How to respond to incorrectly addressed email?
December 13, 2006 12:19 PM   Subscribe

What's the best response to an incorrectly addressed email?

I have a common-ish first initial, last name Gmail account. Increasingly, I receive email from people I don't know, usually on a list. One person in particular has put me on his joke email list and he sends tons of crapmail. I usually just delete (as I have found that actually communicating the mistake to people, even politely, can lead to even more confusion), but I'm wondering if there isn't maybe a perfect response. I was planning to ditch this address but it's going to be so much work to transfer mail and notify everyone that I'd rather fight to keep it. Suggestions? Unfortunately Gmail does not allow you to block/bounce an address, only filter a particular address straight to trash.
posted by _sirmissalot_ to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
Why not just mark as spam? Gmail will then block the address and you wont see it again. That's what I do when lists make me sign in to unsubscribe instead of a simple link.
posted by special-k at 12:22 PM on December 13, 2006

In order to avoid confusion, you could reply and write in the subject line "RE: YOU HAVE THE WRONG ADDRESS -PLEASE TAKE ME OFF YOUR BATCH EMAIL LIST"
You could always send them back something particularly offensive and see what happens. I am thinking of doing this myself with some family members who keep sending me sappy, saccharine, religious forwards.
posted by melangell at 12:29 PM on December 13, 2006

Simple: Tell them to double-check their address book, as you'd hate for the intended recipient to miss something important in the future. If people can't understand that, they're probably too dim to be using e-mail properly in the first place (but that is out of your control).
posted by phatkitten at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2006

Of course, the response I posted only applies if you are considerate enough to care that some stranger has their contact information messed up. As someone who has missed extremely important messages due to address book typos, I always try to alert other people to their bad typing so they avoid similar trouble.
posted by phatkitten at 12:38 PM on December 13, 2006

For a little while, I was receiving mail for another Dan at my email address. Since the mail supposedly was for a business meeting of some kind, I replied to the woman sending them saying:


I'm sorry, you have the wrong address. This is not Dan Whatever.

Dan S."

and she replied saying "Sorry Dan, I will take you out of my address book." Not an email since.
posted by daninnj at 12:42 PM on December 13, 2006

Where I work (large co.), there is another person with the same name as me, same spelling and all but in a different department. I will sometimes get email for her. Usually I will respond with a note like,

"Hi, I think you have the wrong [firstname lastname]. I work in X dept., not Y dept."

most of the time this works but a few times it's been completely disregarded and I continue to get emails for the other person. So then that's when I blocked the email addresses.
posted by sutel at 12:55 PM on December 13, 2006

Being somewhat old, I have an extremely simple address from a huge Brazilian ISP (I was working for them before they opened up in 1995, so I could pretty much choose the email address I wanted). This address receives lots of spam (dully filtered by Thunderbird) and its share of innocent mismatches. I've already received internal payroll spreadsheets, business plan discussions, real personal photos (the family vacation type, not the porn type), etc.

When I think I am receiving sensitive data addressed to someone else I usually write a message asking the sender to correct the problem. Most of the time it works. Now and then the sender is unresponsive, so I use the Reply-to-All (company data is usually circulated to more than one person) and it solves the problem. Most of the time I just ignore the problem and it goes away.

As for the person who included you in his jokes list, you can ask him/her kindly to correct the mistake. If you get no answer, just mark it as spam and Gmail will take care of the rest.
posted by nkyad at 1:00 PM on December 13, 2006

Someone does that to my account too. She's been doing it for almost a year. She keeps calling me "Jen" and "chickie" I tried telling her she had the wrong person, several times. It's just not penetrating her brain. Fortunately, her correspondance isn't regular, nor is it spam. I think she's in college. She told me to have a "fucking awesome" Thanksgiving and gave me a rundown of her plans when she goes "home" for the holiday. I like to think of it as a penpal I neglect.

I vote for emailing the person, several times if needed. I think the straight-forward polite route is the way to go at first. If that doesn't stop, a "reply-all" where you repeatedly say "Please remove me from your list, you have the wrong sirmissalot!!" over and over would be your next move.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:14 PM on December 13, 2006

This happens to me periodically. I just send an email saying they have the wrong person and it stops.

Once though I accidentally got an invite to a cool-sounding Chiapas benefit and although I couldn't go (the event was in Montreal and I'm in California) I did have a funny ongoing corresponance with the sender for a while.
posted by serazin at 1:33 PM on December 13, 2006

Why not just mark as spam? Gmail will then block the address and you wont see it again.

Please don't do this if it's not actually bulk unsolicited mail. When you do, you're not just telling Google to delete that message for you, but you're also slowly convincing it that all mail from that user, domain, or ISP has a higher probability of being spam.

Result #1 is that the other Gmail users who want to correspond with that domain have a harder time doing so; result #2 is that Gmail's spam filters have a slightly harder time finding other spam because they've now been trained on some legitimate mail.
posted by mendel at 1:47 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Sometimes those kinds of emails are actually spam probes, ways of checking to see if a given email address is live.

Responding confirms that it is.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Agree with SCDB. Setting up a filter that sends it to trash is the way to go.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:20 PM on December 13, 2006

Just set up a filter in Gmail and have it skip the inbox and archive the message. You'll never see it and gmail won't be falsely led to believe that it's spam.
posted by fletchmuy at 2:25 PM on December 13, 2006

So people who may or may not know you personally sending out ridiculous bulk mail no longer counts for spam?

You aren't under any obligations here. I would just mark everything spam. And maybe write a letter to google requesting the addition of this reasonable feature.
posted by shownomercy at 3:06 PM on December 13, 2006

I keep getting "Ricardo's" flight confirmations from Southwest. Apparently, this donkey is jetting all over the country...from Raleigh/Durham to Vegas to Tucson...
I ignore em because, hey, I can't take his flight...or can I?
posted by nineRED at 3:55 PM on December 13, 2006

With a 3 letter Yahoo email I have the same problem. It depends, but if it is some ones grandmother I'll try to help. If it is some one that used a random email I'll unsubscribe or block. If it is some one that signs up for a dating service or an Indian marriage search site I'll change their profile and change the address (because those sites always send the user name and password). Just be aware that there is a 6'7" ugly woman in India, that either can' or won't type her own email address, looking for a midget.
posted by mss at 4:30 PM on December 13, 2006

If it looks legitimate, I usually respond to correct the error. It almost always works in 1 try.

"Dear X:

I believe you have the wrong John Doe. Good luck."

Pretty easy, and can be very useful. If I had the wrong address, I would want to know. Common courtesy. What's the harm?

I keep receiving these emails in my Gmail I am very suspicious of, therefore I have not responded to them. It is this somewhat technical discussion of multi-million dollar financial transactions via international exchanges. Not requesting anything, just very short, loaded with jargon, and request to "let me know". Like (made up example) "Credit Suisse giving 20m at 7 with AGC in 3. Let me know."

I find it fantastic that someone who would be involved in these kinds of transactions would have a gmail account. But, what else would they use, yahoo?

Entertaining, even if it is only an elaborate spam fishing expedition. I've actually considered responding something like "Thanks. 5mil at ZB. Call me tomorrow." just on the extraordinary offchance it might be real, and I might actually spend 5mil of someone else's money.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:46 PM on December 13, 2006

I find it fantastic that someone who would be involved in these kinds of transactions would have a gmail account. But, what else would they use, yahoo?

Umm, likely they would use their company's domain. I doubt anybody doing multimillion dollar financial transactions would trust their private data in another company's mail server.

As to the question, if a simple response saying "Wrong person, sorry" goes unanswered, then I would have no qualms about marking further correspondence as spam. As soon as you've told them about it once, any further messages from them really ARE spam.
posted by antifuse at 1:58 AM on December 14, 2006

antifuse: I agree on both points. I meant fantastic as in "hard to believe" or "unlikely".

And I have received some sort of friend invite for some UK social site about 15 times. After telling her 3 times "you have the wrong person" I now just delete on sight.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:59 AM on December 14, 2006

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