Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

There Is No Troll In Any Closet, Anywhere!

Is this a spectacular doorknob, or what??? But there is no Troll behind it!

The Untrue Story About The Troll In The Closet

In the last few months I have heard various versions of the “troll in the closet” story. You know the one–a mentally challenged youngster, or a mentally challenged adult, or an Irishman, or a drunk or a senile person or a blonde, whatever–calls a family member or the police or a friend and says, “I have a troll locked in the closet, come home right away!” The person receiving the call says, yeah sure and doesn’t go home.  But the calls continue (usually three is about the number for these stories). Finally the person goes home and is taken to the closet, which has a chair and a dresser pushed up against it and sounds of someone kicking the door and cursing. When the door is opened, out comes a very irate midget census taker or small person of some foreign descent or midget Irishman or short someone else, according to whoever is going to be used as the punchline of the story.

I’ve heard it told as the honest-to-goodness truth by at least a dozen people. I’ve read it in emails sent to me as purportedly being truthful. A friend (who knows I’m writing this) sent it to me because she thought I would be able to use it in training. She reported it to me as happening to her sister-in-law who told her the story as true one about a coworker and her son.

Today I received my online newsletter from Cooks Illustrated, a magazine I love. I also enjoy the way the editor, Christopher Kimball, writes. I have always looked foward to reading his comments. In this recent newsletter he wrote about a  man in a nearby town in Vermont who is nice enough but is known to be a heavy drinker. The guy locked what he thought was a troll in the closet–but it turned out to be a midget census taker.  

Mr. Kimball started the story with, “here is a recent story that sounds  completely made up.” But then he goes through the whole story and ends with, “no word yet on the impending lawsuit.”  I’m sure he knew it wasn’t true, so that isn’t my frustration with it. It’s that he wrote about something in a way that will probably be quoted as true by someone–and it isn’t even funny.

Very Few People Want To Receive Non-Personal, Forwarded Messages

When I speak at conferences or in classes about foolish, time-wasting or irritating emails people nod their heads in support and often applaud. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people do not want to receive jokes, amazing stories, virus warnings, free money stories, health and safety warnings that only are publicized in forwarded emails, political or religious editorials or anything else that isn’t a personal message.  (I’m not talking about personal messages in which someone includes photos or an interesting news story. I’m referring to group mailings without any personalization. )

 However, most people don’t want to hurt the feelings of the sender, whether they know them well or not. The sender never realizes that when his or her name pops up on an email with FW: in the subject line, the recipient sighs, hits delete and loses a bit more respect for the sender. 

The Direct Way To Tell Someone To Stop Sending Impersonal Emails

If you’ve been hitting delete, do yourself a favor and simply write back with a short, friendly message: 

Hi Marie, how are you doing? Hope the Spring weather is bringing a lot of nice flowers your way! I got your email with the story about the troll and smiled at the old Urban Legend that seems to make the rounds often. Could you please do me a favor though and take my name off your general email list? I love to get personal messages from you and will always respond right away, but am trying to clear my name from non-personal lists–you know how it goes with so many of those. Thanks very much, I appreciate it! Take care and enjoy this great weather–and keep in touch. I’ll do the same! Tina

An Indirect Way To Tell Someone To Stop Sending You Impersonal Emails

If you don’t want to be so obvious try this (which is less direct than I like, but might be better for some): Wait a few days after receiving a junk email message and send the problem person an email like this one:

Hello Marie! I’ve copied and pasted an email I’m sending to almost everyone on my email list. I am hoping it will stop or appreciably cut down on the number of forwarded messages and other non-personal items I get in my email every day. I wanted to send you a note though to be sure you knew I am always happy to get a personal note from you and will respond right away. It’s only the forwarded messages, warnings, poems and political messages I want to cut out of my mail.

Here is what I’m sending to others:
Hello Friends and Colleagues! I hope you all know how much I value your friendship and how much I enjoy getting personal messages from all of you. So, please keep me on your personal mailing list. However, I’m asking that everyone take me off group mailing lists for forwarded messages or non-personal miscellaneous items. You know how those can fill your mailbox after awhile! I’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness about it as it will really help me. Thank you very much!

I still prefer the more direct way, but I can understand that some of these situations are touchy–especially if they’ve been going on for a long time. Keep this in mind: You’re not being unreasonable and you’re not being rude. You’re just asking for some consideration from a friend. Try it and let me know what happens.

April 29th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 11 comments


  1. No troll??? I’m shocked and disappointed! 🙂

    I liked your sample email back. It’s pleasant but gets to the point. I don’t get many of those kind of emails but I have a friend who gets many almost every day, from the same person. My friend just selects all that person’s email and deletes it, unopened and complains every time! I think she should do as you advise and encourage more personal emails and less of the junk kind.

    Thank you very much for your help to our young employee who was having problems. She was very appreciative of your concern for her. YOU enjoy Spring!

    Comment by P.A.H. | April 29, 2010

  2. My sister sits at her computer and sends this kind of trash to fifty to a hundred people every day. I’ve asked her why she does it because I hate it and so does every relative she sends it to. I’m sure her friends dread it too. One of her good friends wrote a note to her that definately wasn’t nice like yours and told her to stop sending her that kind of email. My sister completely cut all connections to her and says she won’t talk to someone who was that rude to her.

    She is inconsiderate of people in a lot of situations (loud talking, over-riding what someone else wants to do, wearing too much perfume, talking behind their backs, etc. etc.) and swears she didn’t do anything wrong anytime they call her on it. Email is just another way she is inconsiderate.

    Comment by F.J. | April 29, 2010

  3. Not everyone writes well, so they figure forwarding something interesting or funny is a way to keep in touch without having to write. I’ve forwarded something I thought everyone would think was interesting then found out it was just an urban legend. I also get those kind, but I figure that’s what delete is for. Life is too short to let a few emails steal the joy.

    Comment by eric | April 29, 2010

  4. Well said! People should especially be careful not to forward such email while they are supposed to be working. It not only is irritating to others, it indicates the person didn’t have enough work to do or wasn’t doing it. Apart from that, it can mark a person as being a lower level employee with low level ideas about communicating. Your sample reponse is a good one.

    Comment by Careerist | April 29, 2010

  5. My wife thinks people love to get all that stuff and she believes everything she reads, so she forwards anything someone sends her. If it’s on the Internet she believes it. She told me the troll story already. She says if everyone really hated the kind of things you’re talking about it wouldn’t keep circulating. I have a theory that it’s like National Enquirer. No one wants to admit they read it but someone must or it wouldn’t still be at the end of the check-out line. I’m hoping I’m wrong!

    Comment by Wiseacre | April 29, 2010

  6. I like the sample response you gave and I’m going to use it tomorrow. Thank you for it. I’ll let you know how it goes, but I’m at the point where I don’t care if this person stops talking to me or not if only I don’t have to get those emails anymore. Thanks again.

    Comment by Lister201 | April 29, 2010

  7. I liked this Tina, because you didn’t just complain, you had two very useful suggestions for dealing with it. I have had to block some people because I couldn’t get them to stop sending me such things.

    As an aside, I wish I could find a doorknob like the one in the photo. I’ve spent the last hour on the Internet looking for one! I would imagine it was old, custom made and very expensive. Blessings to you this week. You’re in my thoughts often.

    Comment by Don R. | April 29, 2010

  8. I can’t believe anyone would believe that troll story anyway. I know they do, but I can’t believe it. And they’re in jury pools. Scary!

    Comment by Tooth Fairy | May 2, 2010

  9. Five days w/o an email from my main problem. This might work. Whoohoo!!!!!!

    Comment by Lister201 | May 4, 2010

  10. The troll story never stops and some people still tell it like it’s true. This is an interesting site.

    Comment by Brent K. | May 21, 2010

  11. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing all of your posts. It seems like there is something for everyone. I liked this post especially, because I woke up to an email that had some true information but some false photos and quickly found on the Internet that it was wrong. If I can find out an email isn’t correct, why can’t the people who sent it to me??? I’ll be back!

    Comment by P.L.S. | June 4, 2010

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