The subject line has a couple of those little "FWD:" notations, and you realize to your horror that the email originated with a customer, who sent a complaint directly to CEO Jeff Bezos.
Bezos forwarded it to your boss, with only a single character added: "?."
Or maybe he forwarded it to your boss's boss, who in turn forwarded it to your boss. It doesn't matter. It's in your in-box now, and it's your responsibility to respond--a response that will go all the way back to the founder and CEO.
Author Brad Stone revealed this "Bezos Question Mark Method" in his 2013 book, The Everything Store.
The book was controversial--McKenzie Bezos, Bezos's wife, panned it in an Amazon review, saying it had "way too many inaccuracies" and was "full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction, and the result is a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon."
However, Jeff Bezos has now confirmed at least this question mark business, in an interview on stage at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Texas.
"I still have an email address customers can write to. I see most of those emails. I see them and I forward them to the executives in charge of the area with a question mark. It's shorthand [for], 'Can you look into this?' 'Why is this happening?'" Bezos said.
As Julie Bort wrote on Business Insider, getting a Question Mark email from Bezos is both common and "a big deal."
The executive, in turn, will often foward it to the manager in charge of the area who will view the email with a sinking heart, one of them recently told us.
That's because the manager is then on the hook to drop everything, investigate, and get back with an answer. Sometimes that means a lot of research over nights and weekends, the Amazon manager recently told us.
That email address, by the way, in case you'd like to contact him: email@example.com. And now, five years later, it's confirmed.