Email Return Receipts and the Art of Deception


Someone invented “Email Delivery Reports” and “Return Receipts” for a reason. And for good reason, I must say.

These two little gems use technology to eliminate the uncertainty of “did he get my mail…?”, or “should i call her and find out if she knows when we’re meeting..?”.

They are the technology equivalent of common courtesy we (hopefully) extend in real life by saying “I hear you, I will get back to you shortly”.

Yet I find a lot of people pulling the plug on this gem of a feature in our emails – either by blanket ban of “Do not ask me about sending return receipts” or worse exercising the option of “Allow me to choose/Ask me before sending”

This I believe is extremely rude, and usually covers up a deception prompted by either inefficiency, laziness, or pure evil intent. Because the moment the “Delivery Report” goes out, the person on the other side has put the ball in you court – and you don’t want/cannot handle the ball! (besides of course, you cannot delete the email and later say, “really? I didn’t get your mail..!”)

I did a quick dipstick with my Inbox, and checked with a couple of friends and associates. This is what I found:

1. Most senior people send Delivery Reports and Read Receipts!

Amazingly, almost all people at CEO level have no qualms in sending out these common courtesies, and have it on “Always Send” mode.

Which goes to show they recognise their responsibilities as well as decency, knowing fully well that if they take time to respond the other person will understand that they’re busy, and may require a reminder!

2. Middle Management people are selective about their reports

Interestingly, the people who are supposed to be on the job all the time, and are at the front end of communication are least interested in common courtesy, and are afraid to acknowledge that the ball is now in their court!

In my experience, this bunch includes people who have little or no say on the matter contained in the email, and are usually conduits to senior people and larger tasks!

3. Friends almost always send Read Receipts

This is true among all those I know and with people in my peer group. Friends always get the courtesy of “hey, i got it… i’ll reply when i can!” (except of course, if they’ve got the automatic option turned off for “official reasons”)

4. Self important, pompous as****es will always yank your chain!

This applies across the board of senior, middle and junior management, as well as among friends’ circles! They’re usually the people who in real life are always playing games, doing wrong things, not doing things right. Ironically, they are people you’d rather email from afar, than actually speak or connect with in person!

With these folk, connect at your own peril and uncertainty!

In the end all I’d like to say is this – extending common courtesy in today’s day and age, especially in a professional relationship is not an option, it’s a given. And if you don’t extend it, you’re only exposing yourself as weak or devious.

…you read me..?