By Sean Wilkinson
I used to hate form letters. When I’d open an envelope addressed to me and find a letter that could have been addressed to John Q. Draftdodger or Susie Q. Piledriver, my sensitive inner-cynic would, naturally, get upset.
But I think I’ve grown up a bit — I’ve come to respect the cold-hearted efficiency of a good form letter. I appreciate the effort it must have taken to print a blue signature at the bottom. (“Hey, look! This must be a letter written for me: It’s been signed, in blue ink! That lets me know it was signed with someone’s bluepen, not just printed by some automaton!”) I like the use of “handwriting” fonts printed on the envelope.
I like the letter to start with my name. “Dear SEAN WILKINSON: ….” Yeah, that’s real friendly. Address me by my full name, as if we’re in some kind of futuristic space colony and you’re my house robot, greeting me as I come home from a long day in the spice mines. “GREETINGS, SEAN WILKINSON! HOW WAS YOUR DAY? I HAVE MADE YOU A SNACK PLATE, SEAN WILKINSON!”
Thank you, house-bot.
I was most impressed by a letter I got when I switched my cellular service to Cingular from AT&T some time ago. The letter was in a heavy, natural-stock envelope with a square flap. It was addressed with a lovely handwriting font, the most convincing I’d seen. Inside, the form letter was printed on vellum. It addressed me by my first name. It looked like a well-designed wedding invitation, watermark and all. It was “inviting” me to “good service.” I was impressed, and I think I held on to it. I’m pretty sure I showed it off to someone.
Ironically, I’ve been most unimpressed by mail I’ve received from Cingular since. When I bought a new phone at the Cingular store, the main impetus behind my choice was the significant mail-in rebate offer. I was advised by the store employee to fill out the rebate form, but not to mail it for 90 days, in case the phone malfunctioned in the meantime. I kept the form, miraculously managed not to lose it after 90 days, mailed it, and waited for my check from Cingular.
Weeks passed and I forgot about the rebate. Then I received a piece of mail worse than the clumsiest form letter.
It was an envelope, addressed in my own handwriting, emblazoned across the front with an accusatory red fist icon pointing to my return address. “RETURN TO SENDER. OFFER EXPIRED,” it said.
The envelope was unopened.
I really took offense to this. Not only had they not bothered to even open my envelope — the one with the form I had filled out, the receipt I had photocopied, the proof of purchase I had cut out, the stamps I had purchased, the spit I had used to seal the flap — but they failed to send along an explanatory form letter!
Dear SEAN WILKINSON:
We would like to inform you that the efforts you have made in complete concordance with the advice of a Cingular employee have been entirely fruitless, and we’re not even going to give you the dignity of a dismissing form letter. We’re just so busy here at Cingular. We hope a giant fucking red stamp on your unopened envelope will suffice. Please continue to send us lots of money every month.
Tektronix Phaser Deskjet 66575
I would complain, but I don’t think they’d understand my request.
Anyone know any cellular-service providers with good form letters?