Email #270: “the people in charge of the mail”?

Including this email, I have written to you 270 times since December, and I have received a total of 27 replies. All of your replies are of course generic. You have never addressed the specific content of any of my letters, and I have no reason to believe that you have personally read anything I have written to you. Your staff appears to slot each of my and your other constituents’ questions into general categories according to pre-existing form letters. Whenever I have asked a question outside those categories, I have received no response. Your office also appears to send only one general letter to cover a wide range of very specific follow-up questions, and so I assume many more of my letters have been ignored for that reason too.

But I have not received any replies from your office since July 17th. Usually I receive a minimum of two per month and as many as six. I wrote to you about the Charlottesville violence on August 13th and about your opinion regarding the removal of Confederate statues generally on August 22nd and received no answers. These are relatively new topics, but I know your office has been sending a recently crafted form letter to other constituents who have raised the same concerns. The range of other questions I’ve asked in the past six weeks have been ignored too.

I called your district coordinator Debbie Garrett last week to ask why I was no longer receiving replies, and she told me she would pass on my concern to you. This is the scripted response your staff members give all callers regardless of topic, but since I was not asking about your position on a legislative or other political issue, it seemed odd. I asked if there was another staff member I should call about response letters instead, but Debbie repeated her statement verbatim as presumably she and the rest of your staff have been trained over these past months.

I called your DC office next, and the person I spoke to very kindly checked my name in your database and reported that the status was marked “active.” She said she would forward my question to “the people in charge of the mail.” I’m not sure who those specific people are, and I am not trying to investigate the inner workings of your office. I am simply trying to find out if my letters to you are being deleted unread.

Though your previous 10% response rate was sadly inadequate and the content of your form letters were sometimes comically mismatched to the specifics of my questions, I could at least trust that the invitation on your website to “Contact Bob” linked to a functional form. Now when the words “Thank you. Your form has been successfully submitted” appear on my screen, I have no way to know if the program automatically deletes messages sent from my IP address or if an intern has been instructed to delete them manually without opening them. And if my messages are being systematically deleted, how many other constituents are on the same blacklist?

Expecting a generic form letter for one of every ten of letters is a depressingly low bar, but you and your office are failing at even that.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

One thought on “Email #270: “the people in charge of the mail”?”

  1. This is typically my experience. I get a few responses in form letters only tangentially related to my concern and mostly no response. To Bob he is an aristocratic ruler and we are his lowly subjects. I’ve thrown my hands up

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