Call the Ghostbusters

We have all experienced the ghostly phenomenon. A vendor signs an agency agreement, and says” Bring me an offer”. The agent brings an offer. Then there is no response from the vendor. Tomorrow, or the next day. Or the day after that. Calls are not answered, emails not responded to.

Or the prospective purchaser wants information on a property. Then they are all set to sign the contract. And then they disappear into a high mountain range with dense bush and no cellphone coverage. Possibly forever, as they can’t respond to emails either.

Or we respond to an agent’s Trademe advertisement. But the agent doesn’t answer their phone, or their email.

So what is behind the increase in poltergeist apparitions?  Is it like spotting UFOs – the more spare time we have on our hands, the more likely we are to see them? Or because the council is increasing the dose of fluoride in our water supply? Or very simply that parents have neglected to teach their children the value of table manners and courtesy?

Possibly a little of each. Or more likely the ease of electronic communication, and the rise of social media have contributed to a change in social mores. It is becoming more acceptable to simply ignore people. And in part that is because it is easier to deluge people – often unknown to us – with demands. And when bombarded with irrelevancies, the easiest defence is to do nothing.

Back in the time of the junction between mail (the type that went in envelopes with stamps) and email, we saw examples of behaviour change. When mail was still prevalent the most common way to apply for a job was to send a CV and covering letter by mail. That involved a little effort – even if the covering letter and CV were simply copies, one had to lick a stamp and post the letter. Obviously there were still plenty of covering letters applying for my diesel mechanic position citing their current experience as a beautician. But at least there were not literally hundreds of irrelevant applications from far flung parts of the globe for the position in South Auckland.  So most applications were in some way relevant, and even if unsuccessful, deserved the courtesy of a response – if just to thank them, and to preserve the reputation of the advertiser.

But then along came email and online advertising. Advertising online (as opposed to in the daily newspaper) meant the ad had a long life, and had far greater reach. But the down side of that was the deluge of irrelevant responses. Because almost no effort is required to respond to an online ad, everyone could respond - whether appropriate or not. And so, in time, the courtesy of responding to every applicant declined.

Once even the least tech savvy person has learned how to use mailmerge, they can send what appears to be a personalised email to a whole database. And to make it worse, often there is a personalised call to action.

I gave up some time ago responding with “Why did you send this to me?”. Because even though it was personalised to me, there was no response from the sender.

So perhaps the ghostly apparitions are simply a response to an inappropriate use of technology. And they were never taught table manners and courtesy as a child.