"Sorry for perving on your Thanksgiving preparations for three years..."
November 24, 2010 6:12 PM   Subscribe

For the past three years, 28-year-old Sydney man James West has been receiving personal emails about the Thanksgiving dinner of the Tran family of Somewhere, USA. This year, he decided he wanted an invite to dinner and started a YouTube channel about his quest to track down the Trans and obtain an invite to dinner. Fortunately, his mission has been successful, and West will be attending Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow with the Trans in Florida.
posted by SkylitDrawl (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
That's awesome. Thanksgiving is kind of an awesome holiday, that way. Too bad the day after adds flesh to the worst stereotypes of modern USA.
posted by notsnot at 6:22 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I get emails from Verizon meant for some dude with my name in New Jersey who ordered FiOS service. I wonder if he'll let me come over and download some stuff.
posted by mullacc at 6:28 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is all kinds of wrong. If you receive an email intended for someone else , especially for a personal event like Thanksgiving, the polite and honourable thing to do is to notify the senders that their email has been misdirected. Informing them allows them to contact the intended recipient so that they can attend the event should they desire.Maybe when he shows up it'll be to find a vacant lot.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:29 PM on November 24, 2010 [10 favorites]

"...They’re well into all the classic American dishes like baked-brie appetiser and broccoli cheese casseroles..."

Really? That's a "classic American Dish? Am I missing out on something? Is he missing out on what "classic American dishes" are? I'm confused...
posted by symbioid at 6:31 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

In other news, the Trans think that their in-law James West is a colossal dick for never responding to their e-mails...

For an example of somebody in this situation doing the right thing and staying friends with the sender anyway, check out this super-old This American Life.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:32 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Many years ago my wife and I were fortunate enough to snag some awesome email addresses. I was Dan at Austin.rr.com and she got Sam at austin.rr.com. Very Very Very common mistypes.

I got:

Told that it wasn't fair of me to put mom in a home because of how nasty my divorce was. (I didn't put anyone in a home, nor did I get divorced)

Invited to speak with Jimmy Carter at Southwestern University. (I didn't go to southwestern university, nor did I know Jimmy Carter, nor was I qualified to speak with him)

A huge amount of far right wing religions and political fwd:fwd:fwd emails. (I finally responded and they told me I was a terrible human being for telling them to stop sending it)

A crapton of very proprietary information. XLS's, docs, financials, etc. (I finally responded and suggested they check their spelling)

My wife got much much creepier stuff. Such as:

A gift receipt for a riding crop. With the personalized message about looking forward to using it on a naughty little boy for the card. (She did not order it, nor did she order a special card).

A number of receipts for assorted pornographic websites, mostly focused on spanking. (Again, not hers).

And the final one was a registration for a kids social website with the same logins as above. That one got the whole mess reported to Time Warner proper because, man, that guy was fucking creepy.

The lesson is, check who your mails are going to.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:49 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Finally read the third link. There really isn't even a story here. No one noticed his little little attempt at fame, so he emailed the Trans and invited himself ... By last night he hadn't heard anything back – so he emailed them directly, and explained the situation.

Hmm...we had Thanksgiving up here in the Frozen North at the proper time, last month. I really could go for some turkey though. Maybe I should email Cortex and invite myself to Thanksgiving there. He is vaguely aware of my existence through the Internet after all; and he is probably too nice to actually say no.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:52 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

This does nothing to alleviate my vague and persistent suspicion that Australians are all absolutely insane.

Also: gaaaaaah.
posted by SMPA at 6:57 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is funny. I like this.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:01 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ha! I too have a common name. As a result I regularly get emails for two women with the same name at my university. One is a doctor. The other is a sophomore. Once I received emails on the same day updating me on a skin rash (Me: "I'm not who you think I am, but good luck with that rash!") and invitations to fraternity parties, one of which was in "a barn in the middle of nowhere": (Me, forwarding to the intended recipient: "Uh, if you go to this party, um, well, please be careful?).
posted by duvatney at 7:15 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

TRAN: Legacy
posted by The otter lady at 7:15 PM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

The Trans, huh? They serving hickory smoked buttholes?
posted by backseatpilot at 7:39 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Weeeeeird, but made me smile, so I guess it's not that bad!
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:55 PM on November 24, 2010

symbioid, without answering for guy, and not having any idea how much of the article was just regurgitated him versus rewritten by a hack journo, as a bit of context most Australians (me included) know absolutely nothing about thanksgiving, it has absolutely zero recognition in Australia. You could tell us anything about it and we'd probably believe you.

As far as I'm aware it involves turkeys?
posted by wilful at 8:04 PM on November 24, 2010

most Australians (me included) know absolutely nothing about thanksgiving, it has absolutely zero recognition in Australia. You could tell us anything about it and we'd probably believe you.

Thanksgiving Primer: A bunch of British people with funny hats got on some big boats and landed in America. Things were really awesome for them until it got cold. Like, really cold. Lots colder than they thought. They ran out of food. Lots of people died. Then, the people who were there before the funny hat people came offered to share their food so that less of the funny hat people would die.

The funny hat people were grateful for their new-found friends. They repaid these friends by giving them smallpox and generally fucking them over by taking their land and killing them for the next century or two. Today, we celebrate that supremacy by eating large birds and allowing our relatives to go on drunken tirades about how people from far away are taking their country away from them.

Seriously, though, awesome tradition, you guys really need something like that.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:14 PM on November 24, 2010 [10 favorites]

for some strange reason, doubtless lost in the mists of time, turkeys in Australia have firmly associated with Christmas, and we'll be eating one on or about the 25th december.

when it's fucking 35 degrees or more outside.
posted by wilful at 8:30 PM on November 24, 2010

Turkey at Christmas? Bah humbug. I hate turkey. We do the chicken and seafood thing in our family. Starting with a late champagne breakfast, then lots of icy cold delicious seafood, perfectly cooked chook, and an amazing range of salads followed by wicked desserts for lunch... with more champagne.

And l33tpolicywonk, that's remarkably similar to our Australia Day Primer: exchange America for Botany Bay, exchange cold for hot, and then include the fact that our British people with funny hats started slaughtering BEFORE they ran out of food.

Happy thanksgiving to all of you who get together with your families today (well, it's today here, tomorrow there. Damned time difference.)

And I think James West is a goose. 3 years he's been receiving these mis-sent emails, and only now he decides to go public via youtube, without actually, ya know, emailing the people directly? I smell someone desperate for his 15 minutes of fame.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 8:47 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Just to show you how backwards your country is - or how backwards the US is - 35 degrees is really damn cold here.
posted by item at 8:52 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

35 degrees is really damn cold here.

Tropical lightweights. Not even toque-worthy, eh?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:08 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tropical lightweights.

Huh? I thought Canadians had caught up with the 18th century, at least when it came to weights and measures. Isn't the USA the only place remaining backwards enough to talk in freaking farenheit?
posted by wilful at 9:12 PM on November 24, 2010

Yes, we have the digital weather-guessing and proportion approximation thingy here as well. I was just automatically mentally making the conversion for our southern neighbors; recognizing that they might be just a bit distracted over these next few days.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:24 PM on November 24, 2010

They measure their temperature in degrees Kelvin up there, wilful.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:24 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I thought it was a cute story, until I saw this sentence:

Mr West said he had given himself until the end of today to get a result from the YouTube plea. If he doesn't get a reply from the Trans, he said he would invite himself.

and then it crossed the line from cute to really fucking obnoxious. You're going to invite yourself? I assume that's considered rude and annoying in Australia too, right?
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:27 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

This is all kinds of wrong. If you receive an email intended for someone else , especially for a personal event like Thanksgiving, the polite and honourable thing to do is to notify the senders that their email has been misdirected.

You don't get a lot of misdirected email, do you? Having a not uncommon name myself, with an early adopter Gmail address to go along with it, I get my fair share. At first I tried to do the honorable thing and notify the people they got the wrong me.

But it's an exercise in extreme frustration. I never once got an email back saying "Sorry, I'll correct that." Most people just ignore my email and continue to send me stuff. One person, after I notified them twice, actually emailed back "Are you getting these emails? I need a response ASAP!"

That was the last straw. Now, unknown emails are immediately archived. Any more effort is wasted in my experience.

On Topic: this is a really neat story. Hope to see the followup videos and pictures.
posted by sbutler at 9:27 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I get a bit of work email that's supposed to go to a guy that's got the same name as me, with one extra letter. Nothing juicy so far - most tempting thing was an invite to a Java conference.
posted by Harald74 at 12:34 AM on November 25, 2010

What is this "track down the Trans", he has their email addresses! Unnecessaily dramatic.
posted by subdee at 12:45 AM on November 25, 2010

I recently started getting a bunch of emails for someone who wasn't me. A lot of them were receipts from online purchases, which meant I had their postal address. Let me tell you, snail-mail gets people's attention really fast, in an OMFG THIS GUY KNOWS WHERE I LIVE way.
posted by Hogshead at 5:38 AM on November 25, 2010

posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:21 AM on November 25, 2010

This is also happening to me, lots.
posted by metaxa at 7:01 AM on November 25, 2010

See, in Canadia, Real Thanksgivingtm is nice and spaced out from Christmas, so you can enjoy turkey on both occasions without getting turkey'd out. Thus you are able to enjoy the Deity-sanctioned proper holiday animal sacrifice without any of this crazy "ham" or "seafood" nonsense.
posted by utsutsu at 7:30 AM on November 25, 2010

I guess I'm the only one who finds this part nauseating:

He also admitted that he knew quite a lot more about the Trans than just their names and which dishes they were bringing.

"I’ve discovered actually that it’s bloody easy to find out about people when you have an email address and a few a connections," he said.

"It’s very easy to find out stuff about people on the internet."

The information Mr West has discovered includes where the family live, their phone numbers and where they went to school.

But isn't that stalking? The kind of behaviour that would scare most people?

Absolutely, says Mr West.

"It's exactly like stalking, but this is where I’m going to depend on the Tran family to be kind and generous to me," he told news.com.au.

I'd be kind and generous, all right. I'd be kind enough to give him a thirty second head start, and generous with my shotgun shells when I met him at the door with Daddy's rifle. Fuckin' stalkers, man.

I'm glad that the Trans were able to see the humor in it, but not everyone's gonna be cool with someone reading correspondence meant for someone else. Especially if he uses it to track down other information about your family.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:46 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I own a domain name that is a common misspelling (by sheer coincidence) of a large multi-national construction and industrial supply corporation. You would not believe the amount and type of misdirected emails I get.

CVs from executives looking for a new position, purchase orders and invoices for tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, airline reservation info and travel documents for flights to Bahrain, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, London, etc. Sensitive passport and personal info documents, payroll information and urgent emails demanding that a team be flown halfway across the world to troubleshoot poorly installed hydro systems on dams, etc etc etc.

Every day. There's no way I'm dedicating my life to forwarding emails that other people can't be bothered to address correctly. Instead, I'm busy constructing an alternate identity for my new Heavy Industry Executive post in Bangalore. Say hello to Miguel Sanchez!
posted by Aquaman at 10:29 AM on November 25, 2010

This guy is lucky that the Trans are so cool and froody with it. Most Americans would be freaking the fuck out right about now. I hope he doesn't come off as a creepy stalker in person there,but who knows.

I haven't gotten a whole lot of missent e-mails, but now I'm glad I told the veterinary medicine mailing list that thought I was some kind of surgeon that they got the wrong person the other day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:04 PM on November 25, 2010

>Seriously, though, awesome tradition, you guys really need something like that.

We do have something like that. It's called Australia Day, and on Australia Day you don't have to go to work, so you have a barbie instead. Also: it's in Summer, to facilitate said barbie.
posted by pompomtom at 2:30 PM on November 25, 2010

Some smartypants in the US has started using my gmail address as his, so over the past few months I've been getting emails ranging from invites to Thanksgiving (I'd really rather not, thanks) to job offers, and -- most delightfully -- login details to his salliemae student loan account.

Now, I'm not entirely sure what I could do with that information.. presumably I might be able to change where the money is placed, or generally fuck up their credit rating in some fashion. But what amazed me was that when I tried to contact salliemae ("Hi, someone's used the wrong details when signing up, you might want to disable the account or some-such") the only response I received were instructions to call an 800 number because email is "not secure", in order for me to get more account details. I gave up after two attempts to get them to actually read my email, and I'm not making an international phonecall just because someone is functionally retarded.
posted by coriolisdave at 2:37 PM on November 25, 2010

Follow-up: Meet the Trans!
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:02 PM on November 25, 2010

Also, meet American James West.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:03 PM on November 25, 2010

More videos posted. It is a happy ending, but the stalker-y quality of his investigations initially gave me a creepy feeling. It is turning out to be a quirky, fun story. The Trans are good sports.

My gmail is my first and last name and I get many, many misdirected emails for various people of the same name - even though it is not all that common a name, or so I thought. It can be exhausting and often fruitless or worse to try to address them, but I usually give it a go.

I was on a condo association list for development in England and the damn mails were cc:d among all residents, about 50, so I got every single reply. Grrr. Contacting people did nothing until I pointed out that if they were so cavalier with detailed condo financial reports going to a stranger, would they mind my sending them to local realtors? That was remarkably effective in stopping them immediately.

Another chatty group from Canada sends me lunch invitations, chain mails, bad grandma-type "funnies" etc. My attempts to let them know they reached the wrong person are met with "you kidder!!! HAHAHA - see you Thursday!!!" I still get them and wonder if the other person ever shows up or why they haven't caught on. I am thinking of next replying and saying "Sorry to tell you, but she died recently."

I contacted another party because I received some sensitive personal information. They were not pleased to hear from me and accused me of being a hacker that had spied on their mail - they were going to contact internet authorities about me for intercepting their mail.

The best was a guy from some dating service who was confirming date details. I wrote to tell him that even tho he reached someone with the same name, I was not her, I lived on the other side of the country, and I was only contacting him because I didn't want him to not go on the date just because he didn't get a confirmation. He wrote back & thanked me and said he was a little bummed thinking maybe she had intentionally given him a wrong email to get rid of him. I replied suggesting that maybe it was an honest mistake on his or her part, and I thought if he liked her, he should go to the planned meeting - what would it hurt? He later wrote to let me know she was there as planned, things went very well, and he would be seeing her again. He said if he hadn't heard back with a confirmation from her -- or from me urging him to take a chance -- he wouldn't have gone.

So many dramas. I archive them all in a file called "other julies"
posted by madamjujujive at 7:39 PM on November 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

Most Americans would be freaking the fuck out right about now.

Most? I and my family would probably get a kick out of it, as would a lot of our friends - I realize that's hardly scientific, but I feel pretty confident lobbying for nothing stronger than "some" to replace your "most".
posted by jalexei at 7:41 PM on November 25, 2010

The Trans, huh? They serving hickory smoked buttholes?

Why would anyone hickory-smoke a hotdog?
posted by zippy at 9:07 PM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lucked on to (myfirstname)@gmail.com ... my first name is very common, one of the Top 20 baby names, etc. I've received lots of emails in various languages. People sign up for all these facebook accounts or other accounts under my email, then frantically send in password reset emails (which all go to me). Receipts for Kodak Gallery back in the day, complete with mailing address. Credit card statements from Citibank Indonesia, fortunately password-protected.

I stopped using that email address a long time ago, but still drop by every now and then. The latest mistaken email is from a Ethan, replying to (myfirstname)(randomletters/numbers)@gmail.com (but typing in my email instead) in response to a request for address, building, and house number: "I don't know I will have to ask my mother first."
posted by Xere at 2:26 AM on November 26, 2010

I get TONS of emails to R (my lastname) @ gmail.com... My name is Ryan, but I get emails addressed to Randy, Roger, Ramone... And I always reply to the people to let them know that I am not their friend/relative named Randy/etc, but rather Ryan. One was particularly humourous... A guy wrote to me saying "Hey Rob, I'll be waiting outside the restaurant in 10, come pick me up" - I wrote right back to let him know that he had the wrong email address, only to receive a response about 3 weeks later: "Yeah, right Rob, whatever. I've been waiting here for weeks, are you ever coming? It's getting cold and rainy" :)

Another was a 90 year old Virginia woman (I live in Toronto, no known relatives down there) who thought I was her son, and was forwarding me endless conservative "Forward this if you love guns" or "Forward this if you love Jesus" chain mails. I wrote her back about 20 times over a 2 year period telling her that she had the wrong e-mail address, and about 5 of those times she wrote me to say "Ha ha Randy, funny joke. I don't get it. Will I see you at dinner on Sunday?" - I wonder why she never asked her son about these "joke" emails... Thankfully she FINALLY figured out that I was telling the truth. I kinda miss her.
posted by antifuse at 1:30 PM on December 23, 2010

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