Dear Miss Snark,
I wonder if you can help me interpret some puzzling agent behavior. I queried someone at a large agency and got a request for a partial signed by someone else. I sent it, and a month later, I got a form rejection letter signed with the firm's name rather than that of the agent I sent to or the person requesting the partial. Two months after that, I got the same letter, again signed with the agency's name. Three months later, I got the same message by email.
What are they doing, other than letting me know I should never darken their doorstep again?
Well, actually they aren't saying that at all. What they're saying is they've got turnover like you wouldn't believe among the interns and assistants reading the slush pile and none of them are keeping good notes.
We've all done this. It's the flip side of not answering query letters. For your three rejections there are two other people who haven't heard at all. Often it's only a data base error, and less often thank all dogs, it's a system crash that wipes out a week of work.
Just today I had an editor send me a rejection letter for a book she read but instead of writing the author's name, she wrote the protaganist's name. Does that put her on the nitwit list? No.