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File Mixup

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Records, such as medical test results, grades, and bills are important. So what happens when those of two people get mixed up?

This is rarely done unless the two people's records are very dissimilar from one another, i.e., a spendaholic's financial records getting mixed up with those of The Scrooge or a bookworm's grades having the class clown's name put on it. Hilarity or drama may ensue, depending on the situation, but the story almost always ends with the mix-up being resolved.

When Played for Drama, this may cross over with Mistaken for Dying, with a character getting someone else's diagnosis and believing he hasn't got much time.

Examples include:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Season 7 episode 28 of Happy Heroes, Little M. thinks that the notice informing Big M. he's been fired from being a general got mixed up with a test paper Happy S. was going to bury to hide his poor test score when he bumped into Little M. in the park. He's close - the test paper Happy S. uncovers is actually from Doctor H. when he was little.

     Comic Books 
  • In an old Batman story from 1943, called "Robin Studies His Lessons," after Dick Grayson brings home a bad report card, he's kept off-duty until his grades improve. But when Batman gets captured by a group of criminals and Robin saves him using scientific know-how, Batman realizes that Dick's knowledge for someone who's supposedly failing school is far too great. He gets in touch with the principal at Dick's school and it turns out that Dick's grades had been getting mixed with those of a not-so-great student and that Dick himself is doing just fine.
  • In a Silver Age Green Arrow story, GA takes a bad fall and has his chest X-rayed (without removing his mask.) The doctor calls on the Arrowline to tell him that there's an inoperable tumor and he has at most a few days to live. Halfway through the story, the doctor calls back—he mixed up Green Arrow's X-rays with those of millionaire playboy Oliver Queen! Turns out Ollie had spilled some mildly radioactive material on himself that fouled the x-ray film.

     Fan Fic 
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Always Tomorrow, Spock finds it strange that Kirk is still alive and very well when according to his medical records he should be dead. When McCoy investigates, he finds that Kirk's name got put on another captain's medical form.

     Film - Animated 
  • In The Peanuts Movie, when Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty turn in their standardized tests, they accidentally sign their names on each other's papers. This results in Charlie Brown being the first kid to score a 100%, despite Peppermint Patty marking her answers in the shape of a smiley face. When Charlie Brown sees it, he realizes the test isn't his and tells everyone the truth during his acceptance speech.

     Film - Live-Action 
  • In Brazil, Tuttle is set for arrest and eventual execution, but due to a literal bug in the machine as it's typing out the order a Mr. Buttle gets arrested instead. None of the bureaucrats are willing to fix the error; they deny there even is an error.
  • Class Act is Prince and Pauper story of two high school students; Duncan (a genius), and Blade (a convict), whose identities are mixed-up when their photos are accidentally switched in their files, Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the live-action adaptation of The Flintstones, Cliff holds a career aptitude test, in which whoever scored the highest would become the vice-president. Barney gets the highest score, and Fred gets the lowest. Since Barney wants to return the favor to Fred, who loaned him some money so he and Betty could adopt Bamm-Bamm as their son, he deliberately switches his test with Fred's, resulting in Fred being vice-president. Cliff then tricks Fred into firing all the workers from the quarry by bribing him with more money, which leads to the workers nearly hanging Fred and Barney, the latter of whom confesses to the former that he switched the tests at this point.

  • In Confessions Of A Shopaholic, Becky tells the story of two bills getting mixed up, and each person mindlessly paying the bills without realizing it. She confides that she hopes it'll happen to her, so she won't have to pay the monstrous bills she accumulates.
  • Done deliberately in the Kate Shugak novel A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow, where the medical files of two employees are switched to ensure that a badly mangled corpse is misidentified.
  • In The Ladies Of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough, the protagonist is mistakenly informed that she has a serious heart condition after her medical tests are confused with another patient's.
  • The Red Dwarf novel Backwards includes an anecdote about two Space Corps officers whose personnel records got tangled, with the result that the competent and dutiful one kept being given worse and worse assignments and the incompetent one got all the promotions and awards the other earned.
  • The plot of Dial-a-Ghost is sparked by a colorblind office worker mixing up two files at a ghost adoption agency. The customers aren't very happy about it, but it does work out for the best in the end.
  • Ciaphas Cain: Works in the good guys' favor for once: The Valhallan 597th regiment is created by combining two nearly-dead regiments into a single one, but the Administratum being what it is, they receive supplies and troops for two regiments.

     Live Action TV 
  • Combined with Mistaken for Dying in Our Miss Brooks. The episode "Have Bed - Will Travel" sees Mrs Davis' medical records mixed with an ill nonagenarian friend, making Miss Brooks believe her landlady is mortally ill.
  • Midsomer Murders has an episode where a man's medical records are switched around with those of a cancer patient, leading him to go confess himself to the village priest that when he was young, he and his gang accidentally killed another boy, looking as though he'd hanged himself, his mother dying of grief soon after. Unfortunately for the man and his friends, the boy's unknown father was the priest. Revenge ensues.
  • In the Mork & Mindy episode "Mork's Health Tips", Mork rescues Mindy when a hospital mistakenly schedules her for brain surgery after confusing her with a Mavis McDonald.
  • NCIS: In one episode, Tony finds his bank account frozen because of his father, Anthony DiNozzo Sr. The bank got the perfectly successful son crossed with the broke, overdrawn and in foreclosure father.
  • In an episode of Soap, Burt's doctor tells him he has a fatal disease. A few episodes later the doctor tells Burt that another one of his patients has died from the same disease - it turns out that the other man had the disease and Burt doesn't, but the lab got the results confused.
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "A Smattering Of Intelligence," Col. Flagg and Vinnie Pratt, an old friend of Trapper's who is in Intelligence, compete with each other to find security leaks at the 4077th. Hawkeye and Trapper dilly dally with Frank's personal file (taking out his real file and inserting a doctored one) to make it appear to the two agents that he's a communist and a fascist. They let on to the prank, eventually when the agents try to arrest Frank.
  • El Chapulín Colorado had an episode where the titular hero has to help a nurse in taking care of two gangster who were injured in a shooting. One of them is already fully recovered, the other is close to dying, but Chapulín mixes up both their files and Hilarity Ensues. In the end, he reveals he did this on purpose so that the dying gangster would convince himself that he was healthy and would get better for real, but it also had the side effect of convincing the healthy one that he was going to die and he ends up dropping dead.
  • Resident Alien:
    • In "Homesick," Harry had prepared for a 12-year-old boy's wart, only to find Judy waiting for a pelvic exam.
    • Far more seriously, in "Escape from New York," Dr. Smallwood mixes up Mayor Hawthorne's file with Mrs. Patel's and tells him that he has an aggressive form of colon cancer. As Mayor Hawthorne oversees personnel for the town clinic, she is immediately fired.

     Puppet Shows 
  • In the Dinosaurs episode, "Switched at Birth", the Sinclairs discover evidence that their baby may have been switched with another baby while still an egg. This is implied to be the case at first, as Aubrey, the baby belonging to the Molehill family is green like the rest of the Sinclair family, and Gus, the father of the Molehill family has a personality similar to Baby's. Tests from the laboratory result in Baby belonging to the Molehills and Aubrey belonging to the Sinclairs, but at the end, it is revealed that there was a mix-up with the tests. That being said, Aubrey turned out to be so cloyingly sweet and agreeable that the Sinclairs wanted Baby back.

    Video Games 
  • In Brain Guzzlers From Beyond, Mary Jane is at a pie-Eating Contest, but there's a dangerous, gross one that you suspect to be evidence of aliens, so you have to get her to stop. If you point out that eating too many pies can be unhealthy, Mary Jane shows a medical file saying that she has a fast metabolism. However, you can get notes from one of your friends, Jenny, and her plant (also named Mary Jane, in her honor). This chart says that "Mary Jane" is growing rapidly and is expected to increase exponentially in size in a few days. Switching this plant chart with Mary Jane's doctor chart and telling her to check it causes her to stop.

    Web Animation 
  • In episode 6 of HFIL, it's revealed that the frog that Ginyu swapped places with on Namek was judged in his place after death due to a clerical error. No one realized what had happened until after it had already been sent to HFIL, with Goz and Mez deciding to just leave things as they were because having the "captain" around was helping with the Ginyu Force's rehabilitation (plus, no one in management wanted to take responsibility for the screw up).

     Web Comics 
  • In the MegaTokyo strip "Busy Girl", Kimiko, who is just breaking into show business, is finalizing her contract when her agent starts expressing concern about the number of porn films she's starred in. As poor Kimiko goes into a Heroic BSoD, the agent exclaims "Oh dear! I'm sorry, wrong file.
  • Chris Hazelton's Long Runner Misfile is predicated around a divine misfile in the Celestial Depository. This results in hill racer Ash Upton being Gender Flipped into a girl, and Cute Bookworm Emily McArthur losing two years of her recent life, forcing her to repeat two grades. Stoner angel Rumisiel tries to help them out, hoping to get back into the Depository to rectify the misfiles.

     Web Original 
  • In the SuperMarioLogan episode, "Chef Pee Pee's Bucket List!". Chef Pee Pee gets sick, and after Dr. Brooklyn T. Guy does some tests on him, Brooklyn jumps to the conclusion that Chef Pee Pee has feline lukemia and only has 24 hours to live. It is later revealed that Brooklyn accidentally mixed up Chef Pee Pee's test results with a cat's, and that Chef Pee Pee just had the flu. Unfortunately, by the time Brooklyn finds out the truth, the cat he had mixed up Chef Pee Pee's results with is already dead.

     Western Animation 
  • Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "Sky-Hi I.Q.," the General sends an efficiency expert to evaluate the Vulture Squadron. The expert deems Muttley the only squadron member to be a competent pilot and makes him the squadron's new leader. He eventually finds out he mixed up Muttley's test with Dick Dastardly's.
  • Hey Arnold!: In "The Aptitude Test", the students of Mr. Simmons' class are assigned to take the eponymous test. When Eugene is asked to collect the test folders, he drops them, causing the tests to scatter everywhere. Harold and Helga's tests end up getting switched when Eugene tries to clean them up, resulting in Harold receiving the highest score and Helga receiving the lowest.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Bart the Genius", Bart switches his and Martin Prince's names on a school aptitude test, so now everyone thinks Bart is a genius who should go to a special school.
    • In another episode the school counselor refers to Bart's "latent homosexuality," then realizes he's reading from Milhouse's file by mistake.
    • In "Stealing First Base", Lisa gets an F on her test, which puts her into a depression. It is later revealed that the test with the F was Ralph's, and that Ralph signed Lisa's name on his paper.
  • In the short, "Plucky's Dastardly Deed", from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Son of Looniversity Daze", Plucky forgets to study for a test and decides to swap his test with that of Egghead Jr., the smartest kid in class. He later feels guilty about doing it, nightmare and all, and decides to confess it to Foghorn. Before he can though, Foghorn reveals that he accidentally dropped all the test papers in a mud puddle, and because this happened before he could look at them, the students have to retake the test, which Plucky decides to do the honest way.
  • In the Rugrats (1991) episode, "Angelica Breaks a Leg", Angelica fakes a broken leg (to force her aunt and uncle to look after her like her own parents normally do). She succeeds when a young doctor gets "Pickles" mixed up with "Peaches" and looks at the wrong x-ray. At the end of the episode, the mix-up is reversed, and karma comes back to bite Angelica when her mother, Charlotte, breaks her leg following a rafting trip, and Angelica and Drew are stuck waiting on her hand and foot just as Angelica made Stu and Didi do for her earlier.
  • In "Alex Gets Schooled" (a Season-4 episode of Totally Spies!), Alex's parents have her transferred to a boarding school in England after she had apparently gotten straight-F's on her report card. But at the end of the episode, after Alex is rescued by Sam and Clover, it later turns out that there was a mix-up among some of the report cards at the spies' high school, and that Alex's actual report card had A's and B's, which convinces her parents to let her stay in Beverly Hills. But just as the girls are celebrating this, Alex then realizes, "If those grades weren't mine, then who was the poor sap that got straight-F's?" Right after saying this, the spies discover that Mandy (their Sitcom Arch-Nemesis who also happens to be their next-door neighbor) was the one who got all the F's—as result, Mandy's grounded by her mom for getting such poor grades.

     Real Life 
  • In the nonfiction book Computer Wimp author John Bear relates an anecdote where he and another man named John Bear were getting their credit card bills mixed up. The central computer couldn't handle the fact that there were two people with the same name in the system, so it randomly assigned some bills to one and some to the other.
  • This can be Truth in Television for background checks; many people have been accidentally fired for "failing" to mention a drug conviction (or other offence) which was actually on the record of someone with a similar name.
  • This is especially a problem for "Jr."s, who share the first name of their parent.
  • Debt collectors are notorious not only for doing this, but refusing to believe you when you try to correct them. It's common to be routinely harassed for debts you had nothing to do with and hadn't even heard about until the calls started coming in.
  • Pets and children have been summoned for jury duty, usually a result of the system picking up a record of a new "person" from paperwork filled out by owners and parents, without checking that the new record is an adult human. Proving that the summoned "juror" is actually your kid or cat is easy, but a great story to tell.


Video Example(s):


Don't Tell Mrs. Patel... Yikes

In "Escape from New York" from "Resident Alien," Dr. Smallwood accidentally mixes up Mayor Ben Hawthorne's file with that of a woman named Mrs. Patel and tells him that he has an aggressive form of colon cancer. Before he can really process this, Nurse Ellen Cho shows up and explains that Dr. Smallwood mixed up the files. Dr. Smallwood says that this happens sometimes. "Should it?" asks Ben, pointedly. "No," deadpans Ellen.

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