Email protocol: Do you send the "Thanks." email?

Say you ask someone to send you something or answer a question. They do. Do you reply “Thanks.” or “Thanks!” or something similar?

I typically end my request email with “Thanks.” and don’t do the “Thanks” reply. But I think I do sometimes if I think my request is more of a pain-in-the-ass than usual or the person I’m replying to is either (i) a person I work with who is very junior to me or (ii) a client.

Yes, I usually do, just to let the person know I got it.

Always. Costs nothing, basic politeness, easily ignored.

Me too, so they know I got it. Also, it’s nice and very easy to do.

I selected “always” but a better answer would have been “almost every time.”

Yes, to let the person know I got it and to show some basic appreciation. I admit that I sometimes forget or let one slide until it would seem too late to bother.

Well, the cost is that the person opens up an email just to read a “Thanks.” I kinda feel like I’m initiating another interaction to not accomplish a whole hell of a lot (since I already said Thanks in my first email).

True, but unwanted ‘thanks’ are easily ignored. Maybe it reflects my line of work. I’d rather err on the side of over-politeness than have recipients thinking I’m brusque or ungrateful.

I do. Otherwise, how do they know you’ve received the helpful email?

Yeah, I can understand that. I guess that’s why I only do it in situations where I want to be really polite.

See–I don’t get this one at all (and lots of people have said it so far). Email is really good these days. If I send something, there’s basically no way in hell someone didn’t get it. Email just works, and if it doesn’t, you get a bounce-back message.

They might have accidentally deleted it or it went to spam, or they just didn’t open it. I’ve definitely had experiences where I haven’t gotten things I was supposed to so I think it’s good to acknowledge just in case.

Also you don’t always get a bounceback message–what if their email address is slightly off but it is an actual email? You could have just sent it to another, real person and not the person you intended to send it to. Better safe than sorry.

Wow, no fuckin’ way. I run an email server and I don’t trust email AT ALL. Shit happens. Email goes to spam folder and nobody checks the folder. Email doesn’t make it and there’s no bounceback message. People accidentally hit delete. It goes to Outlook at work and is gone off the server while you’re in Tahiti with your iPhone.
My dog ate my email. Everything.

Email is the least trustworthy form of electronic communication in my experience.

With that being said, I usually say thanks. If I don’t, I get the follow-up “didja get it?” emails. With really long signatures and email templates but that’s another rant.

Slight tangent: Does anyone here use the “return receipt” feature of their email server? I absolutely hate this when I am reading email and in the 15 years I’ve been emailing I’ve never once given the person on the satisfaction of clicking “yes let that asshole know I’ve gotten it.” We have a new client that uses this by default and every one of her emails asks me if I would like to let her know I have gotten her email. Every stupid shitty 1-line useless email. I want to kill her.

The highlighted sentence makes no sense to me, given that almost all of your “reasons” for not trusting email have nothing to do with email itself.

“Email goes to spam folder and nobody checks the folder.”

User error, IMO. I check my spam folder quite frequently, and there’s hardly ever anything in it that i needed.

“People accidentally hit delete.”

How does this make you not trust email? I can understand if it makes you not trust people, but you can hardly blame the technology if people can’t tell their delete button from their ass.

“It goes to Outlook at work and is gone off the server while you’re in Tahiti with your iPhone.”

Again, user error. If you go on vacation, and set your email client on your work computer to download emails without leaving a copy on the server, you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Meh. I don’t typically send e-mails for no reason other to say thanks, unless, as **Randy **says, my request is a PITA, or if the e-mail is with a client. In those cases, I still don’t reply just to say “Thanks” and nothing else. I typically write a very brief love note like, “Got it. Thanks for your help,” or “This is perfect. I appreciate all of your efforts,” or some such. Just “Thanks” in response to a simple request? No.

And I trust e-mail. Maybe I’m just sheltered and/or fortunate, but I’ve never run into someone not getting my e-mails at work yet, so I don’t send thank you e-mails as confirmation receipt. If I’m that anxious, I’ll use a read receipt like a normal person, which I also almost never do, because I’m silly enough to believe my message has been successfully delivered unless otherwise notified.

As for the OP’s question, i almost always send the Thanks email.

I am somewhat bemused by the (thankfully rare) person who sends the “You’re welcome” email.

Now this is interesting.

Why don’t you like the “You’re welcome” email? Can some of those reasons be applied to the “Thanks” email?

I usually do. It’s just good manner.

+1. This must be one of the most ill-conceived features in computing. It feels so rude and an intrusion of my privacy. I’m less than impressed with people who use this.

Probably, but as plenty of people have noted, the “Thanks” email can serve an ancillary purpose, in that it lets the person know that the previous email that they sent (the one actually providing the assistance) was received and was helpful. All a “you’re welcome” email does is acknowledge the “Thanks” email. I see an important difference between these two things.

On the issue of email reliability, my own experience suggests that the only time that email ever fails is when a student sends me a term paper or other piece of work that is subject to a deadline. The wide-eyed inquiries, “Didn’t you get my email?” get pretty old after a while. These same students never have any problems with their email when they are writing to request something from me.

I have, on a few occasions, told them that, if they can open their email account for me and show me the dated email in their “Sent mail” folder or their email archive, i will cut them some slack. Their response is nearly always, “Oh, i didn’t know i’d need that email, so i deleted it from my sent folder.”

Yeah, sure.

So if you believe people who feign e-mail delivery failures are full of shit, why are “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” e-mails any different? They both serve no purpose other than to be polite, and/or acknowledge receipt of an e-mail that you’re already certain was successfully sent.

Well, first of all, someone who “feigns” a delivery failure is, by definition, full of shit. The word feign means to invent or give a false appearance of something. I know that emails do very occasionally simply disappear, but it just seems like too much of a coincidence that the students who make such claims only ever seem to have problems when they’re submitting time-sensitive work, and also can’t show me a copy on their own computer. And, in the end, it’s their responsibility to get their work in on time, not my responsibility to chase them for it. Luckily, they now generally submit their papers online using course software, and they get a receipt number when their submission is successful, so that if there’s a problem they can show me the receipt number and i can follow up the issue with the IT folks on campus.

On the more general issue, while a Thankyou email does serve as a simple confirmation of receipt, that is not, for me, its primary purpose.

I send Thankyou emails to actually thank someone for helping me, and i will often, as you suggested in your earlier post, add something like “That’s exactly what i needed,” or make some other comment relevant to the issue.

Also, while i’m pretty confident about email reliability, a Thankyou message also tells me that the person on the other end is AWARE of the email, not just that it arrived. For time-sensitive stuff, this can be useful. If someone sends me an email containing information that i need quickly, an acknowledgment lets them know not simply that it has arrived, but that i have been looking out for it, and am aware that i now have access to the information i need.

But, all of this aside, i’m generally just trying to be polite. A quick Thankyou costs me almost nothing in terms of time and effort, and is often appreciated at the other end.

Heh, that’s kind of a weird way to be pedantic. I mean I don’t trust email as a form of digital communication because people can fuck it up as can servers. I’m not down on email, I think it’s great. I just don’t always assume my message is going to make it to the intended recipient. Lots of stuff can go wrong from here to there.