Dear People Who Just Anonymously Sent Me A Large Package Which Included a Typewritten Note Asking Only If I Want To Know More
Posted on February 14, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 43 Comments
The answer: No, not really.
More specifically: Look, not to be a dick about these things, and I know you mean well, but I get sent several packages a day from people who want me to promote things for them or otherwise engage my attention (today’s total: five, so far), and that doesn’t include the e-mail solicitations (today’s total: nine, so far). Most of these come with a clear, written explanation of who they are, what they are doing and what they would like from me. This sort of direct, no-nonsense information is helpful because I have a lot of things I need to be doing with my day, so I appreciate people who lay things out for me and don’t waste my time.
Sending me a package with less information about who you are, what you are doing and what you would like from me than these other folks does not intrigue me, other than to make me wonder why you spent so much money sending me something you’re not immediately explaining. Attempting to send me to a Web site for further information when you have not identified yourself or your goals, as you have done with your cute, typewritten note, is not a good idea. Why? Well, hey: did you know that browser-executable viruses exist? They totally do. People have tried to give them to me before, even. I try to avoid them, and one way I do that is not to visit sites I don’t know anything about.
I understand you are trying to be creative and mysterious, but what you’re actually doing is annoying me and calling to mind the failure mode of clever. For future reference, both yours and others who wish to engage my attention, when you send me something, an actual cover sheet, PR release or other informational tidbit is greatly appreciated, and when I say “greatly appreciated” I mean “required, unless you want to irritate me and thereby throw your shipping money down a hole.”
This makes me a no-fun stick in the mud, I know. But I can live with that. You will have to as well, if you want to send me something you’d like me to promote or engage with.
Of course it *could* have been a box full of money ;-)
Tragically, it was not.
When interns rule the world…
Trying To Hard. It’s sad. Thank goodness I (mostly) got past that stage without sending anyone a package. Only query notes with hand drawn illustrations. :P
Of course, you could have told us what was actually in the box without promoting said items. Perhaps something along the lines of “You wouldn’t believe this weird box of animal meat parts I was just sent”, or “I can’t imagine why someone would send me 1000 boxes of this non-specific jelly like substance” or maybe “I just received a huge box of adult entertainment publications”. You know, just because we’re curious and now we have to know.
Could also have been a bomb. (Or anthrax. Do people still mail that to each other?)
When interns rule the world … they will have better things to do than implement the stupid ideas of half-assed (and almost certainly over-paid) marketers.
Also, when interns rule the world, they won’t be interns.
@ethan #6: It’s past the holidays for amtrax.
#6 ethan – Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s just so hard to come up with an original, memorable gift.
@ Bearpaw #7: Heh. I worked at colleges for 10 years and now at a research lab. Despite varying levels of education, there always seems to be a few sub 25 year olds who still default to ‘clever’ before ‘judgement’ kicks in. Keeps it interesting.
#7 Bearpaw, when interns rule the world, their *professional* position will no longer be as interns, but as members of the Guild of Interns, they will have the membership title of Intern. After inducted, they receive the Red Stapler of Damocles and the Giant Visine Bottle of Vengeance. Grand Master Interns are rumoured to know no fewer than fifty ways to couch a written insult as a formal compliment, making them ideal as ambassadors, speechwriters, and fashion critics. Interns do not rule the world, but Guild members are on their way to dominance already. The Guild of already has an exchange program with them.
Guild of = Guild of Assassins
Out of curiosity, what else was in the package?
I consider myself to be a really weird person with sub par ability to judge social boundaries, and I don’t know that I would ever send a package to a person’s home unless I knew them.
I get that in this case you probably receive packages all the time and there were legitimate business reasons this person wanted you to have said package. However, you probably also get a lot of creepy stuff and a “mystery box” inviting you to explore more is probably a lot like getting the creepy Jigsaw doll that asks “Do you want to play a game?”
Then again, maybe it’s because I’m a weirdo I know I’m not supposed to do such things because if I did them it would look even worse.
Can we non-anonymously send you giant boxes of full of Coke Zero in return for the fuzzy warmth of knowing that it might contribute energy towards a future novel or short story?
That seems a more worthwhile cause in my book.
Was it a velvet Scalzi? Because that would be totally cool and not creepy at all!
Oh. I was going to email to ask if you’d like me to send you a small package of bacon-flavoured crystals (which you add to water to create bacon-ade, I suppose). I found them in a candy store on the weekend. Is this not a good time?
I’m not sure it’s fair to say that interns would have come up with an idea like this. Interns sort mail, after all. They are in the very trenches of poorly-thought-out promotional material.
When I was an intern, someone sent hand-rolled cigarettes to the office where I was working. They’d apparently patented some kind of rolling technique that they thought we’d care about for some reason. By the time it arrived, it was a box of tobacco-colored powder whose odor was so putrid that it’s better described as a feeling than a smell. And I’m allergic to tobacco, so that was a really great day for me, let me tell ya.
There are certainly folks (as evidenced by the package Scalzi received) that don’t have any common sense when it comes to marketing ideas, but it doesn’t seem to be a trait that correlates very well to experience level.
I have to say I wouldn’t have opened a package like that, out of fear it might be a non-safe item of an explosive nature… like a giant creme pie with a catapult connected to the box top, for example. :)
Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend. If I send you some money for shipping, could you do me a huge favor and send the platypus, the submersible smartphone, and the remote control transmitter back to me? We miss the platypus terribly.
I was wondering where my laundry went.
I thought that we covered the “anonymously sending stuff to famous people is not cool” at Jon and Wil’s Happy Fun Time when the fan fiction contest was announced? Really people, there are a few rules to follow in life… Never start a land war in Asia, don’t wiz on the electric fence, and do not send anonymous stuff to a famous person… Oh, and no slash.
Hey, John, I was supposed to send you a case of Coke Zero as a welcome back present from Capricon, but apparently, it got shipped to my new agent (who promptly dropped me as she thinks Coke Zero is evil, the Pepsi-swilling bitch). I think I switched the shipping labels by mistake. Did you by chance happen to get my much-hyped sequel to Starship Troopers, commissioned by the Heinlein estate for a cool $4 million?
Cause that’s my only copy. Yep. Kicked it old school and typed it on an old manual Royal typewriter.
If you did, can I have it back? There’s another case of Coke Zero in it for you.
I think the failure mode for irritated might be sanctimonious.
A friend of mine once got a package similar to that (no address, some obscure note0. The cops were called. She’s a Deputy District Attorney dealing with custody and children. So whoever sent that package: Don’t. The person who sent her that package was lucky they didn’t get arrested. And the cops were pissed. It had nothing to do with her job. A name, address, what it is, etc. is all that people ask. Not that anyone would ever send something like that to you.
I got a “call if you want to know more” letter like that once. It was made of alphabetical characters cut out of magazines and glued to a paper. Very weird. Some of the letters had fallen off, and I tried to put them back in teh right place, but, you know, its all random sized letters, so there’s no way to be certain what exactly they were tryign to say. “Mend us the honey and nobody gets Burt”? And I was like, who the hell is Burt???
You’ve run smack into the failure mode for clever, I see. Well done you.
My first thought was of Varley’s “Press Enter.” So, even though I don’t get enough unsolicited packages to find them generally annoying, I definitely wouldn’t want to know more.
Is there a unit of measure for such asshattery in the Scalzi universe?
#28 John – Yes, but Greg @ #27 has absolutely scored the sucess mode for clever. I laughed my butt off.
#28: My thoughts exactly, sir!
Was the package from this guy?
Was it as ominous as it sounds?
’cause my first thought, on reading this, was wondering if you’d called the police before opening the package.
Unfortunately, that same level of self-promotion failure is not limited to wooing authors. A couple graphic design mags have annual “Self Promotion” issues and every year, in the first paragraph, the editor has to comment on the sheer number of entries that failed to include any contact information whatsoever …
I got one too and thought EXACTLY the same thing — I’m really sorry you spent so much money pitching this to me, but since I’m not even going to have time for a pee break today, I certainly can’t justify carving out time to email you and ask wtf this is.
This brings to mind the legendary promotion (in a small group, fortunately) for a word processor called “Excellence!” They wanted to make a favorable mental link between their product and cherry pie for some reason: the icon for the program was a pie, and when you clicked on the icon it changed to a slice of pie. Anyway, the developer decided to celebrate their upcoming product by shipping cherry pies to all the leading computer stores and distributors that might be interested in carrying the product.
During summer. Via UPS Ground.
This does not result in a nice cherry pie at the end destination. This results in a box or boxes lined in (and often leaking) congealed cherry glop when you open it, most of which has not been improved in smell by shipping and sitting in the heat. The developer became well known–but not the way they’d planned.
It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.
David St. Hubbins, Spinal Tap
You must get massive amounts of garbage email solicitations. I am willing to bet that less than 1 in 50 is even worth reading. Not sure why you even bother to read random solicitations anyway. I would probably just mass delete them.
@ 14 John, The first thing that came to mind when you said stuff was Stuff. As in “The Stuff” from the cheestastic 1985 movie of the same name.
I think we rented that one on VHS back in the day when you actually had to be a member of a video rental club and pay a membership fee. Oh man I feel old……..
Next up, a phone call with a machine altered voice:
“did you get the package?”
I have visions of a hippo asking “did you get that thing I sent you?”
Well, it could have been worse–it could have read “Who is John Galt?”