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Misspelled Email Addresses - Where do they go?

Posted on 2006-04-07
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Last Modified: 2006-11-18
It's urgent -    I have an executive asking a tough question as we are not in control of our email mailboxes other than add/change/delete of mailboxes (it is outsourced to HP). His name was mispelled in an email from a customer wanting quick results from our customer service.  Lets say his name is Tom Smith and his email address should be  tsmith@anycompany.com     The customer sent the email to tsnith@anycompany.com.  It obviously didn't get to Tom Smith and the customer is telling us that the email didn't bounce.   Where did it go?  Is this a question for HP or should I spent countless hours attempting to figure out how many misspellings I can come up with for each persons email alias?

Is there a method of directing any email that does not have a mailbox due to misspelled words, but has a good domain (@anycompany.com) to somewhere, perhaps a "catchall" mailbox?

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!!

Regards,
DB
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Question by:DB12
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b0lsc0tt earned 1000 total points
ID: 16402554
DB12,

The question would be for HP.  Catchall is common and may be in use but it gets directed to one email address.  Those messages may still be deleted automatically or sit and never be read.  Since it doesn't seem like the customer got a reject and if no one in the company is managing or getting the catchall emails then it may be best to have HP discontinue it.  I think getting an email reject is better than not having anyone ever look at it.

HP will be the only ones that can help with the details or changing this.

b0lsc0tt
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 16403700
It depends very much on the email service subscribed to.  As b0lsc0tt says, there is often a Catchall to funnel everything down the pipe to a designated user, but this is not obilgatory.  Many systems now take the policy that anything that is not properly addressed is trashed.  As b0lsc0tt says, rejection is better than trashing.  One company I dealt with recently refused point blank to set up one Catchall mailbox for anything coming in - anything improperly addressed was trashed and not rejected to sender.  I recommended to the client he move to a different email provider that did provide this Catchall facility.

My recommendation to you is to host your own email server, and to have direct SMTP delivery inbound.  It will mean a bit more work, but at least you will be in control.
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 16403735
At first I thought you had a Control Panel to administer your own email boxes.  Having to contact another company to do this for you is even worse!  Presumably you are charged for each mailbox you have.  
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by:meintsi
ID: 16404948
Something else to note; typically it can take up to three days for a bouce-back notification to be generated.

Most providers react faster than that in most cases but a few still take a while to generate.
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by:b0lsc0tt
ID: 16405005
A note to add:
We got rid of catchall in our company because it was getting more spam than legitimate messages with a mistyped address.  Depending on you domain name most mistyped addresses may not even get to catchall because the error is in the domain.  That is the most common error when our customers/clients make a mistake.  If your provider did take three days then you probably would be better off hosting your own mail server.
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by:SunBow
SunBow earned 1000 total points
ID: 16405171
> Where did it go?  

trash - it may have been returned to sender, but the sender should have at least received a "no such person" form of message

> Is this a question for HP

No. Even if they could do something (unlikely), it is untimely

> The customer sent the email to tsnith@anycompany.com

Simple: Call company, ask them to re-send it to the correct addressee, and to correct their mailing lists accordingly. Sent mail is not deleted as a matter of course, at least not this soon, and you must beware that they may be logging the persons email address to use again in the near future

> Is there a method of directing any email that does not have a mailbox due to misspelled words, but has a good domain (@anycompany.com) to somewhere, perhaps a "catchall" mailbox?

yes. You should have a trashbin available, and, it should be in use - it is a good place for dumping spam automatically and other things like virus. But unless a human has looked hard, it might not be spam after all, so we normally won't outright delete stuff like that. It is an option, so for that you would have to ask the admins about which options are now in place.

> should I spent countless hours attempting to figure out how many misspellings I can come up with

;-)
not unless you are really really bored ...
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by:SunBow
ID: 16405213
btw, I would not expect a lot out of HP until you train them ... so it might not be a good first step to count on them only, other than to better enforce that they know how best to run it according to your wishes

b0lsc0tt > We got rid of catchall in our company because it was getting more spam than legitimate messages with a mistyped address

We started to run an upgrade to a spam blocker that sent to trashbin most of the incoming mail to a few valid users, who happened to be important. I think the one configuring the block made one test being something like a few letters and wildcards, not understanding the rules or something. So it caught a lot. Following Murphy's law, it was also the day after they'd got rid of "the catchall" and the affected users happened to be important VIPs. Nothing recoverable.

Let's say, it did not take long to get the catchall running, and the entire anti-spam effort removed, to best ensure the VIPs could get some kind of mail to busy themselves with ASAP
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by:ECNSSMT
ID: 16405551
This is the first time I've ever heard of catchalls.  I just figure (mostly because its common practice with all the positions I've held over the years).
NDR is sent back to originating email server stating a failed delivery.

I am a little surprised that the Exec is assessing blame on you guys.  Especially since it was the sender that has the spelling issue.  

Its like being in between a rock and a hard place (bird-brained buyer and enraged executive) :|

Sorry you're in the middle of it.

Regards,
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 16406245
>I am a little surprised that the Exec is assessing blame on you guys.  Especially since it was the sender that has the spelling issue.  

My feeling is that email to Customer Services should perhaps be going to - er - Customer Services.  If T Smith asked for something to be sent direct to him/her, then either there should be a Reply To in his/her email (Tom Smith in this instance) where the user can unmistakenly click on to get the address correct, or get everyone to reply to Customer Services with the Log No. of the call in the Subject (so that it can go to the correct Inbox).  This is the ideal way because every single email for Cust Services goes to one Inbox, then gets forwarded - good for when the company wishes to review their Customer Services effectiveness at dealing with complaints.

Question:  What If Tom Smith is on holiday?  Off Sick?  Changes their name (in the case of women who get married, this can happen)?  Does that email fester in their Inbox for a week, two weeks before getting replied to?  This is down to Company Procedure.  What is the Company Procedure for handling Customer Service Issues via email?  Is it written down anywhere?  Does it need rewriting?

In short, you do the classic thing: you turn the complaint about I.T.s handling of a situation into an "I'm glad you've now asked us about Company Policy, here's where we recommend what we think the Company should be doing."
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