Two common, yet useless email features are Return Receipt and Auto-Reply.

They sound great in theory, with Auto-Reply letting people know you might be on vacation and when you will return, and Return Receipt telling you that they read your message. But, this assumes a perfect e-world, where there is no spam, and we pretend that Return Receipt is similar to paper mail from the Post Office. In reality they are completely useless.


Replying to every email that comes in… hmmm. So, you think it’s important to let the spammer that sent you the offer for viagra know that you’ll get back to them next week? How about that request for help from the Nigerian millionaire?

With the spam, do you think your auto-reply is going to the actual sender? Usually the spammers use fake addresses, so your reply is going nowhere, sitting in a mail que waiting 7 days to try to get delivered, clogging things up. Sometimes the spammers use a real address, but it’s just a complete stranger’s address having nothing to do with the sending. So, this person gets an email from you saying ‘thanks for the email, I’ll get back to you next week’. Oh, great, can’t wait.

Return Receipt

Do you really have to have a return receipt for EVERY message you sent? Do you need to know that Billy got your message about the puppy getting into the trash? (how cute) Is every message you sent vital and important enough to have some sort of proof that the message was delivered? Are you that important, so important that perhaps you have someone following you around all day to count how many breathes you take in a day so they can record such facts for prosperity?

OK, so maybe you are important, and the email is important. You feel you need to have a return receipt for an important message so you know that someone read it. When you get that receipt, what did you really get? Proof of what?

Return Receipt has no value, it means nothing, it ensures nothing.

All it means is that the message was delivered to a mailbox, and possibly opened. But, was it read? Was it read by the proper recipient? Was it just deleted? Does someone else share the computer, or the mail program? Did someone else log into their account without their knowledge? Did they briefly look at the subject and move on not bothering to read it? Do you think an email Return Receipt will hold up in court as proof that someone got your message? Tell me how that works out for you.

Does Return Receipt mean anything important at all? No.

What if you don’t get a Return Receipt? Does THAT mean they didn’t get your vital message? Did they NOT read it? Or, did the recipient disallow all Return Receipts? Most mail programs have a setting to turn off the sending of receipts. Anyone concerned with privacy should turn it off. So, as the sender, you have no receipt even if they read the message every morning and study it as a daily mantra.

If not getting a Return Receipt does not mean the message was not read, and getting a Receipt does not mean the message WAS read, then what is Return Receipt? Useless.

Turn off your Return Receipt function in your mail program.
And stop any Auto-Reply you might set unless you are the one person who gets no spam.