Screenshot/Email

On Tuesday afternoon, I got an email:

“Hello Amazon Customer,” it read. “Someone great recently purchased a gift from your baby registry! You can visit your Thank You List to easily keep track of all gifts purchased.”

Before my mom freaks out, I should clarify: I do not have a baby registry at Amazon or anywhere else, because I am not pregnant. Amazon, it appeared, had sent the email to me in error.

Based on a late afternoon Twitter search, I am not the only person who received a puzzling message like this:

Those who got the email — and decided to talk about it on Twitter — reacted with a mix of amusement, fear and anger. Was it just a glitch? Or was it a phishing scheme, trying to trick Amazon customers into giving away their login credentials by getting them to click on a link in the weird email?

In a statement on Tuesday evening, an Amazon spokesperson said the email in question was erroneously sent due to “a technical glitch,” which “caused us to inadvertently send a gift alert email earlier today.” Amazon said it was in the process of contacting affected customers, and they “apologize for any confusion this may have caused.” (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

Slightly earlier in the day, a customer service representative in Amazon’s live chat service told me, as a customer who had received the email, that it was not a phishing scheme, but instead an “email sent in error to a large majority of amazon customers” and it could be “safely ignored.” That being said, it’s still not a good idea to click on links in any email that you think looks suspicious.

So the email was just a glitch, a mistake. But the thing about mistakes at big companies like Amazon is, even the simplest ones can affect a bunch of people. While the message may have been amusing or inconsequential to some, for others it was a difficult and very unwelcome reminder:

We’ve seen this before, even with intentional messages to the customers of major companies. When Facebook placed greetings at the top of their users’ news feeds in 2016 telling them not to “forget” Mother’s Day, those who had lost their mothers were instead “reminded” of something painful.