Preface: This is one LONG post, so apologies in advance. But I promise there are two stories involved, and I think at least one is pretty awesome. Hopefully you will too.
I’m a digital native to nearly every sense of the phrase. For example, I don’t think I have visited a real bank location since I opened by account at age 16 and my answer to anything and everything seems to be Google. So last week when I had to opt to book a hotel for an upcoming wedding over the phone, I was out of my comfort zone to say the least.
I was using a group code that would not work online and opted to quickly call and make the reservation. As soon as I hung up the phone I joked with my roommate on how uncomfortable I felt sharing my information with a stranger, when in reality that stranger is likely a 1000x safer than any untraceable Internet form.
Here’s where the story splits and adds in a little irony.
Later that night I received a forwarded email from jdennihy@X.com vs my kdennihy@X.com email address. J had forwarded along my Marriott hotel itinerary that had been sent to her email instead.
A small mistake, but one that would certainly not have been made online.
The first thought that came to mind was that conversation about security with my roommate. The foreseeable “safe” route had now potentially compromised my personal information to a complete stranger (maybe not complete, we will get to that later in the story).
Naturally, I contacted Marriott to alert them of the situation. I asked to have A. my confirmation number changed so my information would not be public and B. the correct email address put on my account so J wouldn’t have to continue to receive my bothersome hotel emails.
After a quick response from Marriott, I learned that A. the information wasn’t personal, only my hotel dates and location were shared and B. the only way I could change this would be to cancel my reservation and try again or sign up for their rewards program, where they may be able to help.
Now, I’m not the type to gripe about little errors, after all, I really just wanted my email changed, but poor customer service led me down a rabbit hole of discontent, so let’s back up.
I can cancel my reservation and make a new one (and risk this happening again? I know a pebble of a chance, but really? No thanks) or join the Marriott Rewards program (because the help has been stellar so far and I’d really like to book again in the future, say five minutes from now? I’d rather not). I opted for neither and haven’t received any further communication from Marriott.
Now every story has a silver lining. And I know this post is getting quite lengthy, but believe me, after that rant, you’re safe to know the rest of the post will be worth it.
My last name isn’t common. In fact, I have never met someone outside of my own relatives to spell Dennihy the same way. After receiving my hotel confirmation from J, I quickly emailed her back first thanking her for not being a crazy person, since you never know who’s hands information could fall into these days, and second to share my thoughts on the namesake.
After back and forth emails, J finally suggested we look each other up on Facebook to see if we had any family member in common. Surely that would settle things. Low and behold it did. Two of my close cousins turned out to be mutual friends even though J had never met them and they simply friended every Facebook user with the name “Dennihy” about a year ago. J and I exchanged family names trying to find the connection.
I made a quick call to my Dad sharing the information to learn that J’s Grandfather was my Grandfather’s only brother. Even more interesting, our family had since lost touch with her father and since my Dad was a kid. Wow. J and I exchanged information, which confirmed the connection, and suddenly I learned of a whole new set of family members of which I had never known.
I shared the news with my Grandmother, who was ecstatic to say the least. So there you have it, again digital wins. Thanks to an email chain and social networks, I have uncovered an entire side of my family I never knew existed. Even if Marriott fails at customer service, at least I can find comfort in the fact that they shared my information with a rather interesting stranger (better yet, a newly discovered third cousin).