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Jan 6, 2023

Are Auto Replies Too “Auto?”

There must be 18 ways to leave your message

By Ed Goldman

During the very short time I returned to the workforce early last year I became enamored of G-mail auto replies to memos. You know, like “Sounds good,” “Let’s talk more about this” and “Will call to discuss this later.”

To be fair—which nobody requires that I be but I’m old-fashioned—those might not have been the exact replies I could choose from. But they seemed to offer a pretty decent range of completely hollow responses.

Edgy Cartoon

Meet Otto Reply

What I yearned for was not more authenticity but more specificity. Here’s a sampler of 18 auto-responses, based on genuine ones, that you may wish to consider and pay me lavishly for:

  1. I will be out of the office from February 1, 2023, to February 1, 2025—2024 if time-served and good behavior still count for anything in this much-too-litigious society.  I will not be available for emergencies at any address or phone number. 
  2. Just a note that I received your memo with the 10 new ideas for improving our inner office “flow” and plan to send you a detailed answer when I stop laughing.
  3. Your call means a lot to me, so by all means, please continue to try to reach me, even after your normal quitting time and in the wee hours.
  4. I was thrilled to receive your birthday greeting and will save it to read until my actual birthday, five months from now. 
  1. Thank you for acknowledging you parked in my reserved space today. I prize honesty in the firm’s employees—and I’m sure your next employer will, too.
  2. Your note about the death in my family moved me and when I find out who it was who died, I’m sure this will be even more meaningful. 
  3. How kind of you to send the flower arrangement to my office as a conciliatory gesture after our unfortunately bitter argument. The nurses here are enjoying them and I would humbly suggest you hire someone to start your car for the next few months. Thoughts and prayers! 
  4. Hello, I will be out of the office today identifying the remains of my car at the police garage. If this is an urgent message, too goddamn bad.
  1. Sorry we haven’t been able to connect these past several weeks. I blame COVID, the blocked supply chain and, of course, Hilary Clinton.
  2. Thank you for allowing me to make a donation in your name to my favorite charity in lieu of my sending you a 95th birthday gift or attending the party in your honor. Love ya, mom.
  3. I have received your request and will process it appropriately. God only knows what that sentence meant.
  4. Due to the number of emails I receive at this address, I need to be very selective about those I personally respond to. Yours may or may not be one of those. Now get out there and have a great day!
  5. I would like to blame my assistant for not scheduling the meeting with me you requested. Tragically, I have no assistant. Please realize how carefully nuanced this reply is.
  1. I am out of the office at this time, and I am neither checking my email nor returning calls. If this is an urgent matter, why’d you let it go this long without contacting me?
  2. Thanks for phoning me during my uncle’s funeral to ask where a file was. I’ll be back in the office in two weeks and am sorry you won’t be there. I’d have loved chatting about your sensitivity and resourcefulness.
  3. Yes, I’ll be in Chicago when you are! What are the odds? Wish I could remember the name of the hotel where I’ll be staying, where it’s located and how long I’ll be there. Darn!
  4. I’ll be out of the office attending an awards ceremony for longtime employees. You have no idea what one of these is like. And are unlikely to.
  5. Thanks for your email. I no longer work for this “organization”, which you might have concluded based on my recent Grand Jury testimony, which was televised, and subsequent entry into the federal governments witness protection program. If this is urgent, I can give your contact info to this “organization’s” HR director, Tony “Bananas” Mezzanotte. Knowing you and I were close pals, he’d love to reach out to you.  

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).