January 21, 2012

Non-Functioning AND AutoReply E-Mail - Are You Sure You Want to Hear From People, Representative?

Monique Chartier

Terry Gorman of RIILE shared the following contradictory reply which he received from Rep Charlene Lima's e-mail.

From: Rep. Lima, Charlene To: riile2 Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012 16:53 Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: Weekly Update: New Poll and Stealing Democracy


Thank you for contacting my office via email. As a state representative, I believe it is very important to hear from concerned citizens about the issues that are facing the State of Rhode Island.

During the legislative session, I receive a tremendous volume of email each day. While that quantity does not lessen the quality of your concerns, I try to respond to constituents concerns first. All responses require an address of the U.S. Postal Service. If you did not include your full name and a postal address with your original message and wish to receive a response, please resend your message with a name and postal address.

Thank you for your patience and please do not hesitate to contact me at any time with your questions or concerns.

Representative Charlene Lima
District 14 Cranston

Contradictory because it simultaneously indicates that it is an "Out of Office AutoReply" yet flags that there is a "Techinical Difficulty" with the e-mail address. If the e-mail has a "Techinical Difficulty", how could it have delivered the "Out of Office AutoReply" (which also incorporates an explicit brush-off to all non-constituents)?

Contradictory also because an e-mail which is either non-functional or an auto reply (so by definition will not be seen by a human being) encourages the correspondent to contact the rep "at any time with your questions or concerns".

One is left, all around, with the impression that the representative's statement

please do not hesitate to contact me at any time with your questions or concerns.

might be more of a non-functioning platitude than a sincere reaching out.

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Lima usually sounds like a complete dope-why change things now?

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 21, 2012 11:18 AM

I sent a test email via the representatives official address, and there does appear to be some sort of "techinical" issue, because I received two immediate replies.

One had as a subject "Representative Charlene Lima Auto Reply" and contained all of the text that Monique quotes except for the all-caps exercise in poor grammar and spelling. The second had as a subject "Out of Office AutoReply," followed by my own subject line. That one had the all-caps text.

My guess is that the first is a crafted autoreply message set up by the State House technical staff and that email sent there is at least intended to be reviewed by an intern at some point. The second is probably from an email address to which the representative forwards her messages, with a "reply to" address of her official email, intended to claim a technical problem that prevents her from actually reading her email.

So what she's trying to do --- and again, I'm guessing --- is avoiding answering her email by layering a claim of technical malfunction on top of an email account that sends a message of responsiveness.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 21, 2012 11:37 AM
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