reply all story:

    Huge reply all chain on an email for a promotion and relocation of an employee (Jim). Kind of dies down. Then Joe replies all and says: “Is this the same Jim that used to work in City? He still owes me $50 when I sold him my lawnmower.”

    Joe got a very stern talking to, and it has gone down as lore at the company. People will still send Joe emails and include a note at the bottom about him owing them money for ridiculous things. My husband knew him personally, and he apparently was bombarded with IMs asking him how stupid he had to be to send that email.

    Reply
    1. VictorianCowgirl

      This made me actually laugh, well, chortle – which is more than I normally do lol. How funny! Thanks for posting.

      Reply
  36. Writerboy

    I will never forget the poor guy who accidentally set “reply all” to his out-of-office notification. For three weeks, every time there was an all-staff email, the whole organization received a reminder that “Frank Sinatra” was out of the office. In fact, I think it even said that he was on vacation. When he came back, EVERYBODY wanted to know how he enjoyed his vacation.

    Reply
  37. Sunny

    “It’s like people who lean on their horn in traffic — they know it’s not going to make things move any faster, but they have an overwhelming desire to express their aggravation and so they do.”

    **shamefully raises hand**

    Reply
    1. ThursdaysGeek

      Interesting. And I’m one of those who doesn’t lean on my horn, who waits for the traffic to clear up, and who also would never reply-all during an email storm. I probably would make a rule, so it doesn’t bog me down, or just close the email and wait it out.

      Reply
  38. Black Bellamy

    One of my greatest reply-all rides came to me unexpectedly and I seized the reins!

    Someone sent out an email with subject “Hazardous Information Sheet” telling people that if they were going to ship any hazardous materials, to please read the sheet and see if it was permissible to mail.

    This went out to various mailing lists in our org. We employ more than 10,000 people. Normally this kind of corporate spam is common and goes into the junk bucket. But we have some divisions that aren’t…well…very digital. So the flood started. Take me off this list. I don’t think this was meant for me. Etc. You know how it goes. My inbox is blowing up, 20, 30, 40, soon there’s like a 100. People wanting to be taken off the list comingled with the people adding to the fire by replying all to please stop replying all.

    By the mid-afternoon, the flow trickles then stops. My inbox is showing 450 replies to that thread.

    I click the very last email and select reply all. Very carefully I type “Hi, I’m wondering if anyone has any information regarding shipping hazardous materials? Can you forward that to me?” and then I click the fun button.

    Reply
    1. Database Developer Dude

      If I worked in your IT department when you sent this, I’d need bail money for what I’d do. This is *not* funny.

      Reply
  39. Tara

    I find them hilarious – especially the people who hit reply all to tell others to quit hitting reply all. It’s always good entertainment.

    Reply
    1. EMW

      I enjoy them if I don’t have a lot going on. But if I’m travelling, or have a crisis where I’m waiting for an email they annoy the crap out of me! I end up having to turn notification off on my phone so I can get my text message notifications. And then I eventually end up missing important email notifications.

      I assume in every reply all situation there’s some in the first basket and some in the second basket.

      Reply
    2. CupcakeCounter

      We had a guy who hit reply all 3 times!
      First was “this isn’t my charge”
      Second was “just realized this was sent in error – sorry for the reply all”
      Third was “please make it stop”

      Took everything in me not to reply back to him (and him only) to STOP FUCKING REPLYING ALL TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE REPLY ALL
      written in all caps exactly like that

      Reply
    3. InsufficentlySubordinate

      Picture a bunch of data/database analysts. Now picture a whiteboard with a list of different types of reply-all personalities including 1)troll(restart cascade), 2)troll(meme/pic), 3)didn’t read(confused/WTF), 4)berate(stop sending Reply-all!), and 5)remove from list(some argument that this should be classified under didn’t read) with a bunch of tick marks as people called out types and argued about classifications and whether the same person should be counted twice if they replied twice. I can’t remember the results but we had a grand old time for 2 hours.

      Reply
  40. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    I’ve noticed that, at my organization at least, the first round of reply all abusers tend to be replying from their phone/mobile device; there is almost always a “Sent from my iPhone” or similar at the bottom. Since I don’t answer emails from my phone, I’m not sure if there is something about email from mobile devices that just prevents them from noticing that it’s a big distribution list, or if it’s the default/only option. Luckily, we haven’t had a reply all slip up that’s gone more than 2-3 emails in a while.

    Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      Nope. Nothing that prevents them from replying just to the original sender, and not the default option.

      Reply
    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Not sure about iPhones cuz Android or gtfo. But for Androids we are using an email client app. It’s the same setup as using your computer.

      Granted anyone who keeps the “sent from my phone” signature makes me judge them a bit. It’s like having inspirational quotes in your signature block. Just don’t!!

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I modify it so it’s not brand-related but I actually like making it clear that I’m not on my computer, so I keep in the general info.

        Reply
  41. Phony Genius

    The first 2 or 3 people who reply innocently don’t know any better. The rest are sadomasochists.

    I was actually involved in one that included private information regarding a psych patient. Obviously, that is much worse.

    Reply
    1. EvilQueenRegina

      We once got one at work which was somebody complaining that they had seen an NHS employee on a hospital ward for personal business to visit someone, but was still wearing her NHS employee ID badge around her neck, and apparently hadn’t been happy when asked to remove it. This person who had tried asking her to remove it then reported the woman to her boss and asked that she be spoken to…copying in a distribution list who really didn’t need to be copied in.

      Reply
  42. CupcakeCounter

    I think you work at the same place I do OP!
    Best part is the list my reply-all hell went to covers 4 different companies (all under one umbrella) and the people who work under the original sender kept replying all – “not my charge – thanks!”

    Reply
  43. Skeeder Jones

    I think we work for the same employer because this exact thing happened a few weeks ago (and I know there is a delay in between when letters are written and when they are posted. I have no idea why person #179 thinks that despite the fact that a million people have already sent a reply all telling everyone to stop replying all, that this time, their message will be the one that people will listen to… And they don’t see how they themselves are a big part of the problem. It’s madness. And it’s madness that costs money as 1000+ people lost several hours of productivity.

    If the email was about a “Ping ID” then we might have the same employer!

    Reply
      1. LindsayAerin

        I was curious and went back and checked it wasn’t about a ping Id but about adding someone to a list serve or something…

        Reply
        1. Skeeder Jones

          Ah, got it. It’s definitely so common that it happens regularly! And agreed, it is super annoying!

          Reply
  44. RedinSC

    Really, the etiquette starts with the person sending to a list. Always put that list in the BCC field and if people want to know what list it’s coming from, you just put that at the top

    This message BCCd to the All Llama Groomers distribution list

    That way, if it’s the wrong list the only person getting bombarded is the original sender.

    Sorry, if this has been said already 100 times, didn’t read through all the posts.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      IT can handle that too. Ours recently started putting a notation in the subject for any external submissions. Given the size of our company and concern about external fishing attempts, its actually a good idea.

      Reply
  45. ENFP in Texas

    I hate these. I end up putting an filter on my mailbox to just trash them as they come in.

    If you’re using Outlook:

    * Highlight one instance of the offending message
    * Right-click on it
    * Select “Rules…” from the pop-up menu
    * Select “Create Rule”
    * Check the “Subject Contains” box
    * Check the “Move the item to folder…” box and select the “Deleted Items” folder
    * Click OK
    * Check the “Run this rule now” box and click OK

    Reply
    1. LindsayAerin

      Op here – yes people started replying with the rule but outlook had crashed for so many it was hard to do

      Reply
  46. YarnOwl

    My mom works for the state we live in and this happened recently, where about 10,000 people were emailed mistakenly by someone (I think it was about the person’s department’s Christmas party) and all hell broke loose. I think I remember her telling me she got over 1,000 emails that day and it was all anyone could talk about all week!

    Reply
  47. Dan

    My company must have IT people who know what they are doing. Its a company of about 7,000 people, and I belong to something like 14 “required” lists. Yet, I’ve never been stuck in “reply all” hell in the five years I’ve been there.

    As for the 14 lists, while some may seem overly specific, I’ve never once received an inappropriate message. I think.

    Reply
  48. Aunttora

    I ADORE replyallpocalypes. Like high speed car chases on TV, they’re catnip to me! (To be clear, I do not reply to the thread or race on the freeway, I’m just a bystander.) I think they’re like the adult equivalent of a snow day – an unexpected break with a great opportunity to observe humanity doing…humanity. I ESPECIALLY love the ones where people include screenshots with graphic arrows and boxes illustrating how to NOT reply to all…that they send to everyone. I’m so bummed when there’s one going around that I didn’t get on.

    Reply
  49. Zephy

    You want Reply All Hell? How about a system that relies on it??

    In my last job, my boss and I would send out a daily email to our ~60ish volunteers with details about tasks that needed to be done, and they were instructed to reply all if they wanted to claim any of those tasks. I got so many complaints from volunteers about how many emails everyone would get, but there was simply not a better system. I didn’t have the time to relay messages from individuals to the group, so I couldn’t use the BCC trick, and that wouldn’t have reduced the number of emails everyone got, anyhow.

    I think the BCC trick could/should be extended a bit for those “please congratulate Dean Winchester on his promotion to Director of Sales & Marketing” emails – email Dean, BCC everybody else, and then the reply-alls just clog his inbox, not everyone’s.

    Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        That’s probably the most doable. I can think of 3 or 4 other setups off the top of my head and I would seriously stop volunteering with an organization that couldn’t figure out a better way to handle task availability than bombarding me with insane levels of emails on a daily basis.

        Reply
    1. New Jack Karyn

      1) Yay for Supernatural reference!

      2) Wouldn’t a Google Doc be the best forum for that? Or G-Classroom?

      Reply
      1. Zephy

        1) Thought I’d give everyone a break from GoT names :)

        2) You would think. I tried to propose a different system, but the people that had the say-so (and many of the volunteers) were Olds that just figured out email five minutes ago and still have very superstitious ideas about computers and how they work (i.e., they figured out a ten-step process to do a thing and will follow those ten steps religiously, no matter how many times I show them how to skip from step 3 to step 9). A Google-doc task list that updates in real time would have been infinitely easier to manage – even if I still had to send out a daily email, it could have just been “Google Doc has been updated, please check it and claim tasks, here’s the link,” rather than a 4-section monstrosity.

        Reply
  50. Anonandanon

    I love this one! We have one person on our company who, whenever this occurs will send a ticket to the service desk asking us to send an email to everyone explaining the difference between Reply to Sender and Reply to All.

    The kicker? This issue happened *twice*, once in 2017, and once in 2018 and she sent an email both times because “this has been on ongoing annoyance”. And the “numerous emails” received were probably 10 at most!

    The laugh is on her, because we never did anything about it (except lip service), and thankfully she’s retiring in two months!!

    Reply
  51. So it begins

    The Estonian Embassy once started one of these! During EU Open House Day, they ran a contest to win a trip to Estonia. They sent all of us a rejection but forgot to bcc the email addresses, so when one guy wrote back inquiring why his entry hadn’t been randomly drawn, all hell broke loose. Hours later, people started campaigning for this poor guy to be given a free trip.

    Reply
  52. anon for this

    Previous job was in a large multinational finance company, people with securities licenses were required to attend an annual meeting to review compliance rules.

    No big deal, it’s maybe an hour, they offered 3 different days and times. But yes, people started to reply all, including all the minutia about their schedules. “I have a dentist appointment Tuesday, can I do Wednesday?” Etc. It grew to a couple dozen, and was quickly ballooning. I finally changed the subject line on one reply to “stop using reply all” and said STOP, these are going to several hundred employees!”

    Well, I talked to my manager later that day an he said good job on nipping that in the bud. But did you happen to see whose email you replied to? That was our corporate counsel! Meeting with legal later that week was fun!

    Reply
  53. HigherEd Person

    I think I’ve told this before, but my favorite reply-all story was from way back in the day when responding to a listserv meant it automatically went to everyone. I was on a listserv of all Teapot Social Club Advisors in the country (states), and people usually used to it to ask general questions.
    One day, someone sent out a question, which triggered Jane Smith’s auto-reponse, letting everyone know she was on maternity leave, and would be back in March. That auto-response went out to everyone on the TSCA listserv, include Jane herself, which then triggered another auto-response telling us all that she was on maternity leave and would be back in March. This cycle went on for about 45 minutes, and there was one joker who replied-all in the middle of it, asking “Hey, does anyone know when Jane Smith gets back from maternity leave?”
    Finally, someone shut down the listserv.

    However, Jane Smith is still pretty active in the field, so I happened to meet her at a conference years later. I was too polite to say anything, but the second she introduced herself, I was like “OMG SHE WAS ON MATERNITY LEAVE UNTIL MARCH IN 2006!”

    Reply
    1. Art3mis

      Similar issue happened at OldJob but it was an automated email that would respond with “Thanks, we got your email, this inbox is not monitored” and it responded to a vendor or client automated email who did the same thing and on they went, back and forth, overnight when no one at either company was around. It finally crashed both one of the email servers around 4AM, after going back and forth for about 12 hours. The sucky part was that our end would automatically move those emails into our imagine and production queue. So everyone had to spend the better part of the day clearing out the 7,000+ junk emails by manually completing them.

      Reply
  54. Hepzibah Pflurge

    At a decent-sized law firm where I worked for a while, the IT powers-that-be set up everyone’s Outlook so that no one even had the Reply All button as an option. If you wanted to Reply All, you had to use CTRL-SHIFT-R to do so. It was quite effective. Not 100% effective, because you can’t fix stupid. But LOADS better than I’ve seen before.

    Reply
  55. LindsayAerin

    Hey all this is the OP here – at the end of the day I got 638 emails. People across the division were complaining that outlook was crashing for everyone!
    I deleted everything but did see a couple responses in preview
    One was from an employee who works in data and analytics and has a PHD in computer sciences – I kid you not!
    Other people started replying with jokes related to one of the companies employee slogans about how we can succeed as one which – yah was funny – but just added to it.
    I had delays in being able to respond to actual emails.
    My company is worldwide and has about 80,000 employees so I guess one 1,000 person list isn’t the worst it could be.
    I just hope that AAM has enough berth to get the message out.

    Reply
    1. Kate

      I came here to post this! From her answer just above it doesn’t look like it, but what a coincidence.

      Reply
  56. Database Developer Dude

    No, reply-all hell is *not* funny, and is one of the reasons why your IT folks drink. Creating more work for your IT folks unnecessarily is a joke? Is that what you think, Alison? *smdh*….

    Reply
    1. ArtsNerd

      um, Alison is not ADVOCATING for reply-all hell. Just a way to frame it in your head as a non-IT bystander.

      I think everyone on here has sympathy for the work it makes for IT folks, but it’s a bemusing human-foible problem, not an issue with tragic consequences.

      Reply
  57. LindsayAerin

    OP here again I didn’t mention this one in my letter but once years ago at a prior company, we all got emailed that public health would to in offices for free flu shots and you could sign up for a time slot and they directed you to do that if you wanted – not mandatory.
    Someone responded to the entire List with anti-vaccine propaganda it didn’t lead to a reply all Hell. But man it was crazy, Our corporate communications team was quickly writing out a response about the safety of the vaccine.
    Another one when there was a large natural disaster – I believe hurricane sandy – someone emailed everyone in response to an email about supporting staff in the affected areas by suggesting they email him money to distribute on the ground – as he lived there. Again corporate communications was quick to respond with a list of registered organizations and charities and advised strongly against emailing anyone money directly I believe the exact wording “while we want to believe this offer was meant with the best of intention” was included

    Reply
  58. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!

    [“It’s a fascinating riddle of human behavior that otherwise reasonably computer-savvy adults who know how this works still cannot resist the impulse to reply-all to these threads.”]

    It is WELL-KNOWN that clicking “Reply All” can eventually cause the mail server to crash. If people still click “Reply All” anyway, and the mail server crashes, then EACH of them is fully responsible for that crash.

    Reply
  59. amp2140

    Sometimes I think you can fix it by IT doing a BCC reply all, so anyone that responds to that email will only be sending it to one recipient.

    Reply
  60. oneawkwardpotato

    I’m not sure of the turnaround time for how quickly a submission is posted here, but OP I think I work for the same company as you do! The email chain completely shut down email function at my branch for the rest of the day.

    Reply
  61. Green means go

    And sometimes people honk because there are 2 green lights in a row, it’s clear on the next block and yet cars don’t seem to GO.

    – DMV area resident

    Reply
  62. Catabodua

    I’ve been through this a few times and it’s always like watching a car wreck. How can people not understand that “take my name off this!” doesn’t do anything but add more clutter?

    This was many, many years ago, but I shit you not, worst one I saw approached the tens of thousands level of emails. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it topped 100k by the time it was all done.

    Large international company, 20-ish thousand employees. A company wide email address list got added as a To on a legit company-wide email. Everyone that had an out of office caused an email to everyone on the list and things just got rolling from there. Email use at work was sort of in its infancy and people just didn’t understand what was happening.

    Add to that the different time zones and it went on for what seemed like days.

    I still wonder why IT couldn’t shut it down.

    Reply
  63. Alex the Alchemist

    I’ve shared this story before but I feel it’s pertinent here. My graduate program has the world’s greatest reference librarian. He is extremely helpful, always lets us know about cool events or lectures related to our department, etc. However, he never BCCs anyone on an email, leaving us open to reply-all storms. Winter Break 2017, he sends out a “Merry Christmas, looking forward to the next semester” email to everyone, which was very thoughtful, save for the fact that that led to EVERYONE IN MY DEGREE PROGRAM replying-all to wish everyone else a happy holiday as well. One person even replied-all with a coupon for products from their small business. Things seemed to have stopped around December 29th or so, but then SOMEONE replied-all with a “Happy New Year!” email and started everything over again. This incident is now infamous at my school.

    Reply
  64. maxine

    A lot of people who reply all are actually not but are part of a distribution list so that when they just reply it goes to everyone in the list. When that happens I email the colleague who did it directly and explain to them that they should just ignore the email if it doesn’t apply to them and how what they are doing is making the email deluge worse. It is amazing in this day and age people still don’t know how email distribution lists work.

    Reply
  65. The Other Dawn

    I my experience, people who reply all with a request to remove them from the list haven’t thought beyond the fact that they have an annoying email in their inbox that doesn’t pertain to them. They don’t stop to think or look to see that the list the email was sent to is a list they’re supposed to be on because they’re part of the department, and the email was simply addressed to the wrong department. So then you get 50 replies telling the sender to remove them from the list.

    Reply
  66. WhoKnows

    I have to say, I did once have the best chain of “please remove me from this list” happen to me several years ago, on December 23rd. We were all about to be gone for several days for the holidays, and since there weren’t that many people left in the office, everyone who WAS there just started getting a little silly and started sharing reaction gifs and memes and somecards which were super popular at the time. People replied saying things like “Happy holidays from Brazil!” and it was a nice little moment. I archived it for the rest of my time there and would occasionally go back to giggle. When I left that job, I was kinda sad to leave that email chain from hilarious hell behind.

    Reply
  67. Schnapps

    The reply-all button is the second worst invention ever.

    The worst invention is the snooze button.

    Reply
  68. Ck

    This strikes a familiar chord with me – our company regularly gets a reply-all storm about once a year. The biggest differences I think are related to the size of our company — 10s of thousands.

    – Because we are so much bigger, some instances of these email storms have gotten to 1000 reply-all mark within 10-15 minutes.
    – There are occasionally the people who like to watch the world burn and reply-all with meme images about the reply-all.
    – sometimes a persons or team’s pager alias gets added to the reply-all storm – that’s where if an email gets sent to it, an alarm goes off. This usually means there’s some urgent service issue that needs to be resolved, but when it’s constantly going off, it’s impossible to tell.
    – we have specific training in orientation about this topic and how to avoid it (including references to historical events in our company and the impact it caused)
    – our IT has gotten better over the years at identifying and blocking these, so instead of lasting for hours or days, they’re over in 15 mins or so (but still result in hundreds of messages)

    Reply
  69. Ella bee bee

    My job has a huge reply all problem. It feels as though every single email that gets sent to a group is followed by replies from the group that are only relevant to the original sender.

    I feel terrible even being bothered by this because it’s a nice idea, but my work also sends out a lot of emails recognizing staff for their recent accomplishments, like “Jane pulled off an amazing fundraiser this week! Take a moment to congratulate her when you see her!” This on its own is nice, but then every single time one of those emails goes out, I immediately get 20 emails that say some version of “good job, Jane!” I am not Jane, I don’t want her congratulations emails and I don’t understand why these emails can’t just be sent directly to her instead of to the entire list.
    I once missed an important email because it was buried in a list of emails congratulating a coworker I’d never even met on her engagement.

    Reply
  70. Doctor Schmoctor

    Maybe I just work in a very boring place, but this just doesn’t happen here. Maybe one person will reply to all, some of us will have a chuckle, and everybody else will just ignore it. We also don’t steal each other’s food from the fridge.

    But we do have a thief in the office. This person has stolen a huge amount of cash from a safe, computers, network equipment from an access controlled room. It’s amazing. Security cameras all over the place, but they can’t catch the bastard.

    Reply
  71. Kaffeekocherin

    I used to work in a law firm that had set up an Outlook blank email form for everybody that disabled reply all. When I went through the onboarding process it was stressed that that form had to be used for all emails going to large distribution lists, client mailings, or internal notification emails (like IT notifications re. server updates). Sure, you couldn’t avoid all reply alls, but it did help a lot.

    If you want to set up such an Outlook form for yourself (to avoid being the patient zero of a reply all apocalypse), you can find the instructions here: https://www.technipages.com/outlook-disable-reply-to-all-email-recipients

    Reply
  72. Alexis Rose

    I work in a cubicle farm, and lots of people have their computer volume turned on and get ding notifications whenever they get an email, or they have blackberry’s hooked up to their email, same thing. Normally not a problem and I tune it out pretty well. HOWEVER, during reply all hell events, EVERY computer or phone in the area with sound on will ping, and they’re not synchronized so you get this chaos of pings every time a new email is sent on the thread. Its delightful and adds to the hilarity of the situation.

    Reply
  73. Seeking Second Childhood

    When we had a reply-to-all storm a while ago, I made an MSOutlook filter to send anything with its (thankfully unique) subject line directly to the trash….and emptied the trash hourly until corporate IT got to work in their time zone and obliterated things at the source.

    Reply
    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      (And obviously I should have read farther than I did LOL. Alison can feel free to delete this and my original.)

      Reply
  74. MCMonkeyBean

    When we had a big round of reply-all mess going around once, our boss said in a joking-not-joking voice that he better not ever see one of us respond to a chain like that. More bosses should be clear on that IMO lol.

    My favorite response to an email like this was when someone just replied “I think this was sent to the wrong Susan.” Susan, no! 1) it was clearly sent to like… EVERYONE and 2) it was *signed* by a Susan, not addressed to a Susan. Jeez.

    Reply
  75. HigherEd Person

    If anyone here works at a university in the Baltimore area, you might have been held captive by the reply-all hell from a few years ago.

    Some random grad or PhD student go ahold of EVERYONE’s emails all nearly all 17 area universities, and send out an invite to a Henrietta Lacks lecture. This triggered the hours-long reply-all hell, with everyone demanding to be removed from the list, and one particular gem stating “Why is everyone so mean? Spread love and positivity, everyone!”

    Reply
  76. Checkert

    This happened when I was in the Army (twice, but the first was the real doozy). My job relied primarily on email and because the reply all was the entire Army wide, literally nothing could get done for about 2 days. It started with the entire Army, then a senior leader thought, “Hmmm I have a high rank, I’ll just email the entire division to tell them to stop” making the same fatal ‘To’ vs BCC error, thereby multiplying the reply-all storms. My office literally brought in pizza, drinks and popcorn and sat back and watched it projected up on a screen in a conference room (after we got what we could do on hard copy done for the day). Good times. Idiots.

    Reply
  77. R.L.

    Why don’t people put large distro lists in BCCs and then add a memo “To: [Distro List]” in the body of the email?

    Reply
  78. helpless desk guy

    it’s crazy frustrating when that happens to even a small distribution list. but it shouldn’t happen to big ones – your email administrators should be locking down your email system to prevent anyone from sending out to large groups whose jobs do not require it. It’s easy to set a limit people can only send to a certain number of people, and it’s easy to lock down the distribution lists that are large so only authorized people can send to them. that way only users who actually need to send big email blasts can do so, and anyone in the organization who does reply to all won’t be able to do so if they aren’t allowed. finally, train your people who are authorized to always use BCC when sending to large distribution lists, so nobody can do a reply to all. -help desk guy.

    Reply
  79. Erin84

    True story: I reconnected with my godmother, who I hadn’t spoken to since I was a tiny child, after we both were included in a massive, strange reply-all email thread. I saw her name in one of the many replies, sent her an email asking if she was who I thought she was, and lo and behold, she was! It was really lovely, and we’ve been in touch since.

    Reply
  80. econobiker

    When I was working as a contractor for a global-sized automobile manufacturing company, I saw the “Reply all” go completely wonky and affect emails of the company for its entire western hemisphere operations. I am talking about hundreds of thousands of emails reverberating when everyone from contractors like me to front line sales people in dealerships, to back office janitorial staff, to manufacturing line associates all the way up to the executive offices are getting 80-100 emails. IT eventually shutdown the group email addresses that were the primary offenders and I think automatically dumped the subject emails into spam or trash bins in our Outlook.
    About a week later company wide “training” then was performed by everyone about the “reply all” function. After these incidents, the use of company wide and huge sized group email lists was locked down by the IT department for only specific people in specific functions (like divisional HR). Prior to that, anyone in the company had access to entire company wide group email lists if you knew how to search the global Outlook address book.

    Reply
    1. econobiker

      In a similar vein about using the BCC line, I was once emailed by a vendor who included everyone in his sales and contacts email addresses in the To: and CC: lines. The theme of the email was that “Hi this this Bob Jone, I no longer have my own company Teapot Sales but have sold the business to and now work for Coffeepot Sales so please contact me there for your needs.” Probably about 200 email addresses spread among the two lines.

      Wellllllll that did not work out very well for Bob Jones because one of HIS vendors email replied all in the address line to the affect “Bob Jone, this is Sam Smith your vendor who has not been paid the $15,000 you owe. When can I expect payment? Let me know otherwise I will contact Coffeepot Sales about this issue.”

      Reply
  81. JustSayin

    How about HR (or whatever department) create a document or memo about email etiquette and distribute it to the entire company? Some people feel they need to email 20+ vaguely related people of the company as an FYI.

    -Who to generally include (need to know basis)
    -Tone
    -Context
    -General communication advice
    -What is and may not be appropriate for email. Etc?

    Reply

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