Second Notice? Really?

Even though I pay almost all of my bills online, I have so far resisted the offers of the various services and agencies I have to send regular payments to to go “paperless.” Getting the bill in the mail reminds me to set up the payment. And given the unpredictability of email spam filters, I’m just a little nervous about relying on email notifications solely for my mail.

Before you start composing a comment telling me how to add an address or a domain to a whitelist, let me remind you that first, I’m a tech writer in the telecommunications industry—I have been part of the development team for products that process email; I understand about whitelists, I do.

The problem is that sometimes someone at an upstream provider will change the way a filter works. Or the company sending me the notification may make a change in the way emails are sent. And sometimes spam filters are just glitchy. I just recently had an incident where three messages were sent to me within a few days from the same sender to my account. The middle of the three was snagged by the spam filter, which made the third message a bit confusing. When I found the missing message and compared the header information in it to the two that got through, they were all identical.

So, for now, I’m sticking to paper for bills.

It seems, however, as more and more of us do most of our communicating on line, that the junk mail people are sending out twice as much junk mail, hoping somehow to get our attention. And they are going to greater lengths to make the junk mail look like something other than what it is. “Official documents enclosed” or “Response required by (date)”

There has always been some junk mail like that, but it seems to be getting worse.

And then there is the not-quite-junk-mail. I contribute to a number of causes. I’m a bit random about it. Each month after I set up all the payments for the bills coming due, I’ll ask myself, “Who haven’t I give a donation to in a while?” And so I’ll log into the web pages of a couple of these causes and make a small donation.

During election years I wind up throwing a lot of these donations to either candidates who have done something I think justifies my support, as well as a few of the more general party organizations. I’ve been doing this for years, and have gotten used to receiving mail from all of these organization asking for a new donation on a regular basis.

I’ve noticed that at least two of the party-affliated committees have begun to send out requests for donations with phrases such as “Second Notice” and “Final Notice” printed in red, which makes one think it’s an overdue bill.

But it isn’t an overdue bill. They have set themselves an arbitrary target by an arbitrary or semi-arbitrary deadline, and the previous month’s plea for a donation said something about, “Help us achieve the important goal of raising $XXX,XXX before the next filing deadline!” And if you haven’t sent in any money, then you get this so-called “second notice” saying, “We told you how important this deadline is, but we haven’t heard from you!”

It’s a donation! One of the ways that donations differ from bills is that a donation doesn’t have a deadline. A donation is voluntary. A bill is an obligation. I signed up for some service (electricity, cell phone, internet, what have you) and agreed to pay an amount on a monthly basis. There is a deadline because it is an obligation. If I don’t pay the obligation when agreed, then certain penalties will apply, possibly including having the service turned off.

But if I don’t meet this wholly made-up deadline for your fundraising goals, I’m not skipping out an an obligation. I have no obligation to donate.


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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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