On saying NO to paperless banking, don’t fall in the guilt trap

As a principle, I refuse to change to paper-free statements, not only because the banks themselves don’t accept online statement print-outs as proof of address (ironic!) but because again, I don’t get anything out of it other than feeling less guilty for saving a piece of a tree. But let’s remember, it is the banks who want me to feel guilty about not saving paper and then they turn and mail me unsolicited advertising printed in non-recyclable paper.

I never felt guilty for getting paper statements, as a matter of fact, since I am a geek and keep my accounts to the minute using MS Money software, I never even looked at them. But then, I started having problem after problem after problem with banks and it became clear that keeping the paper statements was a sensible thing to do.

A good old marketer trick, is to create a need that didn’t exist before, and then harvest the profits. The immorality of using fear, guilt or customer stupidity as a means to higher corporate profit lead me to get my BA in Market Research and move out of the industry (not without the knowledge learnt and a permanent interest in the matter though).

I am a strong believer in free markets, abut trying to make me feel guilty using my potential green values is just wrong. Even better, is not just wrong, it is a marketing tool! You switch to paperless statements because they cannot enforce you (yet) not to and because you feel you are “saving the planet”. But they save on mail, printing and paper and they don’t share the savings with you (like some utilities do, but they overcharge you on your consumption, which is a different matter).

This belongs to the green herd stupidity along with:

  • You are forced to recycle by your council, but they don’t share the profits of selling tin, glass and paper with you. Some French councils do so, passing the savings directly to the individual household, therefore motivating recycling amongst the constituents. Who really has a green goal?

  • Governments in the West are giving incentives to drivers to retire their old and so-called “polluting” cars so that the owners get a rebate when trading an old car for a fuel efficient, less-polluting (note here I use “less”, not “non”) without comparing the cost in pollution terms of keeping on the road an old car with the pollution caused by disposing of it and making a new fuel efficient car.

  • Toyota Priuses and electric cards are the future, they tell us, but every time I go to our recycling centre and I see the “batteries only” container, I wonder why we have to be careful with them (apparently mercury and other highly toxic chemicals), and how long the batteries last in an electric or hybrid car (and how much it costs to replace them)

So yes, I say no to paperless bank statements and communications, and I try to do my bit by promoting self-interest:

  • I keep the thermostat around 19 degrees because gas and electric bills are lower
  • I don’t leave electronic appliances on stand-by to save electricity
  • I drive a diesel because it gives me better MPG
  • I drive at constant speed and brake as little as possible (safety first!) to save fuel
  • I check the pressure on the tires every week (fellas, it really works)

And I don’t consider myself a tree-hugger at all, the way I see it is just personal interest. Why should I help banks lower their overhead costs if they don’t share them with me? Why should I help fill up the oil industry’s pockets if when oil prices go up go up they increase fuel prices but when they go down, they don’t (the same applies to utility companies?

Don’t be fooled by the green trend, it is your money.



One Response

  1. Some reasons I prefer paperless banking:

    [1] It frees shelf space in my home office – 6 yrs’ worth of statements for tax purposes (run my own company) so this does make a difference.

    [2] I can let a variety of folk (friends, colleagues, cleaners, workmen) into my house without the need to lock the home office.

    [3] My electronic copies are at my finger tips, wherever I am. Even if my laptop hasn’t travelled, many statements are retained available on-line for a long time by my providers.

    Its sensible to keep electronic backups of downloaded statements but I already had this covered – I’d be much more upset to lose a lifetime collection of digital photos, say, than my bank statements!

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