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Hey, Credit Card Companies etc. - Quit Bugging Me To "Go Paperless"

Oct 13, 2012   [permalink]

I'm as digital a guy as they come. I've been reading ebooks for like 10 years now, helping companies automate things for decades, teaching others to do likewise, highly automating my own web sites, and so on. I generally prefer things digital over paper. But I hate it when companies bug me to give up paper statements. If they just implemented their e-statements in a slightly more convenient way, I'd be all over it. Annnnnd... they don't. They do what's convenient for them, and try to badger me into thinking it's more convenient for me. Well, it ain't.

So, hey, you companies, here's what's convenient for me:

Just Email me a PDF of my statement/bill.

Okay, that's it. I'd be a happy camper. (And agree that you'll keep doing it.) Until then, here's why your current implementation doesn't work for me, and why I won't willingly switch to e-statements:

1) More work for me. A lot more. Right now I get the paper statement in the postal mail, and it's basically no effort to open it and put it in my pile of bills to pay (or records to file for bank statements, etc.) E-statements require a lot more time and work. When I go to pay bills, I have to log into each and every dang site individually, which takes a not-insignificant amount of time, hunting for the link, dealing with passwords I have to look up, waiting for slow web sites, hunting around the site to find the statement, review it (and this is not a convenient time for me to review it -- with paper I review for correctness when I receive it, not when I'm later paying it), then downloading it for my records, which entails navigating on my disk to the right folder, generally having to type in a new name for the file, and so on. That takes hugely more work than paper.

Now, if you email me a PDF of your statement, I can process it like I would in the postal mail. Review it when I get it, have my email system automatically stash it in my to-be-paid file, automatically archive a copy, and when I'm ready to pay bills, they're all there, in one place, quick to move from one to the next.

Security? Bah. I've been a computer science professor specializing in security, so don't get me started. If you want to XXXX out part of my account number, no worries. But my email is as secure as my paper mail, so I don't need you telling me otherwise, when what you really mean is you're greedy and don't want to pay postage.

And, no, to be really clear here guys, an email telling me I have a statement on your web site is not the same as directly emailing me the PDF of it.

It's the difference between me sending you a payment, and me sending you a note telling you a bunch of hints where you can hunt down my payment under a rock in Siberia.

2) More work for me, #2: Right now I can easily archive that piece of paper. Should I need to refer back to it in a year or 20 years, it's up to me and my personal filing system to keep track of it. Whereas, your online "archive" copy lasts some random number of months, different for every site, after which my old statements vanish. Even if they haven't vanished, they become rather difficult to locate with the poor, slow web interfaces. I wanted to check an old paypal transaction amount the other day, and it took me like ten minutes futzing with the web site. With my paper filing system it would have been, say, two minutes.

And yeah, I do need to look back at old stuff sometimes. It is not convenient for you to delete it on me.

3) I can't rely on you. Y'all keep changing the way you do things. Today you keep 18 months of old statements, suddenly you change it to 6 months. Today you're using PDFs, suddenly you're doing Flash-based web-only statements. Today the statements are in one part of the site where I can maybe write a script to go retrieve it; tomorrow it's moved. Multiply this by all the number of statements I have to deal with, and it's a major headache.

Of course, this also means that even if you did say you'd email me a PDF file the way I like, tomorrow you might change your mind -- and charge me to go back to paper.

Of all the nerve, I find charging me to send me a bill one of the most heinous.

So, bottom line, I know how paper works, and it's pretty easy to deal with. If you could do e-statements in a way that works for me (and likewise offer ways that are easy for others, whatever that might be for them), and if I could trust you not to pull the rug out tomorrow, then I'd switch. But that seems a long way off.

Meanwhile, quit telling me how it's so much better for me and bugging me to switch every time I log in, 'kay? :)

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