by Ruth Schapira
We can’t throw them out and we do love seeing our name in print—in every font imaginable, as long as it fits comfortably in a 2″ long space. So, that’s why personalized mailing labels are overfilling my desk drawer. It’s a thing you can never give away. Why do I need to have a permanent relationship with sticky pieces of paper? That’s it, first it’s these labels that I’m having to save and now the US postal service stamps that don’t expire. They both want to cozy up and make a home for themselves here forever.
I know there’s no way, even if I sent 10 letters a day, that I would use up even a fraction of the self-adhesives sitting there, reminding me that I haven’t sent a letter in a very, very long time—in what seems like forever. There are more mailing labels than you can imagine, representing all kinds of animate and inanimate objects: flowers, wreaths, candles, menorahs, baseballs, dinosaurs, stricken animals, sad children. It’s as if you did a search on Google for ‘Images that get people to feel awfully guilty and sentimental so they’ll donate to your cause’ and these are the ones that you’d find.
There was an ethical question that I heard on a radio talk show years ago: “Do I have to donate to a cause because I received personalized mailing labels from them? I do use the labels, (any guesses as to the age of the caller?) so shouldn’t I make a donation?”
“No. You didn’t ask for them, so you’re not obligated. You can use them or throw them out.”
Aren’t non-profits strapped for cash? Every time I get a sheet of these shiny things, I feel like calling up the organization and asking them why they’re wasting precious resources sending me things that will (if I was a self-respecting clutter buster) end up in the trash? Why not just save the expense and put those dollars into the operating budget? In fact, you can forget the labels entirely, and I’ll even up my donation in honor of your prudent spending.
What I’m wondering is, who is actually mailing all of these letters with personalized labels? Not the people I know. Otherwise my mailbox would be filled with hand-written envelopes, adorned with personalized cutesy mailing labels, and displaying an actual stamp in the right hand corner. Instead the mail I get is sorely missing any evidence of human contact, which is why we call it junk, while online platforms nicely call it SPAM (reminding us instead of edible things in cans). What I receive in my post box usually ends up in the recycling bag.
When’s the last time a friend of yours said “I’ll send it to you” that made you think that you’d receive a letter? Since we all know the amount of first class mail we’ve been sending has dropped precipitously (this has been documented in wikipedia, which is why we know it’s true), what’s the deal here? Why the mailing labels for mail no one is sending? Is there some secret DIY site where people are coming with kitschy creative ideas for how to use those 2″ labels?
Wait, here’s a novel idea to make the post office feel a lot better: instead of counting and reporting my diminished mail output, why not track those organizations sending mailing labels instead? I’d bet those numbers sure have picked up. And you can even send me the results of your survey, but only if you’ve attached a personalized label. I won’t want to open anything else.