Cleaning Up My Mistake with 800 People

So I made a mistake

How companies respond to their mistakes demonstrates their Responsibility culture.

Target’s stock was slaughtered after their credit card data breach last year. In May Ebay waited two weeks to report it’s database of personal information on 145 million active buyers had been hacked, and this weekend Kmart reported it’s payment systems have been compromised since September.

Yet Home Depot just had a huge breach and responded very effectively, giving everyone who might have been affected a year’s worth of free credit security monitoring (likely a great business development partnership for the supplier of that service, eh?).

So imagine my desire for a responsible and effective clean-up when I accidentally spammed 800 people in my database.

Yes, a few weeks ago we were doing some maintenance work and I accidentally applied a tag to some 700 additional records in the database. The rest of the story is in this email I sent the next day:


[Subject] I owe you an apology and clarity about yesterday’s email bomb.

Yesterday mid-afternoon USA Central time we mistakenly triggered a bunch of distracting broadcast emails. You are one of the unlucky recipients.

My sincere apologies. You did not deserve that.

Below is a report on what happened, information about your security, and our email broadcast policies.

In sum, this was an operator error, there was no security breach, and we are fixing the problem we caused.

What happened?

We were simplifying our database. We accidentally applied a tag to 6,600 records. This triggered the double opt-in registration system to begin churning out “Please confirm your subscription” emails as well as re-sending auto-responses for requests you made in the past. The system’s spam protection caught the issue and stopped the batch after nearly 800 emails were sent.

What are we doing about it?

Our first priority is maintaining what relationship remains with you. To this end we have invested the last 24 hours to understand how the issue occurred, how to correct it now and avoid it happening again, and how to clean it up.

Our recovery plan is to restore a database backup from before the error occurred. The service provider will be doing that in the coming days. Unfortunately, that means we may lose data for opt-outs and opt-ins that occurred since yesterday (so don’t opt-out now; I’ll let you know when it is fixed).

Was there a security breach that put your information at risk?

No. There was no breech.

Partnerwerks policies regarding your information and email broadcasts:

We use only verified (confirmed or double opt-in) registration, so only you can sign yourself up.

We send you only emails about the subject you gave us permission to email you about. If you downloaded a poster PDF, we don’t automatically send you Christopher’s Insights.

We don’t spam (at least not intentionally since spam is defined by the recipient). That’s why we follow the first two policies above to make sure we email you only what is relevant to you.

We don’t share your information.

We make it clear and easy for you to unsubscribe or change your contact information.

I appreciate you investing the time to read this. I welcome your thoughts, comments or feedback. Just hit reply.

And again, I apologize to you for this mistake.

My very best,


Christopher Avery PhD




How did I do? Did it hit the mark? Where could it have been better?

Here is one of many positive responses received:

Ari's email


Posted in Responsibility on 10/13/2014 02:05 am
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