FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Food Distributors International here ran into a major computer snafu when it tried to transmit its on-line newsletter on Good Friday.
"Some of those new recipients decided to notify us that they wanted their names removed from the list, but instead of sending that message to FDI, they typed in the address of the list and thereby sent their message to everyone on the list. When that happened, it kept multiplying and clogged up everyone's system," Gatty explained.
The situation was complicated, he said, by "a couple of non-FDI members" who were not on the mailing list "who began sending spam messages that read 'Test Message' over and over," which also went to all names on the list.
He said FDI has ascertained the name on the senders' America Online account and intends to determine who is responsible for those messages.
The discovery that transmission of the newsletter was creating problems -- further exacerbated by the spam messages -- resulted in FDI recalling its MIS and communications staff to the office late Friday, after they had already left for the weekend. The problem was pinpointed at about 7:30 p.m. and the FDI server was shut down by 10 p.m., Gatty said.
"We're now in the process of sorting all this out and determining how this happened," Gatty told SN early last week.
FDI sent a letter -- by facsimile -- to its newsletter subscribers last Monday apologizing for the situation. In the letter, John R. Block, FDI president, explained what had happened and asked those receiving the fax to "[pass] this communication on to those within your organization who may have been affected."
The deluge of e-mails was frustrating to many recipients. In one plaintive e-mail, a Midwest wholesaler wrote, "For some reason I am blind-copied on an e-mail that is crossing the globe. What is it for? Why am I on the list?
"Please stop this e-mail nightmare. I keep getting nasty notes from people who are receiving some kind of test memo."
Another wholesaler wrote, "Stop sending these tests. You have me listed as a blind copy. I am not interested but may go blind from wading through all of your messages."
One recipient took the opportunity to invite others to an on-line auction for fresh fruit and vegetables that his company was hosting.