Reader Howard Granville wrote to ask about Outlook Express:
I have an Outlook Express problem. When people request an email receipt, Outlook Express says it can’t send one. I’ve checked under Options > Receipts & it is set correctly to send confirming receipts. This only recently started happening. Any thoughts?
Thanks very much, Howard
I wasn’t able to give Howard a good answer, but there is one thing he could try. Sometimes, when a program is not following its settings, all you need to do is to change the settings and then change them back.
He could change the setting on "Returning Read Receipts" to something else, then click OK, and close Outlook Express. Then, start Outlook Express again, open the Options menu again, and change the setting back to either "Always send a read receipt" or "Notify me for each read receipt request."
Personally, I don’t like receipts on emails. I guess some people think they’re neat, but, they’re not reliable. If you get a receipt, it means someone opened an email, but does not mean they read it.
Unfortunately, that’s all you know — the converse is not true. If you don’t get a receipt, you do NOT know that the person did NOT receive your email.
Most email programs allow the receiver to decide whether to send a receipt or not. In some cases, for example, on my computers, the receipt simply can not be sent. I have configured my email programs to use multiple accounts — and I receive emails to a persona that is not set up to send receipts!
In other words, if you don’t get a receipt, you do not know if the person received the email and hasn’t looked at it, received it and blocked the receipt from being sent, received it and was unable to allow a receipt to be sent, or didn’t receive the email. As much as we use email, it simply is not reliable.
Some people use external receipt systems that are designed to put a image "bug" in the email. When that email is opened, it requests a unique image from the image server (it’s usually only one pixel and transparent so you don’t notice it). That tells the system that you opened the email. How do you block it? Almost every email program allows you to prevent it from pulling images from the web.
In part, spam and the resulting anti-spam measures have resulted in some of the problems. Another reason is simply the enormous quantity of email that each mailserver has to handle (yes, including spam and also including good emails).
Some email systems are reputed to deliver only a fraction of the incoming good emails (I’m glad I don’t use Hotmail). Yahoo is getting bad about blocking emails, too, but at least it seems to tell the sender that the email got blocked.
Back to email receipts — I don’t use them, and I don’t like them, because they really don’t tell me what I want to know. You really only get a receipt from someone who WANTS to send you a receipt!