General Etiquette > Techno-quette

How often do e-mails go astray?

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Background: I am curious what other people's experiences have been with e-mail. I am NOT upset or angry; puzzled, mostly.

My wife and I are involved in a business transaction with a woman who runs her own small business.  Our involvement started about six weeks ago and will run for roughly another three or four months before it is all concluded. end background

Two or three weeks ago the businesswoman called with a question regarding an e-mail she had sent to my wife.  My wife never received that e-mail - or another e-mail the businesswoman also said she had sent my wife earlier that same week.

I just assumed (without actually checking) that the businesswoman had misspelled my wife's e-mail address (because it is an oddly-spelled address), so after I checked with my wife I sent the businesswoman an e-mail from my own account with the correct spelling of my wife's address. I also asked the businesswoman to please go ahead and cc me in future e-mails. Since then my wife and I both have received three or four e-mails from the businesswoman.

Then today there was a polite e-mail from the businesswoman asking if we hadn't received her e-mails at the beginning of the week regarding a step in our business deal that requires my wife and me to take a particular action, and wouldn't we please go ahead and follow the instructions in those e-mails so she can proceed.  (Her message was polite but her tone sounded a little impatient with us, since she had been waiting all week.)

Well, we never received those e-mails.  I thoroughly searched my inbox, my spam folder, even my trash folder, both manually and automatically.  There is no such message from her anywhere in my e-mail account.  My wife has been checking her own e-mail daily, too, and she also did not receive hers.

I replied and asked the businesswoman to please re-send the messages and promised we will follow up quickly.  (I went ahead and manually added her to my contact list, too, although if that was the problem, her missing message should be in my spam folder, right?)

Question:  Does this sort of thing (vanished e-mails) happen frequently?  This makes four e-mails from that sender (3 to my wife and 1 to me) that have gone missing in roughly less than a month's time.  We do not have this problem with anyone else we do business with, just this one woman.

I don't think that the businesswoman is fibbing to us about really having sent the e-mails.  What would the point be?  The sooner we conclude all the steps involved, the sooner she will receive the balance of our money due her.

I'll be curious to hear what experiences others have had.

(OH - and, yes, I'm thinking maybe we should ask her to just telephone us in the future, but there are some aspects of the business that are very good to be able to see in a written e-mail.)

Outdoor Girl:
I wonder if she is losing them on her end?  I'd sent an email to my brother and he hadn't responded, which was very unusual.  A couple of days later, I was doing some cleanup and discovered the email I thought I sent him in the draft folder.  It didn't actually go through.

So it is possible that the problem is on her end and she doesn't realize it.  But I don't know how you'd go about approaching her to check on that.

Harriet Jones:
My guess would be "operator error" on her part,  although sometimes I wonder if my internet service provider discards some of my email instead of just sending it to the spam folder.  And sometimes emails show up in my inbox *hours* after they were sent.

Until last year, I would have been suspected operator error if somebody said that four emails went astray. However, my employer switched email providers last year, and for quite a while it was hit or miss as to whether your email was actually going to arrive where it was supposed to. Most did, but there would be days when my emails wouldn't send, and it took me several hours to realize I had 15 emails sitting in my "Outbox" but not actually sent. Similarly, some days I would be receiving emails as if there were no problem, but some colleagues' emails wouldn't arrive in my inbox. They typically eventually arrived, anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day after being sent. (The emails showed the original sent time when they finally popped into my inbox, so I could see that my colleagues were clearly telling the truth about when the mail was sent.) And some emails just never made it. It's been a mess (though thankfully the problem seems to have been fixed).

So, it's possible it's user error, but it's also possible there's a problem with her email provider.

In all the years - since dialup and Win95 - never. One friend has a really slow provider, so sometimes it's 2 days before it goes through, but it always does.

We've never used email at work - it was available, but not much used when we were with the school district.


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