I forget who said. “All control is damage control.”

Whoever said it, it was a stroke of brilliance.

At least once a week I get a letter telling me about some policy an institution somewhere wants me to read. It’s always a minimum of two pages of very small print. The only part in large print is usually the top line that says something like:

Please Read this Policy in its Entirety. It contains important information pertaining to your account.

Not only is it small print, but it’s written by lawyers for lawyers.

I just pitch them. Which is exactly what they’re designed to get me to do.

The other day, though, I got one from the “Conference Office.” It was a reminder that certain forms are due next month, and that there was a policy that had recently been adopted for failure to comply, which I was encouraged to read in its entirety.

The policy (and the letter informing me of it), the letter explained, was the conference’s response to a more than 30% failure to file the required forms last year, which had cost staff uncounted hours of tracking down the delinquent parties. I was getting this because they thought it was going to save money to threaten me with all the hellfire and brimstone they can muster if I don’t comply.

No fewer than three copies of this mailing were sent to the same PO box in separate envelopes, each with first class postage affixed. They must have spent a few thousand on this mailing alone.

I thought about sending them a letter back suggesting that they wasted any savings they may have gained on paying a committee to write a threatening policy, and paying someone else to write a threatening letter to go with it, and paying for someone else to stand in front of a copy machine and then stuff it in all those envelopes, and paying for all that postage.

Then I decided they probably wouldn’t take my advice, and didn’t waste my postage money.

All that. But here’s the real punchline.

I filed their damn paperwork on time last year. Then I get threatened with hellfire and brimstone.

I will probably file their forms on time again this year, but I don’t really care whether I remain a part of their organization or not. I’ve been kicked out of better places than this.

This organization constantly wrings its corporate hands over losing membership and donations.

All control is damage control. Until it becomes damaging control.