True Stories
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Unfortunate Reply All Disasters That'll Make You Cringe

Updated October 13, 2018 80.7k views19 items

The "reply all" function of an email interface rarely comes in handy. If you’re on a group email with two or three people, okay, that's probably fine, but you rarely hear positive reply-all stories. From the smallest grass roots organizations to mega corporations, reply-all fails are snakes in the grass waiting to strike. If you haven’t experienced the unique shame of accidentally emailing 10,000 people your thoughts on the finale of The Bachelor, you haven’t been the email game long enough. Check out these unfortunate reply-all disasters; they'll make you cringe, and pray you’re not the involved in the next story that’s added to this list. They're also pretty damn funny. 

There are so many ways around committing a reply-all faux pas it’s staggering to see so many nightmarish, hilarious stories of this nature. Whether the dum-dums on this list are emailing evil plans to their significant other or making fun of a secretary, they all take part in the time-honored tradition of looking like dunces thanks to technology. Accidents happen, but when they occur on a global stage, it makes us never want to use email again.
  • Britain's National Health Service Gummed Up By Nearly 200m Emails

    Britain's National Health Service Gummed Up By Nearly 200m Emails
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    The British National Health Service (NHS) ground to halt on Monday, November 14, 2016, as a reply-allpocalypse prevented employees and service providers from accessing email or even using computers. The catastrophic proliferation of messages began with a misfired test email from an NHS contractor in Croydon, south London. The test was sent to all 1.2 million NHS employees.

    The reply-all responses to the email began immediately, as did additional emails sent erroneously to all 1.2 million NHS employees. All told, the NHS system generated an estimated 186 million emails in one work day. Countless employees took to Twitter expressing frustration, amusement, and an inability to do their jobs. Health and community organizations associated with NHS also took to social media to ask for patience as they dealt with the crippling conundrum. 

  • Anant Prakash Generates Epic British Petroleum Reply All Tragicomedy

    Anant Prakash Generates Epic British Petroleum Reply All Tragicomedy
    Photo: JeepersMedia / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In 2014, a hapless British Petroleum employee incited screwball bureaucratic lunacy equal parts Kafka, Terry Gilliam, and the Marx Bros., by accidentally sending an innocuous email to hundreds of employees worldwide. The mass email was immediately recognized as a mistake, but the reply-all fusillade was already underway by the time the error was noted. Because BP is a global company, the email chain was taken up by new participants every few hours, as operations opened in different time zones. 

    The bedlam reached epic proportions, as responses ranged from enraged to confused to hilarious. In addition to several hate-fueled, all-caps "STOP REPLYING" and "REMOVE ME FROM THIS LIST"-themed messages came enormous amounts of cheek - "Just out of curiosity; do you have a distribution list that reads 'Everyone in the world'? If so, please remove me from that list" one employee wrote. "Keep calm and keep replying all!!!" responded another. 

    Pandemonium climaxed when Mark Clawson, a BP employee in Angola, Africa, decided to track down Anant Prakash, the BP employee who was the subject of the very first email. Clawson screenshotted his chat with Prakash and added it to the reply-all chain, with the message "I have spoken with him!!!!!!!" When Prakash learned of the company-wide calamity and his sudden fame, he quipped "I should launch a political career LOL."
  • The PR VP Who's Really Bad at PR

    The PR VP Who's Really Bad at PR
    Photo: Niuton may / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In 2011, a PR firm reached out to The Blogess to see if she would write about a Kardashian wearing pantyhose (it's a product placement thing). She responded with:


    You’ve been sent to this page because you offered a blogger a photo of some random celebrity standing near some product that no one actually gives a shit about.

    We see your picture of Harry Connick Jr. standing near yarn/Tommy Lee Jones using a kleenex/insert-your-weird-pitch-here, and we raise you a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper."

    The End. JK, the VP of the PR firm hit that magic reply all button and responded, “What a f*cking b*tch!” Thus began a war of emails that raged on for the better part of the day and spilled over to Twitter, where it got really funny. 
  • Unsure NYU Sophomore Replies to 40,000 Students

    Unsure NYU Sophomore Replies to 40,000 Students
    Photo: owlin aolin / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In 2012, a sweet wittle NYU student tried to ask his mommy whether he should fill out an electronic financial aid form, but instead emailed 40,000 students. He immediately realized his blunder, and sent out a second email acknowledging it. 

    So what happened? Well, about what you'd expect. The usual "Stop doing this" replies surfaced, as did responses such as "Does anyone have a copy of the movie good burger I could borrow?" and a photo of Nicolas Cage.