M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, June 21, 2007  

What's in a Name

One of the things I thought I'd miss least about my old job is the other person in the company who had my name.

It's not like my name is all that uncommon. If you Google it, you have to go past several pages of a film composer (not Danny Elfman) before you find any reference to me. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that in a company of over 50,000 people nationwide, someone else would have gone by the same moniker as I do.

He started a few months ago. Although we had the same first and last names, we had different e-mail addresses, both for internal and external senders. But mine came first in the directory, so I ended up getting a lot of his e-mail. If the reverse was ever true, I never heard about it.

The good thing was that it was pretty easy to tell when I got a note meant for him. He was in a different division of the company, and he was based in Florida, and he kept getting e-mails about things I didn't know the first thing about from people I'd never heard of. In combination, these factors were a giveaway. I'd heard through the grapevine that someone else with my name had joined the company. I also knew it wasn't unheard of, because a guy who sat on the other side of my cube wall also had a namesake in another division, and had for years. Things between them seemed pretty peaceful. The first time it happened to me, I forwarded the e-mail to my namesake's correct address, introduced myself, and politely asked him to make sure he gave out his correct e-mail address to people. Some misdirections were inevitable, but I thought they could be kept to a minimum.

And they probably could have been, if he'd been remotely conscious of what e-mail address he was giving out. After a couple of days, I stopped including little notes and would just hit "Forward" without any comment. Which was fine, because I never got any acknowledgement back from him either. And the same people kept e-mailing me when they wanted him, which told me he was making no effort to straighten them out. I suppose I could have done it, if I'd wanted to, but I didn't. I just hit "Forward" and got on with my life.

And I must confess that there were a couple of occasions when I accidentally forwarded his e-mail right back to myself. So I can see how it would happen. But this is out of hundreds, including a long and drawn-out series of e-mails confirming, changing, changing again, and ultimately canceling some hotel reservations he had made. In Florida. Where he lives. Hmm.

It was bad enough getting his work e-mail. But I started to get actively pissed off when I began to get his spam.

The spam filters at my old company are excellent. In two-plus years, I never got a single unsolicited e-mail from an outside entity. Yet by some odd coincidence, weeks after this other guy got hired, my inbox started getting clogged with e-mails about real estate opportunities, seminars, stock tips, and certain Internet-targeted pharmacological products. There was only one explanation. He wasn't only giving out my work e-mail address to coworkers. He had also signed up for shit with my work e-mail address, and now I was spending part of every morning getting rid of missives from any number of the world's former Ministers of Exchequers.

These I simply deleted without forwarding. By this point, I was actively looking for a job elsewhere anyway and didn't expect to have to deal with it much longer. Otherwise I would have drafted a note to him that, if I had accidentally sent it to myself, would have bleached my eyebrows. I just told myself.I'll be out of here in a few weeks, and I'll never have to deal with it again.

And then I was out of there. And then, two weeks into my current job, I got an e-mail intended for the other guy with my name at the company I work for now. Again, it's a company of over 50,000 people nationwide, but this time the other guy is in the same division as me. And it takes me a lot longer to figure out whether I'm getting one of his notes by accident. Sure, the people sending him notes are people I've never heard of who are talking about things I know nothing about. But I'm still new enough that people who actually are contacting me are also people I've never heard of who are talking about things I know nothing about.

Fortunately, this guy with my name seems much nicer than the one at my last job. He's already cc'ed me on several e-mails that he's sent back to people, telling them to quit bothering me and get his address right already. There's much more of a sense of the two of us being in this together, even though he was here first.

And for that reason, I'm not going to try and drive him out of the company by signing up for a bunch of spam-generating websites under his e-mail address.

posted by M. Giant 8:18 PM 7 comments


That happened to me once, which seems odd -- I was monty@mycompany, and he was monte@mycompany, and neither of us expected to have to deal with a semi-duplicated name.

Eventually, he left. So I won!

By Blogger Monty Ashley, at June 21, 2007 at 9:42 PM  

That is happening to me now. I also have a very common first AND last name. I work for a ginormous research hospital and am pretty sure I get more of her emails and not vice versa. The problem is if you use the search function it just lists our first and last name as well as our slightly different email addys---with no specification to what areas/departments we are in (trust me...VASTLY different). It's great though, I have discovered she is an OR nurse and have probably seen some confidential patient information that was never meant for my eyes.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 22, 2007 at 5:16 AM  

When I worked for GE, I was one of three people with my name, and the one listed first in the global address list. I didn't get much misdirected mail, and no spam at all, but one time I received an invitation to a New Year's Eve party in Budapest. When I forwarded it to my namesake, who worked for GE Lighting in Hungary, he wrote back and told me that he'd checked with the hostess and that if I happened to be in Budapest on Dec. 31, I was welcome to drop by. Nice gesture.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 22, 2007 at 7:06 AM  

Man, I didn't realize Buck Melanoma was such a popular name. That's just weird.

But don't sweat it. My last name is Eng, so naturally, all of my postal mail goes to the engineering department at work. Wonderful.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 22, 2007 at 9:21 AM  

I've also run into this problem at work. However, as the second person on the gobal address book, I will say in defense of the guy at your old company, sometimes no amount of reminding do people get it right. I had one manager I worked with who for 2 years kept sending mail to me to Hong Kong (where my namesake worked), after the frist 6 months, I made it a rule not to respond to any request that wasn't sent directly to me.

But the best was when a 3rd person with a similar name joined the company, and when she moved to Hong Kong from Atlanta, our IT deleted me by accident thinking that I was the one who moved to Hong Kong. It took them 4 days to reinstate my account and I had to explain to people at work that I did not quit nor was I fired, IT just screwed up.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 22, 2007 at 8:14 PM  

At my last company, there were three Michael Andersons. All sales managers. I was in sales support and had to work with them on a daily basis, but only via email so I didn't have a visual aid.

I could never keep them all straight, even though one of them spelled it Andersen and one of the other two went by Mike. I was so relieved when they laid one of them off and the other quit.

By Blogger GhostGirl, at June 26, 2007 at 3:33 PM  

There's a running joke in my department that TPTB are deliberately hiring people with the same names/similar sounding names. We have 2 Wills, 2 Chrises, a Penny/Jenny pair, and formerly had a Katie/Sadie pair.

By Blogger Currer813, at July 9, 2007 at 4:55 AM  

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