Holiday Cards: 448
Trips To Various Post Offices: 4
Seinfeld Episodes I Lived In The Last Week: 2
Percentage of Cards That Will Actually Be Looked At And Appreciated, Thus Rendering This Whole Debacle Worthwhile: 5ish? Maybe?
My business partner (whose name is also Elizabeth, and we’re the same age, but she’s not short and brunette, she’s tall and blond. She’s like the bizarro-Elizabeth Newlin) and I have been mailing to a subdivision in Chandler for three years now. It doesn’t net us a ton of business, but the occasional listing and referral are generally worth the sporadic marketing energy and money we put into it. Unfortunately, this year our marketing efforts have been even more sporadic than usual for the all too common ‘economic recession issues’ and also the other Elizabeth had a baby this year, so she is no longer able to complete her duties as the more organized and motivated force on the team, as she now has traded in her mind and sanity for a child (which I did many years ago).
So the point is, our big, consistent mailer of the year for this subdivision is our Holiday Mailer With Calendar. We also send this one out to our friends, family and past clients. Last year (because Lizzie was still gestating and totally ‘on it’) we had these cards and calendars on fridges December 6, I swear. This year went a little differently.
The cards are a multi-step process. First off, we order calendars in the fall. Then, in October or November at some point we take pictures and compose a card:
The next part of the process involves affixing business cards to the calendars, stuffing everything into envelopes, printing and affixing labels and sealing the cards. Finally, everything is taken down to the post office and bulk mailed out. So, yes, even at it’s best, the whole thing is a bit of a circus.
This year, however, every little detail turned into the disaster that ate the Christmas cards. To begin with, the date we had on the calendar to do the photo-shoots for the cards, I was actually in the middle of a four day hospital stay with my middle son and his nasty case of valley fever. So we started out about a month late on that. I ended up begging the photographer from my brother’s wedding over email to send me whatever picture she had with my entire family in it because if I had to dress my whole family up and get us to a photo-friendly location with a photographer again this year, I was going to have to throw myself into oncoming traffic. I’m a woman on the brink! I told her. Clearly, my plea was successful, even though the bride and groom haven’t received their pictures yet. Sometimes a little desperation is all it takes.
The next hurdle wasn’t due to poor timing or family illness, just general idiocy on my part. When I went to attach my business cards to the sticky portion of my calendars, I realized about 100 in to my 500 that I was going to run out of business cards by about number 200. This was December 7. So I spent the entire day reordering cards, paying huge amounts extra for faster shipping, waiving proofs and just generally begging on the phone. Unfortunately, this time desperation wasn’t enough. I was promised the cards in hand by December 11 and they didn’t actually arrive (after days of screamy, hand wringing, hair-tearing out frustration) until December 18.
So, of course, I enlisted my poor, long-suffering Realtor-assistant/husband to help me finish assembling, labeling and sealing all of the cards in one night. By 10PM Sunday night all we had left to do was seal them all. We watched Episodes 3 and 4 of True Blood (season 1) while we licked 448 envelopes. When we got to the point where there were about 30 left, I literally couldn’t lick another one without likely vomiting. Jason got it done, and I went to bed and had nightmares where I was marrying George from Seinfeld and I died from envelope-licking poisoning, but Stephen Moyer brought me back as a vampire and made me drink foul-tasting synthetic blood that tasted like envelope paste. And I woke up the next morning with my mouth glued shut.
By that point, poor Lizzie had all of her stuff totally assembled for a week and was just waiting me and my daily proclamations that “Worst case scenario, we’ll mail by Friday, I swear.” But she has a life too, and was headed out to California to visit family for the holidays, so I was tasked with facing the dreaded bulk mail czar alone.
If you can believe it, the thing we dread most about mailing is not everything that I’d already been through, no, this is all unpleasant and time-consuming, but the worst, most stressful part about mailing is going to see the Bulk Mail Nazi (ding, ding! Seinfeld episode reference number 2!). Basically, bulk mail is insanely financially worth the hassle (25.6 cents each instead of 44 cents each, so instead of $197.12, $114.69 for my 448 cards), but it’s such a super-secret, complicated process that almost no one does it. There are all these rules (you must have at least 200 pieces going to the same general area, you must wear a yellow hat when you show up to the post office, only come between, 1pm and 1:03pm on the third Thursday of the month, the secret password is Green Eggs and Ham) and even though we’ve done it several times a year for the past three years, we never know if it’s going to work or if there’s going to be some kind of ‘NO BULK MAIL FOR YOU!!’ incident at the post office (Jeff, the bulk mail czar has told us before, ‘you know, we’re going to start charging extra fees when we have to help people because they’re not doing it exactly right,’).
So this week, I showed up at the post office we’ve been doing this at for the past three years (my company has our specific bulk mail imprint that only works at the right Gilbert post office) and got in line. Of course, because it was December 21st, the line was out the door. So I waited. and waited. When I finally got to the front of the line, and said to Jeff, “OK, I need three long bulk mail boxes,” he said, “Oh, we don’t do bulk mail any more. It was all transferred to the Val Vista office months ago. We sent out a letter of notification.” Awesome. So I drove over to the Val Vista office (the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach growing ever larger) and got into the back of that 40 person line. When I got to the front, I was told to drive around back with my mail and park in the bulk mail spot and wait for Mary (see, it’s like Davinci Code of mailing). Mary came out and was actually super nice and helpful (The bulk mail king is dead!! Long live the Queen!!) and got all of my paperwork together and my boxes all worked out and weighed and we were good to go. I was so relieved. It was like a Christmas Miracle. Of course I had to go back and wait in line AGAIN to pay, but whatever, I was happy: IT WAS DONE.
You know, until 6:30PM that day when I got a voicemail from Mary that our order was at least 110 pieces more than we had counted and it wasn’t going out and I needed to come back in and recount the next day. So the next day (after frantically figuring and re-figuring how our count could have been that far off and finally determining that GODDAMN IT, IT’S NOT THAT FAR OFF) I went back down. And stood outside and waited for 30 minutes for Mary before being told she was in a meeting and wouldn’t be out for at least another half an hour and that she would call me. Which she did not. I finally called and called her until I got her on the phone and she told me to come back down. I went back down AGAIN and was ushered back to a little room in the back of the giant warehouse post office and was shown my boxes of mail and told to count them. I got 3/4 of the way through (with the numbers still tracking with my original count) and opened a small box only to find it stuffed with someone elses mailers. When I took them over to Mary she said, “OH! Well that’s the problem, I must have mixed them in with yours. You’re fine! You can go! I’ll send them out.”
So… at this point here’s the big question: Was it actually worth the $82.43 I saved? Excuse me, I’ve got some traffic that needs throwing of me in front of.