Direct mail solicitations have long been a go-to for US businesses, political parties, and others. When you get an offer in the mail, it’s likely that offer is the product of artists, graphic designers, writers, and marketing specialists. We just got the quirkiest direct mail piece ever—so quirky I was hesitant to open it. The offer contained in the letter—that’s one of the key components designed to get you to act on the offer—is a complete no-brainer. The whole package is quite mysterious.
Sorting our mail, I came across the envelope that contained something bulky, had a postage stamp instead of an imprint from a meter, and had the words “OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” in the return address originating from Washington, DC. The feel of whatever physical object was in the envelope didn’t come close to being a pen or other item we often get from suppliers we’ve purchased merchandise and promotional items from.
I opened the solicitation, and there was a small object that looks like one of those medical meters diabetics use to test their blood. The object was solid black. The header congratulated us—“You are a finalist in our 2019 Tesla Model S Giveaway!” I had to laugh. I’m the last person in the world who’d want to win a Tesla, if for no other reason than I’d owe sizable taxes on that gift. I’d have to sell the car I know I wouldn’t win anyway to pay the taxes.
The object had this tab you’re supposed to “pull to activate.” And pulling it makes a number light up. Then you have to scratch a circle on the letter—like a scratch off lottery ticket—to see if your numbers match. Other lesser gifts can also be won.
When I flipped the letter over, the messaging made it clear you have to call for more information. There’s another hitch—you have to be present to win and you have to take in a “90-minute travel presentation.” I wasn’t able to locate information about the company sending the mail.
I can’t tell you how many cruises I’ve turned down when offered such prizes on the phone.
Is it legal to require your presence in order to win a prize that looks a lot like a sweepstakes? I have no idea.
I do know that this offer had to cost more than the average solicitation, and I’d be willing to bet the return on that offer will be lower than the designers anticipated. Adding insult to injury, there’s no website you can go to for more information.
The letter does point out the company sending it has no affiliation with any of the companies listed in the prizes, including Tesla.
The envelope declared this is their “FINAL ATTEMPT.” I’m good with that.
Why am I writing about this?
Direct mail solicitations were one of the revenue streams in my freelance writing business. I designed or helped design many such solicitations, all of them above board and legal. Doing that kind of work was actually fun because the primary goal is to come up with an idea that will get the recipient to open the envelope and act on the offer. Projects like that test your creativity.
I still haven’t pulled that little tab out of that thingamabob and I don’t plan on it. I like my RAV 4 just fine, thank you. And I am far too impatient to sit through a 90 minute travel presentation regardless of what you offer me. Unless it’s in the neighborhood of $1 million dollars—I’d (reluctantly) pay taxes on that.
For me, that offer is a no-brainer, as in no way.
(Kay B. Day/June 7, 2019)