Stupid user trick No. 4: Reply regret
Emails with multiple recipients can get tricky -- especially when some of the recipients are listed as cc's or bcc's.
Karen Swim has become an expert on the matter. Swim, a marketing and PR professional at Words for Hire, has a form on her company's website that visitors can fill out to get in touch. Queries come in addressed to her and two other colleagues.
Not long ago, Swim got an email from a vendor who was pitching an idea. It was late in the week and she was running low on steam.
"I did not have the energy for a 'thanks but no thanks' response, so I replied that I was going to basically blow it off -- thinking I was only responding to our internal teams," she says.
Sure enough, the response ended up going to the vendor instead of her colleagues. Whoops. The guy responded a few minutes later saying he didn't understand and asking if he had missed something.
"I was mortified and had to backtrack with a lame excuse, an apology, and a much nicer rejection!" she says.
The moral: Don't fall into the wrong-reply trap. When you're dealing with an existing thread, treat replies or forwards with extreme caution -- lest you end up sending a snarky remark to the wrong party.
Stupid user trick No. 5: The filter falter
Filters are powerful tools -- and like any powerful tool, they can backfire easily.
Sam Jackson learned that the hard way. Jackson, a marketing coordinator at Mojo Motors, helped set up a profanity filter for his company's website some years back. If you tried to sign in to the site with a name that contained a blacklisted word, the site would deliver a playful response and ask for your real name.
The system worked great -- until the day a certain prospective customer tried to sign in. Her real last name, as it turned out, also happened to be an old-fashioned racial slur.
"Each time she tried to sign in, her attempt was blocked and she saw a message indicating that she could not register," Jackson recalls.
In fact, the woman saw some of these messages:
- "Watch your language, sailor! Enter your real name."
- "Do you need toilet paper for that potty mouth?"
- "Wow -- with that name, your parents must really hate you!"
Needless to say, the woman was not amused. She fired off an angry email to Jackson's staff and promised never to do business with them again. The company did its best to apologize, but the damage was already done.
"She got really offended," Jackson says. "It was an eye-opener for us."
The moral: Being witty and playful can work well in certain circumstances, but there's a fine line between fun and offensive. If you're going to toe that line, make sure you do it carefully and with proper precautions in place.