Earlier this week I received an Return Receipt request or RR. This is the first in a very long time. Turns out when my email software updated, it had added new options for RRs. Which changed the “never send a return receipt” option I had checked to “ask me”.
Then, within hours, I had a website visitor inquire about “RR Etiquette”. Was it rude to decline? She didn’t even know RRs existed until she received one. Did a search and landed on my site. What a coinkydink.
And, I recently had an email from another business associate asking how and when one should use Return Receipts (RR). Apparently an individual that he does business with is making this request with every single email that they send.
That got me thinking. Back in the day RRs were pretty common. Primarily because everyone was using them and wanted to know if their email were being read. Which is not the reason to use them by the way.
Now, many folks don’t even know what they are — that is until they get one. So, let’s do a little 101 shall we?
What is a Return Receipt?
Return Receipts, RR for short, are a way of knowing that an email has been received or opened on the recipient’s computer. RRs need the recipient to acknowledged the RR or Read request for the Sender to know for sure. Being, that the request can be declined, what is the point?
There are those that seem to want to know when you receive their email even if the content is not critical or important. Clearly a control thing. Or, every once and awhile, it turns out they are not even aware this option is engaged.
If you think it is the latter, nicely emailing them with a “Did you know…..” can let them know this is not a feature to be used for every single email. They should then check their settings and turn that option off.
RR Etiquette = Few and Far Between
RRs are to be used sparingly, if at all. Being they can be automatically declined as I and many others do, there is no constructive purpose. Unless both parties agree to use RRs and acknowledge them. For example in cases of important attachments, critical content or legal documents.
I’m sending the documents shortly with a Return Receipt. Can you acknowledge the receipt request so I know you received your copy? Thank you!
For those who use RRs with every email, think of it this way… What would you think if every time you heard a voice mail or opened a postal letter it was immediately reported back to sender that you had heard/opened their communication?
And if you didn’t want that report to be sent, you would have to make the effort to decline this from happening. That’s what happens with email RRs. Sending with every email to see if the email was read when not absolutely necessary can be irksome at best.
Some email programs offer a Delivery Receipt and a Read Receipts. There is no way to prove that the recipient read a single word. Received or even opened does not mean read.
When would you use an RR?
RRs should be used on those rare occasions where you need to have some form of documentation/acknowledgment that the other side has received the email.
Examples are critical communications like legal or business issues that you have asked the other side to confirm your RR so you know they received that very important information.
Otherwise Return Receipt Requests are Counterproductive
Unexpected RRs can be viewed as a privacy issue. One that infringes on recipient’s privacy. That’s why this feature has to be used properly and sparingly — if at all — to serve any real purpose.
- Do you send an RR request with every single email you send? Stop it.
- Do you know someone who sends an RR request with every email they send? Tell them to stop it.
What if you are like me and don’t want to deal with RRs going out when you open an email? In the email programs I’ve used you will get asked about acknowledging a return receipt request. This provides the opportunity to decline that request.
Investigate your email software help section to find out the settings available to you.
It is rude to decline RRs?
Nope. Just because the other side wants to know when you receive or open an email in no way requires that you acknowledge that request. Protect your privacy and set your email program to “Never send a read request” so that your activities are not reported back to headquarters.
When the situation arises that has you thinking about Return Receipts, it is recommend that you not send a RR request unless the other side is expecting you to (because you are both on the same page). And the other party is waiting and willing to acknowledge the receipt of your email.