do not reply

[Bristol, UK, August 2012]

'We don't monitor emails sent if you click 'Reply'. Please do not reply to this email with enquiries.'

Like you, I get a lot of emails. Many are useful, some are important, and a big hulking wedge are just nonsense. A hefty share of the nonsense is made up of newsletters I've failed to unsubscribe from, and most of those have a disclaimer like the one above somewhere near the bottom, buried beneath the furious sales traps and raging neon desperation. Some stick with the simple one sentence notice, some will even go to the trouble to send the newsletter from an email account designed to grab your attention: 

'This email was lovingly delivered by donotreply.donteventhinkaboutit@youvebeenwarned.com.'

Do not reply, I pondered, they really don't want a reply.

In the past I've done some thankless jobs for companies whose customer service channels are a complex mesh of dead-ends. I've had to respond to emails in official tones, knowing that the recipient is unlikely to believe that a breathing human being capable of hope and empathy is behind the email.

What if these accounts are active? What if somebody spends every day clearing the debris of customer feedback in their own loveless job, smiling to themselves that at least nobody is replying to the duff emails, at least people are going through the official channels. What if.

I spilt some tea and fired open my email account. Nestling at the top, a saturation email from a hotel chain waiting idly for me to condemn it to the trash folder, laughing to itself knowing that I can never be arsed to unsubscribe altogether.

'Hello,' I started, 'I know you say you don't keep an eye on these emails. I know you plead with people not to reply. But, just in case you're reading this in between doing other little bits and bobs, I thought I'd just say hello. I hope you're having a good day.'

There. That'll give them a little virtual hug.

Seconds later, a reply. They're bloody quick, I thought, maybe they're on lunch, or desperate.

'This mailbox is not attended. You will get no reply. Thanks for your enquiry.'

Little bit standoffish.

'Oh. That was very abrupt, are you sure you're alright?'

Another reply flew through. I wondered if they should be getting on with another job, not just replying to me.

'This mailbox is not attended. You will get no reply. Thanks for your enquiry.'

Pah. Some people need to ease up on the policy line, let go a bit and give it some personality. I mean, if they don't, they might get replaced by an automatic system. Imagine that! Maybe I should tell them.

'Ease up on the policy line, let go a bit, give it some personality.'

I could sense the wall was about to come down.

'This mailbox is not attended. You will get no reply. Thanks for your enquiry.'

Some people. Too official for their own good.