Return to Sender in the Modern Era

I’ve been having a spate of wrong emails lately, Squiders. You know the ones–where someone is looking for their friend, or their business compatriot, or their lab partner, and doesn’t check to make sure they have the right email address, and you get an email from someone you’ve never met.

(My husband has been having issues for years–there’s a Spanish-speaking family who has him on their email list, despite numerous attempts–my husband speaks Spanish–to explain to them that they’ve got the wrong person.)

I’ve been having a more interesting issue lately, and that’s that someone out there doesn’t know their own email address, but thinks it’s mine, and keeps signing me up for newsletters for businesses in another state. This morning I got a personal email meant for said person who does not know their own email address.

But I just think the whole thing with emails sent to the wrong person is a little strange. It’s a problem we never would have had back in the snail mail era. No one would write a letter meant for Joe Blow of Richmond, Virginia and then accidentally send it to Joe Blow of Modesto, California. I suppose there might have been some instances of people with the same name in the same town getting mail meant for the other, but I bet you it wasn’t as common.

Now there’s a ton of easy ways to send email to the wrong person. It’s as easy as making a typo, or assuming you know someone’s address because you know their name. (I made the mistake of keeping my college email after I graduated, and I have the email without the middle initial, so now I get email for everyone of the same name who comes after me. I always try, especially if it seems like an important email, to let the sender know quickly and politely that they’ve sent to the wrong person, but some of the college kids apparently don’t learn.) Or forgetting their address and guessing, or knowing two people with the same name and sending to the wrong one…

And at least, with snail mail, if you got mail that obviously wasn’t meant for you, you could just send it back with a note on the envelope. That’s harder with email. You’ve got to open it to see if it’s really meant for you, in a lot of cases, and you can’t reply without doing so as well. And sometimes I get some really heartfelt missives that obviously weren’t meant for me (like the poor dad looking for his daughter whom he hadn’t spoken to in years), and then I always feel bad for prying.

So, random public service announcement, I guess. Know your own email address so you’re not giving out the wrong one! And double-check someone else’s address if it’s someone new or someone you don’t email very often!

You ever gotten anything interesting that was obviously meant for someone else?

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