Dear Rich Bastard…

There is an urban legend that says customers on a mailing list received letters greeting them with, “Dear Rich Bastard.”

Funny thing is… it’s actually true.

Naturally, it was unintentional, but it did happen.

The company in question was trying to figure out exactly what salutation to use to address several thousand of its richest customers. In the mean time, a programmer had to insert something in the field to act as a place holder until they decided what to actually use as the generic salutation.

Most letters started out with the recipient’s actual name. But for those on the mailing list that had a corrupted name or no name at all, the placeholder name would be inserted instead.

Funny thing though… they forgot to change the temporary, “Dear Rich Bastard” to something more appropriate.

It wasn’t all bad, though. One customer who received a “Dear Rich Bastard” letter actually framed it and put it on the wall. Another customer who didn’t receive the “Rich Bastard” letter but felt he should have complained.

Imagine that complaint: “Excuse me, but I am rich and yet you didn’t call me a Rich Bastard — what’s a guy gotta do to get called names around here?”

The moral of the story might be this: When you’re sending out emails, be extra, EXTRA careful what you put in them. Never use a ‘placeholder’ that you would not want your recipients to see.

And do consider doing things out of the ordinary, if you dare. It was considered a source of pride by some to be called a “Rich Bastard,” so maybe doing something as off the wall as this might — and I emphasize MIGHT — be a good call, depending on you, your tribe and your message.

One last note, just for the fun of it: Wells Fargo EquityLine statements once made what might be an even more embarrassing mistake.

At the bottom of each statement this message was found:

“You owe your soul to the company store. Why not owe your home to Wells Fargo? An equity advantage loan can help you spend what would have been your children’s inheritance.”

Nine days later, Wells Fargo sent out apology letters to everyone on the list, stating the message did not convey the opinion of Wells Fargo Bank or its employees (even though it was clearly written by a Wells Fargo employee.)