Need someone to lead product management at your software company? I create software for people that create software and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

Turning away customers

Freshness Warning
This blog post is over 20 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current and the links no longer work.

That’s nice. I found a problem on Major League Baseball’s Web site and sent their general-contact email address a short message detailing the problem and gave them a solution. My email was immediately returned to me.

Hi. This is the qmail-send program at
I’m afraid I wasn’t able to deliver your message to the following addresses. This is a permanent error; I’ve given up. Sorry it didn’t work out.

Sorry, your intended recipient has too much mail stored in their mailbox. Your message totalled 2314 bytes, which would bring them over quota. However a smaller message might go through should you wish to inform the person you tried to email.

There’s so much wrong with this that I don’t even know where to start.

  • You provide an address for people to contact you for help and that address is broken (of all the addresses to put a quota on, this wouldn’t be it).
  • When an error occurs, you send a message back to them that’s filled with tech-speak.
  • You offer a solution that is technical enough that most people won’t be able to figure out. (Go ask your dad how many words would fit into 2314 bytes.)
  • The response message has spelling and grammatical errors. (Totalled should be totaled and however needs a comma after it.)
  • The fact that your mailbox is full in the first place indicates that you don’t check it very often.

Go grab a pen and write this down. If a customer is going to go to the trouble of contacting you, it’s important, at least to them. Make sure you’ll see it.

July 9, 2003 3:35 PM

I'm fond of automated responses that try to convey emotion ("I'm afraid..." - "Sorry"), acting as if the server was not only capable of those feelings, but as if fear and sorrow were the appropriate responses (and maybe they are). Incidentally, the use of totalled may be deprecated, but it does not appear to be incorrect:

July 9, 2003 8:59 PM

Well, that's better than the response I usually get when I send in a report pointing out an anomaly on a web site: "Switch to MSIE on a Windows machine. That's what we tested it on and what we officially support."

Trackback from inluminent/weblog
July 9, 2003 9:26 PM

How to Turn Away Customers - MLB

Excerpt: Adam blogs a quick diddy about how Major League Baseball is turning away customers. The kicker for me is this

Stewart Johnson
July 12, 2003 3:56 AM

I believe that both "totaled" and "totalled" are valid. (Just like "artefact" and "artifact" are both valid..) Go figure.

Adam Kalsey
July 12, 2003 10:17 AM

You appear to be correct. Many dictionaries list "totalled" as an alternate spelling. Some list it as an archaic spelling. At any rate, I don't think they spelled it that way on purpose.

Philip Tellis
October 31, 2003 12:36 AM

In English, "totalled" is the correct spelling, and "totaled" is incorrect. In American, "totaled" is correct. The site being American though, tends to suggest that it should be "totaled"... and no matter how hard I try, I just cannot type "totalled" in with a single l.

March 25, 2006 11:26 AM if you scroll down to "method of distribution" it sounds like this might be the work of a virus... I got the same message after emailing a address

This discussion has been closed.

Recently Written

Mastery doesn’t come from perfect planning (Dec 21)
In a ceramics class, one group focused on a single perfect dish, while another made many with no quality focus. The result? A lesson in the value of practice over perfection.
The Dark Side of Input Metrics (Nov 27)
Using input metrics in the wrong way can cause unexpected behaviors, stifled creativity, and micromanagement.
Reframe How You Think About Users of your Internal Platform (Nov 13)
Changing from "Customers" to "Partners" will give you a better perspective on internal product development.
Measuring Feature success (Oct 17)
You're building features to solve problems. If you don't know what success looks like, how did you decide on that feature at all?
How I use OKRs (Oct 13)
A description of how I use OKRs to guide a team, written so I can send to future teams.
Build the whole product (Oct 6)
Your code is only part of the product
Input metrics lead to outcomes (Sep 1)
An easy to understand example of using input metrics to track progress toward an outcome.
Lagging Outcomes (Aug 22)
Long-term things often end up off a team's goals because they can't see how to define measurable outcomes for them. Here's how to solve that.


What I'm Reading


Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497


Public Key

© 1999-2024 Adam Kalsey.