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August 17, 2013

Rant Time! - The Wrong Way to Ask For Help

Reen's Rants: The Wrong Way to Ask For Help
I should have called this blog post "How to Annoy the Person Who Offered to Help You"

The email I'm about to share with you is the kind of email that makes me want to throw my hands in the air and say "I give up. I'm done. Why am I bothering??"

As a preface, many of you know that I maintain several websites and blogs. For anyone interested, the complete list of my 20 blogs and websites is on my About Lorine page. 

My main website is Olive Tree Genealogy which I started in 1996. One of my blogs is Ask Olive Tree, where I try to help readers with their challenging research puzzles.  At no time in the 17 years I've had a website online have I ever charged anything to view the  content I have transcribed and published.  All content on all my sites and blogs is free. Ask Olive Tree blog is one of the free services I offer.

So I'm pretty busy bringing free content online and trying to help other genealogists as much as I can.  I happily give up my own time to do this.  I have to get the content, then transcribe or index it. I have to  maintain the sites, fix broken links and so on.  And having been online the past 17  years makes me an official internet dinosaur!

I don't talk about the financial aspect much but I also spend my own money to acquire content to publish for free. And of course, I pay for my webhosting and other incidental expenses out of my own pocket.

I'm not whining about my workload or asking for applause or sympathy, just setting the scene so my readers understand why the email I received today annoyed and bothered me so much. I get emails like these once in awhile, and usually I just sigh and shake my head in disbelief, but this one managed to push me over the edge.

In his first email this person wrote to Ask Olive Tree blog and demanded (not asked - demanded) to know why I do not have any ships passenger lists online sailing from England to Virginia between 1635 and 1700 on my Olive Tree Genealogy website. I would think a little common sense and reading my articles about ships passenger lists to USA might give him some guesses why..... here's a few answers that come to mind immediately:

1. I am lazy and didn't feel like putting any online (not likely but it's an option as an answer)
2. I ran out of money and/or time to transcribe them and put them online (very possible)
3. My health prevents me from working on my sites as much as I'd like to (that's true)
4. I have a life outside of genealogy and the internet (some would disagree with this but it really is true)
5. Before 1825 ships passenger lists to USA didn't have to be kept. So finding any for this earlier time period is a bonus as very few exist. (Bingo!)

That email was a tad irritating to me but his followup email was the one that got me. Here it is

if Olive Tree can only partially answer queries - why would I what to pay and join Olive Tree to begin with ?  If you guys don't have a clue like you said you did and can't help find the answers to my questions- why should I sign up?
I'm sure my readers have instantly spotted the huge misconceptions this dude has about me and my site. But let's break it down to the errors and the demands found in his email:

1. "partially answer queries"?? I cannot  respond to every query that comes my way. I'd need 72 hours in the day and no down time with family and friends

2. "Pay"?? Where on any of my sites do you find me asking for money??? Oh, where I sell my books. But you aren't asking to buy one of my books, you want me to answer your query. No charge for that buddy and I defy you to find where I say you have to pay me to help you.

3. "Join Olive Tree"? What the heck are you talking about? Where do I have anything on my sites that says you have to "join" ???

4. "You guys"?? What "guys"?? There's just ME. One person. And what's with this "don't have a clue" Gosh I consider myself fairly knowledgeable but I freely admit I do not know the answer to every single genealogy question that comes my way!

5. "Sign up"?? For what? Again, where do you find something on my sites or blogs that requires you to "sign up" for my free services or my free content!

Phew. I feel better now. I needed to vent and I hope my readers understand that sometimes - rarely but once in awhile - I need to share my frustration with you. Thanks for listening and please don't send me emails telling me if I don't like what I'm doing and can't take the heat I should give it all up.

Because as much as I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel when I see emails like the one this morning, I love doing this. And I love meeting (albeit virtually) my readers and site visitors and interacting with them. Thanks for listening. I think my blood pressure is slowly returning to normal.


Frances Elizabeth Schwab said...

Wow. And not in a good way. As in a Narcissitic Personality Disorder way.

Best to distance yourself and not respond to this person.

Anonymous said...

I retired from corporate America because I had to deal with a lot of email with that tone of voice and I got sick of it. I went back to school and now am a Professional Genealogist and I am very picky when it comes to taking on new clients. I did take on one once that seemed very nice and was a student until I emailed her with a status. She called and yelled at me for not making enough progress and she had expected faster results. So, I told her due to personal reason I would no longer be able to continue her research. I sent her a report and the documents I had so far and what was left of the retainer. I don't have time or energy to deal with people like that anymore.

Heirlooms Reunited said...

Years ago I sold a book on eBay and immediately regretted letting it go as it was the kind of book you want to reread every so often. "Born in Paradise", memoir of Armine von Tempski about growing up on a ranch on the side of Haleakala on Maui. (I digress - but later on, I found out that her uncle and a half Passamaquoddy man from the Eastport, Maine area, who had deserted from the British Army were on opposite sides in the Maori Wars). The eBay feedback, negative: "Boring book". When I contacted the seller to refund the money and get the book back: "I hated it so much I threw it in the trash." No further emails were answered. Someone just fooling around or a kid hacked his parents' account, who knows? eBay didn't do anything about negative feedback in those days without a court order, but I notice it didn't take long for this account to be kicked off. Yes, it stings, but we appreciate you, Lorine!

Christine Blythe said...

I so can appreciate how you feel. Believe me, your sites are much appreciated by many and I've been consulting your sites since 1997 (right about the time you first started Olive Tree Genealogy). I now have my own site and have had it for a tiny two years (tiny in comparison to yours), but still regularly visit yours looking for new information.

Claudia said...

Probably the same kind of person who goes into the library or archives and expects all their family information to be handed to them, free of course.

Anonymous said...

I don't write a lot of comments on blog pages, but I want you to know that yours is one of the few that I enjoy reading. I am in the US and I have some Canadian ancestry. I enjoy your articles because they cover interesting topics and they are always well written. I can't say that about many others. The creature that upset you is not worth your time or energy. There are strange folks out there that do that sort of thing for fun. Best to just ignore them. Keep up the good work. I'm sure there are many who would agree that we couldn't get along as well without you!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Hello everyone. I really appreciate all the kind words and support on my morning's rant.

I do realize this man does not deserve one iota of my time or energy, but this morning I was pretty disgusted and worked up.

I appreciate being able to rant to my wonderful readers! Thanks for being here!

Nancy said...

Lorine, thank you for all your hard work, time, and effort with your blogs. I appreciate you and them. I usually read your posts in my reader but because only the first few sentences appear, I had to come by and make sure I don't ever respond to help the way this person did. I'm sorry he treated you so rudely.

Larry said...


Given what you have said, I am surprised you have not published this [insert expletive of choice]'s name and allowed others to black list him from their sites / queries as well.

Hopefully one day he / she will grow up / get a life, read your rant and apologize to you.

In the mean time (which no doubt will be a LONG time) please savour not only these good comments but no doubt the many emails that praise your quality, effective and free service. We're sure there are thousands of these good ones and hope these make up for the rare ones that cause you any stress.

Feel free to add any such rare ones here in the future and we'll all enjoy a chuckle at their expense.

2013AG18 22:45 Sydney Australia

Dave said...

I never get people who complain about free services. (On a side note, my big pet-peeve is people who complain about the free services of volunteer-run organizations - if you don't like it, then volunteer yourself!).

Anyway, don't let people like this run you down, and please keep up the excellent work that you do.

Audrey Collins said...

'Unrealistic expectations' doesn't quite cover it, somehow, does it? Please rant on, you have every justification, and you heve certainly struck a chord with quite a few people, I'm sure.

Only yesterday I had to compose and send a suitably polite and informative email response to a dissatisfied enquirer who didn't see the point in our having a catalogue if it didn't show a picture of the item, because how could they decide whether or not they wanted to buy it otherwise?

But at least I get paid for doing that.

Michele Stephens said...

You deserve two lots of congratulations, one for remaining a lady during your communication with such an ill-mannered and ignorant person, and the second for not bursting a blood vessel!

I guess the increasing interest in genealogy combined with access to the internet will invariably result in contact with an "odd bod" or two. Thankfully, they are always out-numbered by the "switched on" and genuinely nice!

Vivian LeMay said...

Gotta let you know how much I appreciate Olive Tree Genealogy, Lorine.
Seems people new to genealogy research don't understand the years of work involved, and get frustrated when they can't download their entire family tree with one quick search.
Don't get discouraged.

Vivian LeMay