OK, Google, I’m not that Sheila Lamb

Sheila Lamb is getting email for the wrong Sheila Lamb. Can Google fix it?

Question: I need help with my Gmail account. My email is sheila.lamb@gmail.com and someone in the UK has evidently set up an account as sheilalamb@gmail.com.

I’m getting a lot of this person’s emails. She evidently does a lot of online shopping and I get all the email confirmations. So I can’t help but wonder if any of my emails are going to her. I’ve tried to find someone at Google to contact but that appears to be impossible.

I’ve checked through a lot of online forums on this topic. I understand that Gmail ignores the dots, so that’s why I’m getting her emails. But there doesn’t seem any way to resolve the issue.

Google’s response to this issue? “It’s impossible for two people to have the same email address — one with the dot and one without.” So they never addressed the issue.

But obviously it is possible.

Google wants me to get in touch with the other Sheila Lamb. When I send an email to sheilalamb@gmail.com, it comes to me — so I can’t get in touch with the other person.

Can you help me get confirmation that I don’t have emails going to someone else and also, is there some way to notify the other person to change their email address? — Sheila Lamb, Wimberley, Texas

Answer: Google should really fix this. Disclosure: I have a gmail address — elliottc@gmail.com — and I know all the other Elliotts with similar addresses. We forward each others’ emails as a courtesy to each other.

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But if someone had elliott.c@gmail.com and Gmail couldn’t tell the difference — well, I might be a little frustrated. If Google kept sending me a canned response, I’d be more than a little frustrated. Angry, actually.

But first, a few words about Google. Gmail is “free” which means — you guessed it! — you are the product. Google gets to serve you ads related to the content of your email, which can be a little creepy. What’s more, since you’rje paying “nothing” you have no right to ask for anything, even as Google’s shareholders laugh all the way to the bank. Color me unimpressed.

It should come as no surprise to you that I received a form response from Google, too. It suggested I wasn’t a working journalist. I checked the degree on my wall and double-checked the media outlets I write for, and they suggested that for the first time in recent memory, Google was wrong. I actually am a working journalist.

But I digress. Once I flashed my press card, Google sent me the following response: “Her emails are not being compromised. It’s very probable that someone simply mistyped their email address when signing up for various online services. This type of mistake is usually mitigated through an email confirmation flow, but unfortunately not all email services provide this barrier of entry.”

I’m not even sure what that means. But when I showed you the reply, you noted your disapproval.

When it comes to its “free” email product, Google’s Gmail is about as DIY as they come. They seem to rely on help forums and a series of pre-written responses to help most of their users. But then, what did you expect? You didn’t pay for your email account.

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I’m pleased to say this story has a happy ending. Even though the Google representative implied she wouldn’t do anything about your problem, she appears to have referred your case to one of the geniuses in the Gmail department. After several days, you stopped receiving emails for the other Sheila Lamb.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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