The 21st century has introduced professionals of all types to a certain kind of workplace calamity: the reply-all email chain. We at The Takeout have even covered this type of inescapable hell in the past, and advise you all to think twice before hitting the most dreaded button in your email client’s compose window. Don’t hurt those you love.
This week, Plate reported on a reply-all-pocalypse that miraculously ended up working out for the better—a possible first in all of human history. It began with the restaurant Canlis, a fine dining destination in Seattle. The restaurant, like some other high-end institutions, has recently pivoted to takeout and delivery: They opt for casual offerings during the week such as bagels and burgers, then go with slightly fancier offerings on Fridays. Last Friday, the meal on offer was a Dungeness crab boil, and Canlis sent out an email to some 400 customers who had placed orders with instructions on how the delivery would work, when to expect the order, and how to heat up the food once it arrived. However, those 400 customers were not Bcc’d.
Who was the first to reply-all with a response? An unhappy customer, of course, who complained that they didn’t want to have to heat up their oven to heat up food that should be ready to eat when it arrived.
The thread could have gone in a lot of directions, none of them good. But another customer replied back to the group, and switched the tone, saying he was excited for his dinner, and volunteering to go to the original poster’s house to heat up his oven for him.
Then another customer replied, also sharing her excitement about the crab boil en route to her house. And another. And another.
Eventually, a reply came from someone who suggested that if the unhappy customer had the money to spend on upscale meal delivery, perhaps that $125 could instead be donated to Feeding America. And lo, the reply-all domino effect was suddenly a force for good in this world. Replies from other diners started pouring in with receipts from their own Feeding America donations, and the goodwill swelled, prompting many on the email chain to declare “I love you guys” and “This is a roller coaster. I love all of humanity.”
Who should reply next but the original complainer himself! As restaurant co-owner Brian Canlis told Plate, “He said, ‘I love you guys, I’m donating, too.’ He donated $250, thanking everyone for giving him a new perspective. He then sent another email to the group: ‘I challenge everyone on here who is on here and enjoyed their crab dinner as much as I did to do the same.’”
The donations soared, with Canlis adding $500 of his own—and what could have been a simple reply-all fiasco ended up raising $10,000 for Feeding America’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
Brian Canlis is humbled by the whole experience. “We’re serving Monday through Friday, so by Friday night, we are just spent. But we all gathered around the computer—as safely as we could—reading out the emails, and everyone was laughing. It became this moment that restored our spirit, and reminded us that people’s hearts are good.”