Do you get several nags a day from banks, credit card companies, utilities, etc. to “Go Paperless!” No doubt they make it sound as though they’re doing you a favor by offering this option. I say “no.” They clearly want people to take this option: they push it every chance they get, often rudely and intrusively. Their agenda is to get you to sign away your rights to be notified, and to save themselves the cost of postage and printing.

If you want people to sign up for your paperless service, you need to show your customers some basic respect. To wit:

stop lying

Citibank has barraged me with well over 100 ads claiming I can “go paperless with just one click.” It’s a lie, plain and simple. Underneath the big, dark button is the fine print: “by clicking, you agree to <link> and <link>.” At a minimum, that “just one click” is at least three clicks, plus digesting page after page of legalese. Speaking of which…

If you want me to “go paperless,” don’t make me sign away my rights to be notified. Don’t abrogate your responsibility to make sure notices go through. Just… don’t.

stop using paperless to serve ads

Once I’ve signed up, are you going to


whenever I’m trying to access the documents that you previously were required to send to me? I don’t want that.

stop greenwashing

Sometimes the message isn’t “go paperless” but “go green.” Right. Now you’re trying to use guilt, to make me feel as though, unless I support your privacy-toxic agenda I’m somehow killing the planet? If you’re like most financial, insurance, or utility concerns you blast through natural resources like a hog through slop. Don’t try to blame me for your wastefulness.

Aside: my local public radio station once was pushing the “Evergreen Option,” a direct debit recurrent monthly donation, as so much better for the environment because I wouldn’t have to waste the paper to write a check every month. The premium for choosing this plan was a subscription to a weekly print newsmagazine. And they said it with a straight face.

make it actually convenient

When I get a paper statement, it comes in the mail. I pick it up with the rest of my mail, and I have it.

With one of my banks (BMO):

  1. click the link in the email
  2. enter user name
  3. enter password
  4. click sign-in
  5. AD AD AD AD in my face… click to close the damn ad
  6. click “Accounts”
  7. click “Document Center”
  8. click “Select Account”
  9. click the account — but wait, I have six accounts, so…
  10. click to go back to the email and memorize the account number because that’s the only indication which account the statement is for
  11. click to get back to the bank site
  12. click “Select year” — that’s right, they don’t even know the current year
  13. click to select the current year
  14. click on the statement date
  15. click download

Just fifteen simple steps!

Of course, they could have just emailed the statement. Oh, wait, privacy: now they care, not like when they were breached and leaked all my information. But the email could have had a link that takes you directly to the statement after you log in, not requiring you to re-enter all the information about the statement that they already had when they sent you the email. That would, alas, require that they had a modicum of interest in how difficult they’re making life for customers. Clearly, they don’t. One might leave with the impression that they’d prefer to just cut you off from access to any of your information.

So, again, I’ll “Go Paperless!!” when you show some respect: stop lying, stop greenwashing, stop advertising, stop legal maneuvering, and start putting a little effort into making your user experience tolerable.


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