Or current resident


I am outta here.

Got my winning envelope in the mail today. Says right on it… my name… winning number… (I’m not sharing the winning number with you. Not risking it until I pick up my prize.)

But it’s right there. My name. Says “winning” right there. Official-looking font and open immediately notice. It’s all very high quality and impressive.

So… yeah… later!

Of course, I probably should open the envelope up first. I know it’s a major award. That part is obvious. Nothing to worry about there. Something amazing and significant and life-changing. But such a prize could be a new house or might be an expensive car. It’s possible it’s not money. And if that’s the case, I’ll still have bills to pay. (Oh crap, what if I’ve won a terrific prize and have bills to pay? Umm… ok…)

(Totally unrelated… just casually mentioning it… have you seen the books I’ve published? Good batch of material and all available at terrific prices. Paperback and Kindle. Essays. Interviews. Sports. Travel. Something for everyone, and they make great gifts.)

The reality is, I don’t even need to open the envelope, but you knew that. I’m not a big winner.

The tip that sealed it should have been how it followed the name and winning number with “…or current resident…” on the label. Would a company distributing valuable prizes really send an Aston Martin, Pacific coast ocean-view house, or ten million dollars to the generic current resident? No. Of course not.

Here’s a good one.

As you can probably understand without much detail, when you move into a new house, mail will occasionally show up for previous occupants. At first, a few pieces a week… then a few pieces a month… eventually trickling down to one or two pieces a year.

Often it gets to the point where you start learning more about previous occupants by the mail that continues to show up years later. Why? Because the stuff arriving two or three years later generally isn’t sent frequently enough to switch over to your name, while being long enough between reasons for contact to have outlasted a change-of-address filing with the Post Office, and yet meaningful enough that a company would still send it.

Think furniture or some home repair. Stuff that comes with a bit of a price tag, but you don’t need to replace it all the time. A company knows you won’t be looking for a refrigerator, washing machine or sofa a year after purchasing a new one. (And, if you are, chances are very good you have questions about the quality of what you got and don’t want to hear from them anyway.) But… three to five years later… you just might be a customer in waiting.

When Terry and I moved into the new house, we set up all the usual necessities. Utilities and so on. Envelopes still arrived for the previous owners though, as a few of them skipped right past a change-of-address form. And we did the usual… circled the name, wrote a note indicating they weren’t at this address, returned to sender (or whatever our fantastic postal carrier did with them… and he is a great guy).

Over several months, envelopes continuously arrived with a company logo on the envelope and wrong name for the resident. We knew the company. So, one day, after placing the return-to-sender in our mailbox, I decided to call them.

The conversation was extremely pleasant. I explained that former-resident wasn’t living at this address these days and wanted them to know about the mail with their name that was being sent our way. Representative apologized, likely while pretending to type something meaningful because I did hear keystrokes but this call did not end the mysterious mail, and then asked me if I wanted to become a customer and earn incredible savings as a new member of their family. (Yes, I was asked to join their family. That felt nice. Especially since…) I responded by asking if the new customer savings would apply even though I was already receiving their service.


The company logo we recognized was from a company we had signed up with for a service when setting things up for the house. And somehow, this company’s incredibly detailed and accurate informational resources was sending three batches of material to two different residents at the same address. (Yes, three. (1) The come back to us, we miss you, please let us provide for you letters to the former residents that I returned to sender. (2) The you might want to consider upgrading what you’re getting to our super premium package marketing materials. (3) The bill.) This level of detailed record-keeping inspires confidence.

I don’t know about you, but virtually every piece of “…or current resident…” material that arrives at my house is treated as trash. I barely look at it. And by virtually, I’m only allowing for the occasional coupons for pizza or other goodies, where I might be willing to forgive them for not knowing who lives at the house these days in exchange for $5 off the family meal deal. I have my principles… but if I’m looking for a decent dinner at an affordable price, I’m not crazy.

So far, I have never been talking with Terry about something, paused to walk out for the mail, and returned to say something like: “Hey, you know that shed we were just talking about? You’ll never guess what’s in today’s mail.” And yet, I can kind of appreciate the attempt on that one. Because…

My issue isn’t really with the shotgun blast approach to sales and marketing, at least when it shows some form of thought. You’re in business… you want customers from the community… your primary goal should be to raise awareness in the community. Street with houses on it. You sell sheds. They may want sheds. That, and of the sort nodding in the direction of similar thought, I get.

What I don’t understand is the mailings that attempt to get a customer you already have while demonstrating you’re a bit confused about that, or, are attempts at bringing in a customer you’ll never get. Essentially, you know the saying that doing the same thing over and over while hoping for different results isn’t exactly a sign of genius? Yeah… ok… since these mailings are showing up at my house repeatedly, that means:

(1) These companies have some mind-boggling business practices, which routinely involve throwing dollars into a bowl and flushing. Or…

(2) These actions are getting results.

And there’s the confusion. Because the answer needs to be that the company is getting results. They are getting enough responses to make the campaign worth the costs, and continuously getting enough results featuring new customers in each subsequent campaign, that in the end it makes sense for them to run the effort. And then, run it again. And then, again.

Which in turn brings me back to “…or current resident…” on the envelope.

Decades ago, I was outside in the yard doing this or that. A truck stopped in the road. I’m guessing the brakes were applied when the driver spotted me. The truck backed up a bit, then pulled into our driveway. Man got out, came over, reached out his hand and said hello.

(Looks over my shoulder and around the property while nodding, then makes eye contact with a smile on his face.) “Nice lawn you have here.” (Places one foot on rock, leans against leg, looks off into distance. I think music began playing softly.) “You obviously take pride in your home, and I’m like you. I want to give my family the best, provide good food, and take care of my home. And that’s why being able to get the best frozen vegetables and meats and prepared meals delivered right to my home is such a blessing.” (Straightens up. Looks back at me.) “You want the best for your family, right?” (Does not wait for answer.) “Think of the time you could get back and invest in your family just from the convenience of home delivery of your food. Can you put a price on that?

I didn’t put a price on that.

Most of those are my words. After all, it has been twenty-plus years since I met that driver. But the reality remains, and that reality is we were not at all like each other. At least not in the way his scripted approach presented. At least not in a way where exchange vegetables and meats and prepared meals with taxes and schools, add a pamphlet with a picture of his kids, then use the same background music with an eagle soaring overhead so we’d form a political advertisement.

Instead of a mailer, it was an in-person current resident pitch.

After politely declining his offer, I went back to my chores. And yet then, as now, I do occasionally wonder. Wonder about other people he has approached. Wonder about the customers of the company. Wonder when that approach has brought in a new customer.

Because I couldn’t have been the first stop he had ever made for a cold-call sale attempt. I couldn’t have been the first person anyone in that company had ever approached. And while I may not remember his exact words, I know he didn’t deliver spontaneous and informative words. It was a beautiful soliloquy. It didn’t connect with me… but it has to have connected with someone.

And there in lies the current resident fun. It connects with someone.

Every so often, I see one of that company’s trucks on the road. And usually, I think back to the meeting I had in the driveway of that old house. He was a nice enough guy. I wonder if he ever stopped at the house again to talk to the current resident.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com