Thursday, July 02, 2015

Confused... @allrecipes @parentsmagazine @meredithcorp @cdsglobal

Wow.. this is all kinds of wrong.  Let's talk about all the ways this is messed up.  

First, a note. Usually, when someone screws up, I like to try to use them as an anonymous example of what not to do. In this case, I really can't. My mind is blown by how many ways this is wrong.

First, the mail purports to coming from Allrecipes but the address is If you go, you get a certificate security alert. Proceed anyway and you get a generic "IBM Server" page. Go to and get an error. Go to and get an error. Search for on Google and find out that the general front-facing page is at I know that is for magazines, I've seen it before. But it's still ridiculous to have this set up so poorly that when you search Google it offers suggested searches like " phishing" and " scam" and " legit".  It is legit, it's part of the backend infrastructure of CDS Global but it doesn't go to any great lengths to make anyone confident about that.  (I know it's not intended to be a forward-facing website, but as soon as you put it in an email address, you should be prepared for possible visitors. Please, please be more savvy.)  

Second, the email address it was sent to was the email address I shared with Parents Magazine, not the email address I should have on file with Allrecipes.  (Sloppy data management? Bad de-duping? I am a former Parents Magazine subscriber and I did purchase a gift subscription to Allrecipes for my wife. Usually I only hear from Allrecipes right before the annual renewal.)

Third, there's no mention of Allrecipes in the email itself, instead just a nearly generic reference to Meredith Publishing, a company few would recognize as the umbrella corp for these brands. Looking at their website, I'm apparently the wrong demographic for either magazine. (Holy cow... that is actually an impressive list of holdings.)

Fourth, it gives reference to CDS Global. Looking at what they do, it seems like they should be a behind-the-scenes company.  Especially if they sent the first erroneous email.  As the back office, they should be invisible. They should be one of those companies that if Fast Company wrote an article about would call "One of the biggest companies you've never heard of, CDS Global is a big, but quiet presence in Des Moines, Iowa" or some such. Hopefully this is a rarity for CDS. 

Fifth, "we are truly sorry for having the email in error." You mean you're sorry for having sent the email, yeah?

Sixth, no customer service contact points.  Sure, inbound phone calls, emails or chats cost money, but so does a loss of confidence, especially when it results in a loss of business.  There should be a way here for people to contact Meredith or Allrecipes.

Seventh, there's no reference to what the email was. What if you haven't seen it yet because you started reading with your newest emails?  Or, you might be like me - you didn't actually receive whatever email they are apologizing for.  

I'm at a loss.  I feel bad for whoever made these mistakes (it's probably the same person, or at least the same team), the apology probably went out to a larger audience than the original email and most likely someone's lost their job or at least been transferred off the Meredith account and put on some kind of probation.  Sucks for them, but what about us? What can we learn from this?

First, this is what happens when you rush. Undoubtedly the first error was severe enough to warrant a second email.  But while someone was working on the second email, they were probably also having to deal with phone calls, text messages, IMs, threats and cajoling and trying to cash checks others had written.  Rushing is like driving too fast.  The stress builds and one unexpected bug splatting against the window and you've driven off the cliff. Do not allow yourself to be rushed. If a process takes specific time and concentration, do not allow yourself to be rushed. Let them make all the decisions, promises and sacrifices they want.  When they're satisfied with their decisions, it's time for them to leave you be to do your work. This isn't triage surgery, this isn't even regular surgery. No one's life is on the line. Slow down and let your people do it right.

Second, this is what happens when you don't have an emergency plan in place. Things happen. If you're not prepared for those moments, then when things go sideways, you're not trying to assess, you're trying to keep your head above water. Plan for success, but also prepare for what could go wrong. It will help you to see and navigate around potential pitfalls and if you do hit a patch of ice, your planning will help you to cooly, calmly steer into the slide and come out the other side aces.

Third, clean up your data practices. Ok, this one isn't as generic a piece of advice, but come on, people... when we share our information with you, that's a sacred trust. Stop being careless with it.

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