Monday, December 10, 2012

The Gift Card Exchange is Now Over

As of last night, the gift card exchange project is closed. If you emailed us requesting help before Thursday (12/6) night, we will match you. After that, we will try very hard but we make no promises. You will not be getting an email confirmation from us. If you read on, you'll see why.

If you emailed us asking to help a family, we will do our best to match you. We got more helpers than askers this year. We will be sending out matching emails through Tuesday. Not everyone who generously offered to help will receive a match. We are so sorry.

This is our third email project. You should know that when we're in the middle of this, our real lives are on hold. Everything else takes a back seat. Our families, our jobs, the holidays - it's all on the back burner until we've matched the last email. Then we emerge, exhausted, to find Mommyland slightly brighter and our real lives in shambles. But we do it anyway  - and be "we", we mean our whole families are on board (kids, husbands, dogs) - because we can. And if we can help and we don't... What does that say about us? What does that teach our kids?

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. We can all do hard things.

We try and learn from past mistakes and plan as carefully as we can how to anticipate and avoid problems. But we did not anticipate these problems. We've never had an issue using a YahooMail account (in fact, it's always worked best). This time, it caused an epic failure. Here is the core of the problem, in the words of Guru Louse:

the high volume of email + technical difficulties = insurmountable clusterf*ck.

If you want details, you can read them below. The bottom line is that the account locked us out on Tuesday and we've been unable to send emails since then. Almost every metric they had told their robots we were spammers and despite the best efforts of two very kind and hard working people on their Customer Service team (who were checking in with us even on Sunday), we essentially have been unable to send more than a 50 emails per day from the account since Tuesday afternoon.

In order to match the folks that we have, we are cutting and pasting into alternate accounts. Imagine how much time it will take us to return 2,000 emails that way. The answer is that we can't. So we will do the best we can and then we will have to stop. And ugly cry. Because we're sorry we couldn't do more. But sometimes you have to give it up, Mommyland. And that's where we are right now.

We're three moms exactly like you. We took this on knowing we couldn't help everyone but willing to try. So pretty, pretty please show us some grace. We know some of you will be disappointed and we are so, so sorry.

If you asked to help and haven't heard from us by Tuesday night, you won't be getting a match. If you're waiting for a match from us - PLEASE, pretty please check your SPAM and junk folders for anything from Guru Louise or Give It Up Mommyland. 

And please don't forgo helping someone because this project ended early. Look around. People are struggling everywhere. You know someone who needs your help. Maybe you only kind of know them. You could ask the guidance counselor at your kid's school if they know of a family who needs something, and you could slip them a gift card. Or you could call a local domestic violence shelter and ask if there's a mom there who needs help for her kids this Christmas. 

If this project has taught us anything, it's that good people everywhere need help sometimes. And we if we can help, we should at least try.

xoxo, Lydia, Kate & Guru Louise
UPDATE 12/12/12
As of this auspicious date, everyone who emailed us received a match. Thanks to Yahoo's amazing service team working over-time to help us and Kate's ninja-like cute and paste skills - everyone was paired up. That being said  - there are no guarantees that you will receive anything. And mommies, if you wrote to us asking for a little help, we are just not able to email you back with a confirmation. But just because you haven't heard from us doesn't mean some love & holiday cheer isn't headed your way.

By the way - Kate worked like a beast to get everyone matched. ALL DAY FOR DAYS. Even on her birthday. Guru Louise and I are in awe of what she managed to do.

Here are the Details:
With each project that we do, we find it's best to open an email account - just for that project  - and then shut it down at the end of the project. We have always used YahooMail. It's what we know best, we like their folder system, and it's what has worked best for us before.

Why not just use a spreadsheet or a google doc and everyone enters their data into it, you might say? A VERY GOOD QUESTION. Because most of the people who contact us for help hate that they have to ask anyone. They only ask because it's us. And they know we get it and don't judge them. They also know we will do what we can to protect their privacy.

We've also had lots of people offer to help us match emails. First, THANK YOU. Thank you thank you. But we can't do that. The information people send us is often very private. We are grateful for that trust and we honor it by never, ever sharing people's emails or letting anyone outside our very tiny circle of trust see them. Also, due to the whole cut & paste nightmare, the possibility of making whopping mistakes is pretty big. And we need to be responsible and accountable for those mistakes, so they need to be our own.

Here's how the week broke down: The project started Monday. We got 1,000 emails the first day. We read and sorted them and hoped we would be able to meet people's needs.

Sometime on Tuesday, after matching about 100 people, our email account suddenly locked us out. We could no longer send any email at all. Apparently we'd triggered every SPAM filter they had. (Sending and receiving tons of emails? Brand new account? Embedding links? Using a template or signature? All the emails have the same subject lines? Oh, we did it all.)

So Tuesday night was spent freaking out and trying to reach Yahoo for help. At that point, we had about 1,600 emails that we could read but not respond to. And they kept on coming.

Wednesday morning, it all seemed magically fixed! Then we got locked out again. (Editor's note: This was the morning my kids learned some really colorful expletives! -Guru) The rest of Wednesday was spent trying to contact every person we know that has any connection to Yahoo at all. And the emails kept coming.

Thursday morning, we hit paydirt. We were put in contact with some amazing customer service reps who told us they would do whatever they could to help us. We started to panic. We had lost 2 days. We were now looking at over 2,000 emails that we could do nothing with. Could we forward them? No. Our only option was to cut and paste each one. The body of the email in one cut/paste, the person needing help in another, and email address in another. The wonderful people at Yahoo assured us they would do what they could.

But then on Thursday night, two things happened. We hit a message board and got 60 asks for help in less than one hour from folks who had no idea what Rants from Mommyland was. And the email account locked us out again. We decided we had no choice but to set the auto-reply saying we could no longer accept requests for help.

By Friday it was clear that Yahoo couldn't fix the issue. But they were polite and professional and responsive. They were trying and they cared about what we were doing. However, the one filter they couldn't change was when we opened the account. And that was the one that killed us.

So since Friday, we've spent about 12-14 hours a day cutting and pasting emails in order to match people. And we'll keep doing it until the last person who asked us for help on Thursday is matched.


xoxo, Lydia, Kate & Guru Louise
The awesome people at Sweet Relish are working with us to help moms in need this holiday season. They will donate $1 in gift cards for every person who joins their site and follows me (up to $5,000!!). If you're too busy or too broke to help to a family in need this year, here is one really quick and easy way to help.  It only takes a minute and is really useful and fun.

To join Sweet Relish and follow me, click here.

If you're already on Sweet Relish and you want to find me, click here.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

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