New Zealand Post has come in for a bit of ribbing this week over a letter it sent to people asking them to throw it away. It did seem like rather strange behaviour – the sort of psychological defence mechanism you'd get up to as a distraction if you were failing to come to terms with your headlong plunge into irrelevance.
But according to New Zealand Post, they do it all the time. "We regularly send test letters through our network to understand our mail performance across different regions of New Zealand," the letter said, its entire contents being devoted to explaining its existence. Talk about post-modern.
It sounds like an idea dreamt up by a department that doesn't need to exist in order to justify its existence. Every HR department ever, for instance. Corporate etiquette allows these things to happen because it is taboo when such brainwaves are suggested for anyone else in the room to say: "Why?"
It seems like a costly exercise – though I guess they didn't have to pay for postage, so that would have been a saving.
And at least it didn't say, though it cusped on it, "If you don't receive this letter, please contact your nearest post office." That would be silly. There are no post offices any more.
The ASB Bank has also jumped on the wacky correspondence bandwagon. It's improving its service to me again. I wish it wouldn't.
Last time it improved its service it was with a wholesale rejig of its branches that turned their interiors into a reconstruction of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. You could wander around in one of those for hours without working out where you should be.
Last week's letter begins "Hi – " and I'm afraid I'm going to have to stop you right there, ASB. I'd have preferred "Dear Mr Little" but I'd have been comfortable with "Dear Paul". Where could it have got the idea that it's on "Hi" terms with me. We've never had a drink together. Once or twice it's invited me to go to the tennis with it, but that just showed how little it really knew me.
The bank is not my friend and we should be candid about the transactional nature of our relationship, which is always weighted so that the bank makes money out of me and never the other way around.
Anyway, with such a cheery opening – there's clearly something dodgy going on.
"We're always looking for ways to save you time," it continues – again, please don't. Look for ways to lower mortgage rates and increase interest rates on savings. I've got time coming out the wazoo – "so we're now making your credit card statements available to you online instead of sending it through the mail."
We'll disregard the failure to make subject and verb agree in number and point out they've always been available online – the word "only" is missing from this sentence.
Among other advantages of this reduced service is "real-time access to your statements".
I could quibble about the innovativeness of this. I'm pretty sure I've always been able to walk into that room across the hall in real time and access my printed statements.
Then the tone switches from best mate to patient pre-school teacher: "You can always download and print out your statements should you need a hard copy." Yes. And in real time, too.
Finally this week, in adventures in corporate misdirection, according to a workplace study by one of those lots that do workplace studies, promotions with no accompanying pay rise are on the increase. The reward is apparently the increased status. At least now you get a new title when this happens. In my corporate life experience, we used to call this being given even more crap to do.