Thursday, September 23, 2010

"The 72-Hour Rule" aka "Reply to E-Mail You Bags..."

As a student, entrepreneur, and social media psycho, there is one thing that gets to me bad... the lack of courtesy, respect, professionalism, and general status quo of NOT RETURNING e-mails.

Really, people... What the fuck. How hard is it to acknowledge someone’s question? For the most part, I’m talking about e-mails to those people you have an existing rapport with. Often with specific questions that only that person can answer. Or those whose best interest it is in to respond, like when you inquire about a product or service you may purchase. Don’t even get me started on job application e-mails… that’s for a different rant.

Among the people who are guilty, or should I say, have been guilty of this in just the last two weeks of my life, are: Banks, Real Estate Agents, Investors, Vendors / Suppliers, Professors, Alumni, and so-called friends.

Regardless of the lack of courtesy, the big problem with this is that often I can’t go about my work until I get a response. Like getting a list of figures from a business partner, or a contact link from a professor, or asking an alum to who in their company I should address a letter... Simple things that seriously take a minute to look up and copy back. Is this really that hard?

And if they’re expecting my e-mail, or it’s their responsibility to respond, it is even worse. Really, how can you not get back to someone if you tell them to e-mail you with a question. What kind of person does that make you…

I’d try the phone route, but I may not have your phone number… not everyone is anxious to give that out these days. I find phone calls are even easier to ignore. Especially for those who don’t check their messages. (I personally tell people to e-mail me since voicemail sucks) But often I am requesting information, something I want to keep documented. Or something along the lines of an e-mail address, hyperlink, attached file, spreadsheet, catalog, etc. that can’t be delivered in a phone call. I prefer e-mail for simple Q&A conversations because I can take my time and plan out a response, as well as reference what was said. Elite businessmen like Mark Cuban have already accepted this as policy, which should at least show that e-mail is no joking matter.

And what makes matters worse, when I don’t get a response, I also have to paranoidally contemplate if they even got my e-mail. Sucks having to wonder if it’s my mail server that is down of if it’s just them being an arrogant asshole. I’m gonna sound like a psycho if I call up Comcast wondering why I didn’t get your e-mail when it’s just that person not sending it in the first place. Really, tell me you’re not going to respond so I can confirm the problem is with you and not me.

Typically, I’ll try to follow up with someone if I don’t get a response within a few days. I can understand if you missed the first e-mail… it happens and I’ve done it too. But not responding to the follow-up request is just a kick in the nuts. It’s like saying, “Yes, I know you’re trying to contact me, and apparently my response is very important to you. But fuck you, you’re not important enough to take two minutes out of my day for.”

Seriously, in my old line of work, if I EVER pulled this bullshit, I would have been out of the job. I remember losing out on gigs simply because I didn’t respond to someone WITHIN MINUTES. Not hours, days, weeks. Minutes. I don’t expect everyone to be on this spontaneous time frame, but it goes to show that people take e-mail seriously.

So what I’m gonna do: I am going to institute a personal policy where if they don't respond to (or acknowledge) my e-mail within 72 hours, I resend it. Hourly. Until they do. At the speed of business, three days is more than enough time to wait. Figure if they don't respond, they're purposely ignoring me, so might as well piss them off too... (Worked in The Shawshank Redemption!). It’s an unprofessional “eye-for-an-eye” but people really need to up their courtesy... They took the first step towards douchebaggery, and it’s either I be the victim, or I teach ‘em the error of your ways.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s really not that hard to fix. Even if all you say is 'let me get back to you' at least acknowledge that you got the e-mail. I understand you might not have the information readily available, or maybe you are truly busy. But have enough respect for someone to not put their life on hold for your response, only to never get it.


PS – I don’t look at the gmail account linked to this blog, so don’t try anything funny. :P

Additional Sidenote: Excuses don’t cut it. If you’re on vacation or otherwise know you will not read your e-mail over a few days, send an auto-response. Don’t try telling me you’ve been busy and have your Facebook or Twitter page filled with updates. Yep, I caught you. If you are the type of person who is seriously SO busy that they can’t respond to a quick one-line e-mail, you obviously have a secretary or make enough money to go out and hire one. If you got in a car accident and are in a coma… well I’ll give you that one ;)

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