My Doppelg√§nger is an Unemployed Racist Canadian Construction Worker

I’ve been having this issue for years where I’ve been getting somebody else’s email. I know why it’s happening; I’ve just been at a loss to solve it.

One of my email addys is “shawnritchie@gmail.com”. I’ve had this since the day Gmail launched back in 2004.

Somebody keeps shopping and using “shawn.ritchie@gmail.com” as THEIR addy. This is a feature Gmail allows that lets you track which shithead corporation sold out your email to spammers. You sign up for their shit using your email address, but you insert a period somewhere in the first part of the address so that, when you start getting spam addressed to that address, you know which asshole company done sold you out.

Some dipshit either thinks this is their actual address (it’s not) or is just giving it out as a fake address whenever a store asks them for one. But they’re not smart enough to actually gin up a REAL fake address, or to not use it for shit that will actually result in their personal info going to a total stranger.

So, for years, I’ve been getting the occasional receipt for various purchases this dumbass has made, sign-up info emails for accounts he’s setup at various forums and websites (including some weird preacher shit, and some weird cheerleader shit, neither of which I looked into too deeply).

One time a few years ago, I got an email from some web forum that seemed like a small community so I emailed their admin to say “hey, can you hit up username whatever and ask him to stop using my email address ‘cuz I’m getting all of his shit from your forum and do not want it?”.

No answer, nothing worked, so I’d just occasionally unsubscribe him from these things, grit my teeth, and carry on with my day.

Mind you, this isn’t an incessant daily flood. It’s a few emails every couple of months. But the incessant… STUPIDITY of it all really bugs the shit out of me. It looks perfectly legit to Gmail (because it basically is) so it doesn’t get caught by their spam filters; it gets delivered as legit, to me.

A few weekends ago, though, I got a couple in a row from some hotel rewards program and it just got under my skin, so I went digging.

Stupid easy password reset for that site? Yep.

Log in, hey, got a home addy, credit card info and… thank fuck, a phone number. Let’s see if it’s legit…

ring ring

“Hallo?”

“Hi, is this Shawn?”

“Ay-yuh. Who is this?”

“This is also Shawn. This will be a bit weird, so hear me out…”

I explain the situation.

It’s quickly made clear that I’m talking to a blue-collar Canadian guy (squares with the Ontario address I got from logging into one of his accounts) who knows fuck-all about the Internet. He does, however, like to chat with strangers.

I do not.

I explain the situation. He’s obviously not getting it. So I explain it again. Soon after, I explain it a third time (my wife overheard the whole thing and can validate what she refers to as my “amazing patience” with this guy, “amazing patience” NOT being something I’m ever accused of having).

He clearly has no idea what’s going on, he “only uses email to apply for construction jobs” from some province-run website up there, but his wife does the shopping and his kids use his card so maybe they did it, he’s not sure…

… and I don’t care. I explain that I just want to stop getting this guy’s personal info. I’m a generally moral person; many people who would get this access to a stranger’s accounts, would not be. I explain that I need these emails to go away, so whether he’s skating the truth with me, or if he needs to talk to his wife and kids about it, whatever, I’ve told you what to do, just do it already.

After the third walkthrough, hoping against hope that what’s going on here and, more importantly, what the fix is, will sink in, he comes back at me with:

“Y’know what it could be? We got these fucking Pakis up here who do computer scams…”

hard stop

“Dude, we’re done here. I’ve explained what you or your family members are doing wrong. I’ve explained the fix. I’ve spent WAY more time on explaining this to you than I should have to, and my reward is apparently two barrels of Canadian racism right to the face. Fix your shit, or I’ll just start cancelling accounts for you or maybe buying me some treats on your dime. Your call. Good day”.

Sigh.

Obviously, my faith in humanity has been at a low ebb for some time now, but this one sucked the wind outta me. I can’t imagine having a conversation with a helpful, friendly stranger who went out of their way to try and help ME with a problem of my own devising, and deciding that dropping some cask-strength racism would be the appropriate return volley.

And, in that way of entitled white shitheads the world over, he obviously had no inkling that dropping the Canadian equivalent of an n-bomb on a total stranger might not be appreciated. Like, he expected me to just take it in stride because I’m sure he only deals with white people in general and has that weird suburban expectation that everybody else is Exactly Like Me.

I haven’t gotten any more emails on his behalf, but I also haven’t gotten any warnings about the donations to various bail bond funds I’ve been making on his card, either, so c’est la vie.

Amazon Is Stupid

I found out from a guy I follow on Twitter (the excellent Chicago Sun-Times general columnist Neil Steinberg, for the record) that Mark Kurlansky, one of my favorite non-fiction writers, has a new book out.

This post isn’t about that book, although I’m gonna burn a graf or two here on a recommendation; the new book is called Milk!: A 10,000 Year Food Fracas, and I’m recommending it even though I haven’t read it yet and it doesn’t even come out for a few more weeks. Why? Well, because I read his prior books, Cod, Paper, and Salt, and greatly enjoyed each of them.

In case you can’t tell by the titles, he picks a single thing that is immensely important to human history and development, and then writes about the how and why of that importance. He’s a great writer, finding ways to work in all sorts of fascinating and interesting little human vignettes into these long-arc stories of the history of physical things. The books are highly entertaining, and I’ve learned a shitload I didn’t know about the topics from them. Go buy them.

That said, I want to bitch about, well… how I found out about this book.

You see… I’ve been an Amazon customer (don’t get me started on their evilness and how much Bezos sucks; they are, he does, but there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under Capitalism so it is what it is) since they were still just an amazing online bookstore. My first purchase there was in 1998 and, natch, it was a book.

I’ve since bought, let’s see… checks Amazon account

Jesus Christ.

I’ve bought, um, five hundred and fucking seventy books on Amazon since then.

Sure, some were gifts, but most of them were for me, me, me. There’s also been at least a few hundred books I didn’t buy on Amazon as well, given that I blew a few paychecks a year at Borders until they closed, and also was a steady user of the Chicago Public Library throughout this period, too. But, point being: Amazon has 570 points of fucking data on me regarding what kinds of books I buy, who my favorite authors are, etc… they have thousands of points of data on me if they’re tracking which books I’ve added to wishlists but not bought, which books I’ve spent time looking at the store pages of but then neither bought nor wish-listed, etc… and I’m sure they ARE tracking that data, too.

I bought each of the three Kurlansky books I’ve read previously through Amazon as well, just to be clear.

And yet… in no way, shape, or form, did Amazon figure out a way to say “hey smr, that guy you’ve bought all of his previous books from from us, usually immediately when they come out? He’s got a new one coming soon; interested?”.

This has happened recently with other authors, too. Authors I love, whom I’ve bought tons of books from Amazon by, and they have huge, important new works come out and I find out about them via sheer happenstance because Amazon’s algorithms are apparently as smart as a three-year old on a sugar high who just got kicked in the soft spot of the skull.

This seems kind of insane to me. Everybody touts these algorithms, that Amazon and Google and whoever can predict what we want before we even fuckin’ want it, yet the most reliable ads I get from them are, like, for toilet seats but only after I JUST FUCKIN’ BOUGHT ONE and in complete ignorance of the fact that modal number of toilet seats an individual purchaser on Amazon probably buys per decade is without a doubt: one.

You have way north of 50% of the data on my book purchases for the last two decades. You also own Goodreads, which I’ve been fairly well-integrated with for years, too. You know exactly how much and how quickly I’ve read each of these fucking books, because I read them in your apps or on your e-reader. So you know if I’ve punted on a given book after 20 pages, or if I’ve devoured a given author’s huge door-stopping brick of a book in a frankly embarrassingly short period of time right after it comes out.

In short: YOU KNOW WHAT BOOKS I LIKE, AMAZON.

So why in the fuck don’t I get an email or something from you, or a prominent ad or placement on your website during my basically weekly visit to the book part of your website telling me that this guy has a new book dropping very soon?

You’ll happily show me books by authors I’ve never read before but who’ve written books even vaguely related to subjects I have read books about before.

You’re MOST likely to show six books on exactly the same exceedingly narrow topic I just finished a book about, even though you have my ENTIRE ADULT READING HISTORY and therefore could easily determine that one thing I don’t do, ever, is read two books about basically the same topic back to back, ever, ever, EVER. That’s NOT HOW I READ. AND YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT ME.¬† As much as I may love the topic of Roman governorship during the Principate era, nobody who ain’t paid professionally to study that shit is gonna read TWO books on that topic in the same year. Yet the most prominent placement I get when I go to the History Books section of your website while I’m reading a book on that exact topic will be six more books on the exact same goddamned thing.

But a brand-new book from a guy whose every other book I’ve bought the instant it came out and read basically immediately in a very short period of time? All of which are facts you have in your data about me?

THAT book, you never tell me about.

Apple Music figured this out, and I haven’t been using that service even a year yet. Every week I get an email that basically says “you have albums by these artists in your library, and they all have new shit out this week. Click here to get it, enjoy”, and it’s sorted with the artists I have the most of and listen to the most upfront.

But this is somehow beyond Amazon. The closest they can get is “hey man, you bought a mattress last week, want six more right now? Are you sure? Are you SURE SURE?!?!?!? Okay, that’s cool, don’t buy one now, but we’re going to show you nothing but mattress ads across the entire internet for the next, say, oh, six weeks. That cool? Cool”.

I don’t get it.