For OneWorldOnline.com, an online community site, advertising a $50 shopping spree in USA Today meant equally attracting and repelling thousands of new customers.
After signing up more than 10,000 people after the ad ran, the company sent all those new members an email to evaluate its service. But by hitting the reply button, the customers wound up replying to the entire email list.
"I've gotten about 70 e-mails so far, my office neighbor about 80 and another colleague 438," said Liv Lindberg, in an email about the problem. "Needless to say, customers are extremely annoyed, threatening to sue and calling (it a) breach of privacy."
OneWorldOnline.com's chief executive David Nemelka said it was human error: "One of our employees pushed the wrong button and it opened the floodgates for a couple of hours.
"When one person replied to (the email) it then got forwarded on to a couple of thousand people," Nemelka said.
The 2-year-old company, based in Provo, Utah, is publicly traded on the over-the-counter market. The company sells its own products to members as well as offers savings on products bought through affiliated e-tailers including MarthaStewart.com and Borders.com. The company also hosts Web sites and provides content to members.