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One More Internet Disaster Story for 2000, Hundreds of Identical E-Mail Messages Taint Business

December 28, 2000

IRVINE, Calif. —(BUSINESS WIRE) — Dec. 28, 2000 — It started out fine yesterday when 30 Minute Photos Etc. sent its customers a standard e-mail update on a new product offering. But something went wrong ... very wrong.

Within minutes, the phones at the Irvine retail photo center all echoed with the same concern from callers: people were receiving multiple e-mail messages.

"Even though we were so busy processing picture-takers holiday photos, we immediately went into crisis mode to determine the remedy to what went wrong," explained company President, Mitchell Goldstone.

Now people were receiving scores of identical messages about how we can make prints directly from their digital cameras. Within hours it leaped into the hundreds. People on vacation who asked to be included on our distribution list may return to mailboxes exceeding its limit. Customers were asking to be removed from the distribution list, yet they still received more e-mails. It was a disaster-in-the-making for this well-known photo business which prides itself on reputation (not repetition).

According to Goldstone, the culprit was Cox Communications Inc. (NYSE: COX) and its Cox@Home Internet system, which acknowledged similar problems with other customers, yet failed to announce this bug. "It happened in Orange County, Calif. last week at Cox@home," advised Sunny Kamberi, a technician at its national office in Dallas. This was no consolation for the frustrated business, nor to its customers.

"My company's reputation has been weakened and we learned a distressful fact that the Internet proved to be fallible. Another @home technician actually said my service, which is a commercial business account `is not intended for anything but recreational use.' Fortunately only a few irate customers said they would never use us again," lamented Goldstone. "Reverting to the phone, we were afraid to explain the situation via e-mail," gasped Goldstone, "could you imagine a thousand identical notes of explanation?"

It was like an uncontrollable missile, once launched we couldn't retrieve it and the problem was not resolved until after 7 p.m. The lesson learned: 30 Minute Photos Etc. has disbanded its entire e-mail communication system, and will revert back to using the post office and phones for all regular communication. The company will also continue its successful new Internet service of providing Kodak quality photographic prints from e-mailed digital files.

The good news is its customers have a gratifying sense of humor and most laughed at the saga. One explained that last week they sent out e-mail holiday cards and their recipients all received hundreds of identical messages.

IRVINE, Calif, © 2000Business Wire


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