Friday, September 08, 2006

Curse of the Return Receipt

Return receipts have always rubbed me the wrong way. If you're not familiar with these minor annoyances, let me 'splain what they are. You get an e-mail. You open it. A dialog box pops open explaining that the sender has requested a return receipt, and asks if you would like to confirm that you received the e-mail. Now, I'm not one to hide behind lost e-mail and voice mail as an excuse for not having completed a task. But I would still like to operate under some veil of mystery when it comes to when I read specific e-mail messages.

When I get one of these things, I feel like the sender is telling me, "Hey, listen, I know we're all busy. I really need you to read this e-mail, though, and I don't want to pester you about it later. And you might claim that you never received it, and therefore take no responsibility for reading it and taking action. So if I ask you to confirm you received it, then you'll know that I know that my little e-mail made it's way into your inbox, and you will be compelled to do something with it."

I'll admit I might be reading too much into return receipt. As much as they annoy me, though, I accept them as an occasional part of the workaday world. Howevah...

Today I received an e-mail, complete with return receipt, from a co-worker about an optional charity event being organized by our office. It was a friendly e-mail, full of "I hope you'll join us" phraseology, emphasizing that this is not a mandatory event. But if it's an optional thing, why did the sender require notification that I received it? Isn't that the sort of tool you'd use with say, a contract? Or health insurance alerts? Now, I'm feeling implicit peer pressure to participate in the charity event. Or sponsor someone who participates. And I get the added bonus of feeling guilty about feeling resentful about helping out a good cause. I mean, what kind of ogre doesn't want to help out a good cause? Or nitpicks the medium through which the good cause is trumpeted?

Yowza. I clearly need to get going for the weekend.

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