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E-Bills Don't Always Save Time

Everybody loves e-bills, it seems. People think they save time by getting them early, and companies love the cost savings from not having to print and stamp all those pesky statements. They do certainly cut down on paper and waste.

The problem is, I don't find that they save time. I can open a paper bill, pay it online, and then file it fairly quickly. With the e-bill approach, I have to click on the link to the company's website, log in, navigate to the bills/statements section, get to the right month, and then download and file it securely on my computer. I argue that the paper bill is much faster and simpler.

Part of this is the concern for privacy and security, and companies have decided that a mailed letter is secure (even though it's pretty easy to steal from someone's mailbox) while email is not secure. Therefore emails cannot contain the statement as an attachment, which would make the whole thing much easier and quicker. So people feel empowered by downloading, even if it actually takes a lot longer; somehow, it feels faster.

This raises an interesting technological problem: because we can do something, doesn't mean we ought to. I could scan in every piece of paper in my office. I could make backup photocopies of all those documents. I could get every bill as an e-bill. But doing something because I can is poor reasoning; prudence calls for doing exactly what is required, no more and no less. In my opinion, e-bills require more energy and time than simple, efficient filing, and so I resist this latest stage to the power of the internet.

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