A specific feature of three-dimensional bluff body wakes, flow bistability, is a subject of particular recent interest. This feature consists of a random flipping of the wake between two asymmetric configurations and is believed to contribute to the pressure drag of many bluff bodies. In this study we apply the modelling approach recently suggested for axisymmetric bodies by Rigas et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 778, 2015, R2) to the reflectional symmetry-breaking modes of a rectilinear bluff body wake. We demonstrate the validity of the model and its Reynolds number independence through time-resolved base pressure measurements of the natural wake. Further, oscillating flaps are used to investigate the dynamics and time scales of the instability associated with the flipping process, demonstrating that they are largely independent of Reynolds number. The modelling approach is then used to design a feedback controller that uses the flaps to suppress the symmetry-breaking modes. The controller is successful, leading to a suppression of the bistability of the wake, with concomitant reductions in both lateral and streamwise forces. Importantly, the controller is found to be efficient, the actuator requiring only 24 % of the aerodynamic power saving. The controller therefore provides a key demonstration of efficient feedback control used to reduce the drag of a high-Reynolds-number three-dimensional bluff body. Furthermore, the results suggest that suppression of large-scale structures is a fundamentally efficient approach for bluff body drag reduction.