Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Techno-quette => Topic started by: Free Range Hippy Chick on June 16, 2013, 01:03:21 PM

Title: Blank Emails
Post by: Free Range Hippy Chick on June 16, 2013, 01:03:21 PM
DH commented to me today that he had received a blank email from the woman from whom we are renting a house for a week this summer, presumably because the final payment was due this weekend (he's made the payment). I was bewildered, but he tells me that he has been informed by someone else that this is now a standard means of sending a reminder, on any subject. Payment is due now? I send you a blank email. I'm expecting you to send me details of our next contract, and you haven't done it? I send you a blank email. You have an appointment with me tomorrow? I send you a blank email.

Now presumably it's not totally blank: presumably the header says 'Payment Due' or 'Terms and Conditions' or 'Your Appointment' but even so, it strikes me as odd. I can't decide whether or not I think it's rude, although I'm tending that way: it feels to me like an electronic version of the way a small child comes and hovers beside you when the ice cream van comes, without ever saying 'Auntie Chick, may I have an ice cream?'

On the other hand, it does seem to be that it would be a grossly inefficient way of reminding anybody of anything. If I haven't remembered that I promised to send you details of how to find that odd little antique shop, I'm probably still not going to remember if you send me a blank email. I'm just going to think that your email has been hacked and is sending out random spam, and I'm going to send you a message to that effect.

Has anybody else come across this? Am I (as usual) years behind the times and grumbling about something that's standard practice?
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: CaffeineKatie on June 16, 2013, 01:11:26 PM
Sounds pretty silly to me--why wouldn't you write a short note?  Unless all of your friends are psychic, it just doesn't make sense.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: PastryGoddess on June 16, 2013, 01:12:28 PM
No you're not behind.  This is definitely not standard as far as I know
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: NyaChan on June 16, 2013, 01:18:04 PM
I haven't heard of this at all.  Taking quite a chance here aren't they?  I mean if my options are to remind a person in words to pay me or just send them a blank email in the hopes that they'll remember that they should pay me, I'd be going with the first option
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Lynnv on June 16, 2013, 01:27:24 PM
It is not something I have seen.  And it feels very abrupt.

If there is a subject line that covers everything that needs to be said (something like "Last Payment Due Now, Please Remit," I suppose I can see it.  Sort of.  I think it would seem more natural to say something, even something short like "Please contact Jenny at 867-5309 with any questions" in the body.

Even when all I am doing is letting a client know that their large attachment arrived in my inbox (sometimes our system chokes on the big ones), I always send an email.  And a blank reply would seem very strange.  At a minimum, it will have my contact information and say "Attachment received.  I will contact you with any questions after review."  Otherwise, the email just feels abrupt and annoying to me.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: cicero on June 16, 2013, 01:34:00 PM
We do this at work, especially if person A needs to get a message to person B while one or the other ( or both) are in as meeting. I never thought of it as rude, rather as ''efficient''
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: NyaChan on June 16, 2013, 02:13:44 PM
We do this at work, especially if person A needs to get a message to person B while one or the other ( or both) are in as meeting. I never thought of it as rude, rather as ''efficient''

But how are they sending a message if the email is blank, no subject, no content?
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Tea Drinker on June 16, 2013, 02:21:13 PM
I've gotten occasional blank emails, mostly from people who didn't seem entirely familiar with how email worked: they seem to be entering mental "To: Tea Drinker", then typing a short message in the next line, hitting "send," then OK when the software asks whether they want to send a blank message.

I sometimes do a variant on that, with "Subject: Here's the proofread version of $document" and then no message content except the attachment. It seems reasonable as part of an ongoing discussion: if I send that, there will have been a previous email about "Dear Tea Drinker, Can you get this back to me by Wednesday" or an IM "I found those photos, do you want a scanned copy?"

If I got an entirely blank message, with neither subject nor message body, I would assume either a glitch or (if there was an attachment) spam or phishing, and delete it. It wouldn't serve as a reminder, where "Hi, Tea Drinker, see you for lunch tomorrow at 12:30" works as a reminder if we've already made plans. I'd rather have it in email than as a text message.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: MariaE on June 16, 2013, 02:21:44 PM
We do this at work, especially if person A needs to get a message to person B while one or the other ( or both) are in as meeting. I never thought of it as rude, rather as ''efficient''

But how are they sending a message if the email is blank, no subject, no content?

I think the OP said that the email had a subject - it was just the body that was empty.

I think this is a "know your audience" kind of thing. We do it at work all the time.
"I'll be a bit late. EOM"
"The deploy has completed successfully. EOM"
"I've rebooted the server. EOM"
...etc.
And nobody thinks that's rude. It's just efficient.

However, I would never do it to a client or as such an abrupt reminder as in the OP. That does strike me as rude.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: NyaChan on June 16, 2013, 02:23:47 PM
Ohhh that makes so much more sense! LOL
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Outdoor Girl on June 16, 2013, 02:32:57 PM
It's done in the business world for short messages that fit in the subject line so the recipient, who is likely trying to read it on a smart phone or Blackberry, doesn't have to open the email.

It is encouraged where I work.  I never do it but it is encouraged.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: kherbert05 on June 16, 2013, 02:51:19 PM
We do this at work, especially if person A needs to get a message to person B while one or the other ( or both) are in as meeting. I never thought of it as rude, rather as ''efficient''

But how are they sending a message if the email is blank, no subject, no content?

I think the OP said that the email had a subject - it was just the body that was empty.

I think this is a "know your audience" kind of thing. We do it at work all the time.
"I'll be a bit late. EOM"
"The deploy has completed successfully. EOM"
"I've rebooted the server. EOM"
...etc.
And nobody thinks that's rude. It's just efficient.

However, I would never do it to a client or as such an abrupt reminder as in the OP. That does strike me as rude.
We do this at work also - but to people that get it. Also to people that tend to use their smart phones for e-mail.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Surianne on June 16, 2013, 03:12:20 PM
If there's a message in the subject header I don't see a problem with it.  I'm pretty used to receiving these, both at work and for quick messages from friends. 

I don't understand why you would see it as spam, OP?  Particularly because it sounds like you know full well it's a reminder that your rent is due, why would you think your landlord was spamming you about rent?
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Free Range Hippy Chick on June 16, 2013, 03:46:36 PM
If there's a message in the subject header I don't see a problem with it.  I'm pretty used to receiving these, both at work and for quick messages from friends. 

I don't understand why you would see it as spam, OP?  Particularly because it sounds like you know full well it's a reminder that your rent is due, why would you think your landlord was spamming you about rent?

I can see it at work - I do something similar, I suppose, with attachments. I'll put 'May Management Accounts' in the header, attach the file and my email has a signature. I'll do it for an internal email because I send the management accounts every month and everybody's expecting them.

I wouldn't do it externally - I wouldn't send the files to the auditors with nothing more than a header saying 'Name of Company' although I imagine they would work it out. It seems abrupt. And anyway, it's not quite what I understood was being done - these blank messages are apparently reminders, not genuine transfer-of-information messages.

The one about the rent, it isn't regular rent from a landlord we're in regular communication with. This is a one off holiday week, and as it happens, the header doesn't actually ask for the rent, it just has the name of the property. The rent isn't overdue; it's due some time within the next five days, and actually, because this is a one off transaction, I would have expected to get a statement of account (by email possibly) quoting the booking reference, the date we're taking the house, the total balance and the deposit we've already paid, and a note of 'final payment by whatever date, please'. In fact, we're guessing that this is what the email is about. It could perfectly well be that the landlady's account has been hacked and is sending out spam. So in point of fact, we don't know that it's a request for the rent. I suppose what I'm objecting to is that this isn't work, and the landlady isn't a friend; this is a pure business transaction and I don't think this is an appropriate business communication.

The other example my DH had heard was, in my opinion, even odder. The teacher of his evening class does occasional demonstrations at public events. He is booked to do one, say, on the August Bank Holiday at Thingummy Hall. Because Thingummy Hall wishes to print a programme, they want a small bio of him, and two lines about what he's going to demonstrate. He has had a blank email from Jane Smith, which says only 'Thingummy Hall'. He does not know who Jane Smith is or what her connection with Thingummy Hall is; her email is jane.smith@email.co.uk, not jane.smith@thingummy.hall.org. So he doesn't know her (he was booked by David Jones), he doesn't recognise her address, and he's supposed to work out that she's chasing him for his programme notes?

And yet, when he emailed her back, saying that he'd had a blank email, and asking if she had a query, she said 'everybody does this, it's a standard reminder'. Well, standard it might be, but reminder it plainly was not, because it didn't succeed in reminding him of anything. It may be an extreme example, with a complete dearth of information, but is it standard? 

Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Roe on June 16, 2013, 04:25:02 PM
Between co-workers, not an issue.  Between clients, not professional.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Surianne on June 16, 2013, 04:30:36 PM
Ah, thanks for clarifying, OP -- the theatre bio one seems very unusual to me.  I was imagining something more like an email header that said "Reminder - bio for Thingummy Hall due Sunday" which would contain all of the info you needed.  Very strange.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Twik on June 17, 2013, 10:48:26 AM
We do this at work, especially if person A needs to get a message to person B while one or the other ( or both) are in as meeting. I never thought of it as rude, rather as ''efficient''

It strikes me as very inefficient, because you're not actually getting a message to person B, unless A and B have agreed in advance that a blank message has a particular meaning. Getting a blank message is sort of like having someone poke you. It doesn't, by itself, convey anything other than "give me your attention!"

If I receive a blank message, I will respond with "What can I do for you? I'm afraid your message didn't go through." Then the other person will have to actually type out what they want. This means we have exchanged 3 messages to do the work of one.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Yvaine on June 17, 2013, 10:55:37 AM
If the subject line conveys the whole message, I can see the purpose. Totally blank, I'd think it was an accident and not catch the clue at all.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: ti_ax on June 17, 2013, 11:15:04 AM
Quote
she said 'everybody does this, it's a standard reminder'.
How can you remind someone of something you never told them in the first place?
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: IWish on June 17, 2013, 11:18:35 AM
Free Range,

Is this rental through an on-line rental agency such as VRBO (Vacations Rentals By Owner) or such? Because if so, there has been a rash of scams where someone hacks into the owners' emails and sends payment requests out to the potential renters. They give them new instructions on where to send the rental fees. The emails look like they come from the original homeowner since the email address is the same. By the time the renter and the homeowner figure it out, the money is long gone. It's been a real problem for several of these rental sites.

So, I might have my guard up if I suddenly got an email that somehow seemed "off" from my previous emails with the homeowner. And this does seem "off" based on what you've said. Just a thought.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Free Range Hippy Chick on June 17, 2013, 02:50:55 PM
No, this is a private rental. We have actually stayed there twice before but since once was 15 years ago and once was 7 I don't think the owner remembers us and we never dealt by email until this year.

Frankly I think I'm sticking with 'you sent me a blank email; do you want something?'
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Surianne on June 17, 2013, 03:27:07 PM
I think that's a good way to handle it. 
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: cwm on June 17, 2013, 03:57:23 PM
Between co-workers, not an issue.  Between clients, not professional.

Agreed. My mom and I work in the same company, same building, different departments. If we need to pass a quick note, we'll send an email with no body, all the information is in the subject. I'll even do it to my sister for something informal, and she'll do the same to me or mom. With our email client, it comes up as a popup on screen if we're at our desk with the subject displayed. And in our email client, the subject is displayed without having to select the email. Very easy for short messages.

I would never email a client like that, and I wouldn't expect them to do that to me.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: TootsNYC on June 18, 2013, 11:32:48 AM
If your subject line says "last payment due 6/15," there's sort of nothing left to say.

Niceties, like "thank you for your business" or something. But nothing of any substance.

And I think w/ alot of people reading email on their smartphone, it's handy to have the subject line be the entire substance.

I don't think it's rude at all--just a different style.

OP, what did the subject line say?

Most email programs won't let you send a message that's COMPLETELY empty.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Free Range Hippy Chick on June 18, 2013, 11:37:14 AM
It said 'The Lodge' or whatever the name of the holiday cottage is. Nothing else at all. And we've looked up the contract and the rent is in fact not due this Friday which was when we thought it was, it's due on the 30th.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: daen on June 18, 2013, 05:58:43 PM
If your subject line says "last payment due 6/15," there's sort of nothing left to say.

Niceties, like "thank you for your business" or something. But nothing of any substance.

And I think w/ alot of people reading email on their smartphone, it's handy to have the subject line be the entire substance.

I don't think it's rude at all--just a different style.

OP, what did the subject line say?

Most email programs won't let you send a message that's COMPLETELY empty.

It said 'The Lodge' or whatever the name of the holiday cottage is. Nothing else at all. And we've looked up the contract and the rent is in fact not due this Friday which was when we thought it was, it's due on the 30th.

In that case, it's my opinion that even if this is what everybody is doing, either she hasn't quite grasped the fine details, or everyone around her (bar you) is psychic.

That's simply not enough information for proper communication.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: wyliefool on June 21, 2013, 10:57:30 AM
Even in cases where there's a short note and it's considered 'efficient', such as 'be there at 11', the proper netiquette is to then write (nt) for 'no text'. Because otherwise the recipient may not know that there's nothing more to the message, and may open the email, which wastes their time. Some email clients may show in the pop-up that there's no text, but even still if you aren't there when the pop-up pops, all you'll see is the subject and you'll open the email to see if there's anything more.

I've seen this done in online forums where people are in a conversation much of which fits in the subject lines. So there's a string of 'blahblah (nt)' which is indeed efficient but would be highly irritating w/o the (nt) there to let one know not to bother clicking.

In the case of the OP's biog lady, that's just weird.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: PastryGoddess on June 21, 2013, 11:57:25 AM
Not everyone knows what (nt) means.  I have never seen it before and I would consider myself pretty web savvy.  I mean it would be pretty obvious once I opened my message, that the subject was the information I needed.

it's like using POD, that has a very specific usage, but is not by any means universally used throughout the web.

Remember, just because you (general) see or use an acronym or abbreviation all of the time, doesn't mean that everyone else does.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: wyliefool on June 21, 2013, 01:01:33 PM
Not everyone knows what (nt) means.  I have never seen it before and I would consider myself pretty web savvy.  I mean it would be pretty obvious once I opened my message, that the subject was the information I needed.

it's like using POD, that has a very specific usage, but is not by any means universally used throughout the web.

Remember, just because you (general) see or use an acronym or abbreviation all of the time, doesn't mean that everyone else does.

What I generally do, the first time I use it w/ someone, is write in the body area "(nt) means 'no text.'" That way if they didn't know, they do now.  ;D  Then the next time I don't bother w/ that.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: citadelle on June 21, 2013, 03:53:05 PM
In my workplace, "eom" meaning "end of message" is used. I think the concept is pretty universal, but the abbreviations may not be.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: Girly on June 23, 2013, 08:11:56 PM
I manage about 20 rentals, and there have been times I have started an email, and accidentally hit send in the middle of typing.

I have never just sent a blank email with a subject only.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: ishka on June 23, 2013, 10:35:17 PM

And yet, when he emailed her back, saying that he'd had a blank email, and asking if she had a query, she said 'everybody does this, it's a standard reminder'.

This is totally unprofessional and makes this woman sound like she is about twelve.  I assume her job is to ensure that information is communicated, not to condescend to the people she is dealing with or to educate them about what "everybody" does.  Clearly not "everybody" does this otherwise there would not be a problem. Her email was totally ineffective in communicating anything to the recipient; when this was brought to her attention she should have apologised not delivered a little mini-lecture on what she sees as being standard.
Title: Re: Blank Emails
Post by: TootsNYC on June 25, 2013, 09:58:54 AM
Not everyone knows what (nt) means.  I have never seen it before and I would consider myself pretty web savvy.  I mean it would be pretty obvious once I opened my message, that the subject was the information I needed.

it's like using POD, that has a very specific usage, but is not by any means universally used throughout the web.

Remember, just because you (general) see or use an acronym or abbreviation all of the time, doesn't mean that everyone else does.

I agree. That's why at the place I worked, we made a point to tell new colleagues about the convention. (Nobody told me, but I figured it out eventually.)

I don't think there is any "proper netiquette" that everybody knows and understands.

And if the OP's landlady wanted to remind people--why didn't say something more sensible in the subject line, like "payment reminder"? Insert eyeroll here.

But, now the OP knows what the landlady's "secret code" is.