Friday, August 5, 2016

The Case of the Mistaken Lortz



Today I received an interesting email from someone with an Asian name.
Hello Mike, good morning. I am planning to remodel three bathrooms of my house. Mr. (another Asian name) refers you to me. Could you please give me a call to discuss the further details ASAP? I can be reached at (402) xxx-xxxx (home) or (402) xxx-xxxx (cell). Thanks a lot.
At first, I thought the email was spam. I've gotten enough notices from Nigerian princes who need help moving money from one account to another to be suspicious of emails from people I don't know.

But the text of this one sounded a bit too earnest. It sounded authentic. So I decided to google.

I started by searching the sender's email address. It was legit and belonged to a professor at a university in Omaha, Nebraska. Then I googled the person who "recommended" me. Sure enough, he too was a professor from a midwest university.

Then I googled the phone number the requester asked me to call. 402 is an Omaha area code.

I had enough evidence to think this was legit. All the information led to an Omaha business deal. But why were they contacting me?

My final web search was for "Lortz Omaha". The first result:

Lortz Home Solutions

According to their website, "LHS, Inc. specializes in basement finishing, kitchen and bath remodels, decks, home maintenance and some additions."

That had to be who the email sender was looking for. There was no way this was spam.

I sent a reply email informing the sender that he had the wrong Lortz and I provided the number and website of Lortz Home Solutions.

A few hours later, I received a reply.
Hello Michael, thank you very much for alerting my mistake. Yes, I tried to contact Lortz Home Solutions in Omaha. I have got in contact with him now and hope my remodeling will be smooth and look great later. Thanks a lot again and best regards.
As you can see, not the most conversationalist English. But I was right. They were looking for Lortz Home Solutions. There was just a small cultural or communications gap that led this person to my email address when they meant to contact Lortz Home Solutions.

Answering emails from people we don't know - especially when they are proposing a business transaction - is usually a big time Internet no-no. But sometimes people make honest mistakes. I could have deleted the email or I could have been a complete asshole and led the person in the wrong direction (I thought about both options). But in the end, the good person in me won out and my five minutes of googling provided the sender with the correct contact information.

They were lost on the information superhighway and instead of running them over or cursing them out, I pointed them in the right direction.

I like to think I did a good deed.

In retrospect, I should have asked for pictures of their finished bathroom.

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