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The Mail Order Business
By J. B. Dignam
NE has to go back only a few gery, cowless butter and motherless
changes of the moon to the tinie chickens and though a statue of him when the mail order publisher does not adorn a niche in the Hall of
and the mail order advertiser Fame he's "it" with a capital "I," and were referred to with about as much here are some of my reasons : enthusiasm as Sousa would refer to the When the original mail order man music of the hurdy-gurdy. Today they placed his first “ad” in the original mail are envied and respected by their brother order paper-when he wrote "Dear publishers appealing to a different class Friend" on the head of his first "follow of readers; by advertisers who are after lip," he “started something" the rattle "publicity" pure and simple, and together of which can be heard in every corner they enjoy the confidence of millions of of the globe. He threw precedent to residents of all parts of the continent, the wind. He annihilated distance. He and are "getting-rich-quick-honestly.” defied time. He sent "commerce" scur
The conditions responsible for the rying to out-of-the-way places frequently bringing about of these changes were AHEAD of the flag. as natural as the law of gravitation. Since that eventful day he and his Honesty on the part of the mail order "heirs, executors, administrators and man gave the business a good start- assigns” have leveled forests in their rural free delivery helped some, low greed for wood pulp and print paper. prices assisted, but it was the supplying They have caused to spring up and flourof at least a reasonably "long-felt want" ish thousand perfecting printing that made the plan "get a hump" on presses where only one measley, antiitself and prove profitable.
quated, old Washington hand press had History does not give us the name, stood before. They have provided cigalocation or the line of business of the rettes and meal tickets for the artist first mail order man. More than likely who was starving for “Art's sake," by he "just happened.” Certainly he could using his talent for commercial purposes have had no idea of the extent to which only. They brought forth from their his unique way of doing business was hiding places the advertising writer, the to spread-he surely never flattered him- advertising counselor, and the fellow self that he was handing down to pos- who makes rubber stamps. terity and the postmaster general tlie They made “correspondents” out of "good thing" that he unintentionally ordinary clerks, printed “original" letters tipped off.”
on Gordon jobbers, and “coined" by the Beside the originator of the mail order hundred, new words to save space and plan of doing business the inventor of add to the strength of their statements. patent leather shoes, patent medicines · They have demanded the erection, or patent inside newspapers pales into have paid for and are sustaining postinsignificance as the chorus girl pales offices the village green that in before the prima-donna. Compared from former years had been used solely as a the standpoint of the "greatest good to place for pitching horseshoes. the greatest number," the original mail They have compelled the “man with order man "left at the wire" all such the hoe" to "move on" and make way "public benefactions" as bloodless sur- for the "man with the hod" who had a
contract for a ten-story"distributing warehouse” in his inside pocket.
They have switched onto side tracks the passenger, local and freight trains to make way for the “limited mail.” They have loaded the letter-carrier with merchandise till he staggered over his four-mile route like a department store in distress and-sent him back for another load-sad eyed and sore shouldered. They have turned "cross roads" into towns, towns into cities, and territories into states. They have made the desert to blossom as the rose, villages to spring up as if by magic, and have brought joy and gladness and a steady diet to the inhabitants thereof. They have furnished "food for thought” to our lawmakers in Washington, campaign topics for our congressmen, and have insured for all time to come the stenographer's standing in society.
The Mail Order Buyer
tous. Formerly he resided about
Falls, Iowa-today you can find his name in the city directories of New York, Chicago and Kalamazoo, on the voters' list of Bloom county, Oregon, and in the List of Subscribers to the Home Telephone Exchange of Brinkly, Florida. He resides in apartments, flats, tenements and detached residences in the larger cities—in castle and cottage in the smaller places, and his broad acres stretching from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, are piling up wealth for him whether school keeps or not.
The mail order buyer is married. Race suicide is not for him. His family, from the youngest to the oldest, has the "mail order habit" just as bad as the head of the house. He's as honest as the fellow that he sends his orders to, and that's honest enough for all practical purposes. He isn't looking for the best of it-continually. He wants an even break andwith a little assistance from Uncle Sam—he's going to insist on having it.
No matter how far his little order travels, when the seller "delivers the goods” it does not take the buyer more than a month of Sundays to figure out whether he has been given "a square deal" or has been flim-flammed.
If he decides in favor of the former he will shout the seller's name in praise from the roof of the old red barn, he'll 'phone the glad tidings to every person on his “line,” he'll spend car fare, time and energy in showing his "purchase” to his relatives for miles around, and he'll boost the mail order game for "fare ye well.”
If on the other hand he orders a library lamp and receives a "lemon," woe, and plenty of it, is due and overdue the fellow who "handed" it to him. Better for him that he should leave home and friends and flee to some country where dishonest dealing goes unpunished and the postoffice inspector is not. For before many suns shall set his sleep will become troubled, his mind muddled and his reputation will be punctured beyond all hope of repair.
A few months ago I planned a three days' trip to some of the country fairs in Indiana. I went to them to meet “face to face" a pretty fair personal representation of some of those mail order buyers. I wanted to study them at short range and see how they stacked up in their own counties. I wanted to see the fellow with the “Uncle Sam” whiskers that I was led to believe could spit and say “by gosh” at the same time. I wanted to see the woman with the pretty black curls and the green bonnet. I wanted to see the girl with the pink hat and the red dress and the young man with the new red top boots and the home-made hair cut.
But they were not there; at least I could not find them.
But the man with the freshly pressed, good-enough-for-any-time suit was there. He was clean shaven and carried a pretty decent looking cigar where I had ex
The Mail Order Publisher
pected to see a bunch of alfalfa. His wife was with him. He appeared to be very proud of her, and really you couldn't blame him. Likely she has been up since long before daylight, yet she
as fresh looking as the flowers daintily pinned in her belt. Her clothes were good, they were stylishly made and fitted her far above the average of the city woman's clothes. The daughter was near by-just home from boarding school--and was dressed in a suit that she knew just how to wear. The young man was dressed in a business suit; on his head he wore a derby that no hat maker on the continent need have hesitated one moment to claim as his own, his shoes were patent leather, and if there was one thing noticeable in his entire outfit it was, maybe, the absence of some of the brighter colors from his puff scarf that the city fellow has adopted
I walked the fair grounds over and over again-I ate with some of the mail order buyers and talked to many of them, and they won me over long before the "2:40 trot" was announced. I did not see one man with his pants stuffed into his boots-I didn't see a hickory shirt nor a pair of blue jeans. I saw one, and only one, celluloid collar, and that was worn by a fakir-a real city fakir-who informed me confidentially that "them "rubes' are too wise-it's me for St. Louis as soon as I can raise the price."
To the mail order advertiser these last few lines will not come as news, but he will verify the truthfulness of the statement. He knows the condition that exists. He has helped to bring it around. His plan of doing business has placed in the hands of these same buying-by-mail people the opportunity that they wanted. They took advantage of it. It has been continually profitable and will continue to increase in volume and profit as the years roll round. It's a popular plan--a convenient plan. It's only in its infancy and yet it has assumed enormous proportions.
ESS than twelve months ago the
publisher of a well-known mail order paper
lunchcon consisting of nothing more stimulating than pumpkin pie and milk, informed me that he had his "plans laid out for the next three years." During the following three months he made six radical changes in his business-each one taking him farther away from what he had planned to do than the preceding
And today he stands ready and willing to change anything connected with his paper, from the subscription price to the postoffice entry, whenever it shall appear to him that the change is beneficial.
And these changes are suggesting themselves and being suggested to him every month.
The time when a mail order publication could be edited by an inmate of a foolish house and live, has gone glimmering into the past along with the paper collar and the high wheeled bicycle. And the time when the work of the scissors and the paste pot counted for but little on account of the villainous mechanical appearance of the sheet has also gone to return no more. In its stead has come and come to stay, though always improving, sixteen to forty pages of original matter, illustrated with halftones and zinc etchings, made from original drawings, ornamented with borders, head- and tail-pieces and initial letters, printed on perfecting color presses, carefully wrapped and mailed and going to millions of readers who have paid their good money in advance with the expectation of getting it regularly during the time such subscription covers, and who are not slow to put up a howl should a single issue fail to reach them.
The prices paid for stories and feature matter by some mail order publishers is almost beyond belief to any not directly connected with the mail order publishing
business. One publisher paid $807 07 for a story of about 15,000 words. The drawings and half-tones for illustrating "set him back” another two hundred. He spent about $1,000.00 in advertising the fact in his own and other mail order papers that this particular story would commence with a certain month and advising his readers and the other fellow's readers to get busy with the first installment as soon as it appeared. Then he “broke" the story at a point where the automobile exploded and left the heroine "up in the air" till his next issue.
What was the result?
Twenty thousand people wanted to read how the girl escaped instant death; twenty thousand new subscribers; twenty thousand letters containing twenty cents each; twenty thousand people who took that publisher's word regarding his idea of a good story and backed it up with their good money.
And while the "tone” of the mail order papers has been materially elevated, do not imagine for one moment that it has been done at the expense of the advertising columns. In truth, the reverse is the fact. Only a few mail order papers are today carrying any advertising that the publicity advertiser could reasonably find any fault with. The "broad” medi
cal goes begging for space in which to show itself. In its former space we find standard medical preparations. The work-at-home scheme is tabooed everywhere, and the correspondence school ads are using the vacated space profitably. The fellow who used to charge you a dollar for a "colored steel engraving of Washington” and sent you a postage stamp is heard of no more. But the piano, organ and phonograph advertiser took his place and were glad to get it. The man with the “miniature" set of furniture for $1.98 is in Canada and his “factory” is long since closed, but the man with the sure-en gh parlor suit is sending his goods on the installment plan by carloads and is giving the buyer an honest article at an honest price.
Truly, this whole mail order game is one of surprises. In absolute figures it is bewildering In extent it is amazing. In volume it is surprising. In opportunity it is alluring. In reality it is stupendous. In method it is enticing. And in scope it takes in everything from everywhere.
Those of you who are in it will bear me out in every statement I have made.
To those of you who are not in it, I think it only necessary to say "Come c:1 in—the water's fine."
“The Shots That Count Are the Shots
That Hit!”—Theodore Roosevelt
ON’T shoot blank cartridges at a target.
Advertising that simply makes
a noise, never produces results. The powder ignited behind a projectile in the chamber of a gun, makes a noise, but it isn't the noise that does the execution.
"The shots that count, are the shots that hit."
Aim at something.
You'll feel better over bagging a little, skinny, old teal duck you aimed at, than a fat canvas-back you picked up after shooting at random into the reeds. You'll never feel sure but that some sportsman winged it and it dropped where you found it, before you fired the chance shot.
Post yourself regarding the haunts of the game you are after, before you start on a hunting trip, and take along with you the proper equipment.
Advertisers of certain kinds have their haunts, just as ducks or bears have.
It pays to be pretty well posted regarding the habits of the genus ad-readeravidityous before starting out to "beat the bush."
“How's the hunting around here?” asked Mr. Newgun of the farmer boy.
“Huntin's bully! but game's sca'ce," replied the boy.
If advertising is all you are after, you'll find ample opportunity any old place. Advertising guides are waiting in every forty-acre lot, with ammunition, guns, and dogs. You'll be assured that any kind of results you may be hankering for, are just behind the next bush, and you can land “big bags of them," if you'll "foot the bills," for dog, armory, and ammunition.
The guide will give his services free.
If you hanker to go gunning, simply to have the fun of burning powder, and hear the gun "bang !" you can find the
opportunity anywhere, outside the city limits.
My friend D. once said to me, "I'm just dying for a day's gunning.” I took him with me to the Calumet marsh, and posted him on a good "stand.”
The flight of ducks was fine, and his firing was fierce and steady as that of a veteran on the firing line, in an all day fight.
All at once D's gun was silent and I rowed over to find out what had happened to him. As soon as he saw me coming he called out, "Hello, old man ! Got any cartridges to spare?"
"What have you done with the 150 you had?" I asked.
"Shot them all away! I've had the time of my life !"
“How many ducks have you killed ?" “Nary duck!
Never could hit anything! But I shot at every flock that came within a half a mile of me! Say! isn't it great sport?”
He didn't know the first thing about wing shooting. Admitted he didn't. "Just shot for the fun of making the old gun go, bang!” Just "general publicity" shooting
There's lots of advertising that's done with just about as little sense, or “aim" as my friend D's "gunning.” Just "advertising," that's all.
Little wonder that many people say that advertising doesn't pay.
There is some agitation just now about "the enactment of a penal law regulating advertising." All right. Let it include the advertiser (?) who starts out without a well planned campaign. Fine and imprison him for frightening away the game from the "stands" of legitimate advertising sportsmen by his aimless banging.
“THE SHOTS SHOTS THAT HIT."