Today I learned a hard lesson: don’t mess with the name on your Google account. Seriously, just don’t. You might get stuck with an incorrect name for 90 days.

When doing a freelance job screen recording an email app, I didn’t want to show my personal emails (I was recording something that was going on a public YouTube video). I sent myself some test emails to fill my inbox with stuff I was ok with the public seeing, which of course said “Christian Taylor” on them. This would have been fine if it were one of my YouTube videos, but I didn’t think the client would appreciate my name being plastered on something going on his YouTube channel. It might seem strange to his audience. For that reason, I went in my Google account and changed my name to his name. “That will fix the problem,” I thought. It fixed the problem, and created a bigger one.

Google has a (strange) policy that the name on an account may only be changed up to 3 times in a 90 day period. If that limit is met, you must wait 90 days before changing your name again. “But you only changed your name once!” you say. That’s what I was thinking. Sadly, I forgot that I already changed my name twice in that period. A month or so ago me and my friend made up nicknames for each other. We chat via Google Hangouts, and I thought it would be funny to put my nickname on just for a few minutes so he would see that as my contact name in his phone. After a good laugh, I changed it back to my real name. That counted as 2 name changes. The 3rd time was when I changed it to the name of my freelance client.

Out of shock and desperation, I turned to every method I could think of to get in contact with someone at Google. I called Google Play, and they actually put forth a good deal of effort to try and assist me. Unfortunately they ended up being no help, repeating the 90 day rule to me. I tweeted to @Google and also posted on the Gmail help forums, only to get the same response. So after being told several times that nothing can be done in several different places, I Just had to accept it.

I decided the best way to approach it was to say “lesson learned” and deal with it for 90 days. After all, I’ve tried all I can try, and nothing was able to be fixed. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do if you get put in this position. Firstly, you can change the sender name within Gmail. I’ve already done this to make sure it comes from “Christian Taylor.” Next, you can add a “nickname” to your Google account. I did this and put “Actually Christian Taylor” as my nickname, so my full account shows “John ‘Actually Christian Taylor’ Doe.” Lastly, I want to point out that the change on your Google account does not effect your YouTube channel. I am very thankful for this! I can deal with a few people I email maybe seeing “John Doe” as my name, but that would be catastrophic for my YouTube channel!

In the end, there are some great lessons I learned from my experience:

  • Be careful with the settings you tinker with in important accounts.
  • Big companies like Google simply don’t care much about their account holders – they make the rules, and they make no exceptions for the rules. There are no sob stories to Google. You follow the rules. Period.
  • Though it might be embarrassing, this is a first world problem! I’ve gotten some partial fixes to it that I’ve “enacted,” and at the end of the day, my business email is unaffected.

And that’s it! That was my experience with Google today. Has this, or something similar, ever happened to you? Drop a comment below!

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