2007.09.26 How tasty can a sandwich-by-mail be?

Written by David Green.


I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received an oversize envelope in the mail from the U. S. Postal Service with “Let’s do lunch” in big, red letters on the front. It was mailed from Austin, Texas, but I figured they wouldn’t be inviting me to fly to the Lone Star State for a meal.

I showed the letter to my friendly, local postmaster and asked if he would be taking me out for a cheeseburger and tater tots, or maybe some tacos. Mr. Davis wasn’t sure what was up with the letter, either, so I had to go ahead and open it.

It ended up being a pitch for a Postal Service product called Variable Data Printing, which enables marketers to use customer data to create unique direct mail pieces for each customer. To demonstrate, I was asked to fill out a postcard to obtain a personalized sandwich. I could either return the card or go online to a web address created just for me to order.

The U.S.P.S. promised to send me my chosen sandwich plus a DVD further explaining the product. I got a kick out of their assurance that their privacy policy would protect my information. Is that really necessary? Does anyone care what I ordered? Don’t bother to try to hack into the Postal Service’s data base—I requested a roast beef sandwich on marble rye with swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and cucumber. They even offered two side items, so I asked for cole slaw and potato chips. No choices were provided for beverages, so I guess I’ll have to furnish my own.

My next question was, just how did they plan to deliver this? Send it Express Mail in a cooler with dry ice? Find the closest deli in Fayette (good luck) and ask them to deliver? Send Postmaster Davis $10 and hope he’s handy in the kitchen? My order is in the mail, it’s now up to them to somehow deliver the sandwich. I think I should have skipped the mayo.

I doubt that I’m a good prospect for what the Postal Service is selling, but a small catalog I received the same day seemed to indicate they’ve already sold the idea to eBay.

The online market place’s mailing piece contained some items that indicated they had reviewed my previous purchases to come up with many of the new offers. Some of the choices were way off the mark, however.

Take the princess phone, for instance. How they thought I might want that is beyond me. Or the mini dress from the movie “Hairspray.” Or the Star Wars and Harry Potter paraphernalia.

I also have no interest in a Blackberry, a Tarzan lunch box, a saxophone or a Webkinz. Heck, I don’t really even know what a Webkinz is, although I must say it looks ugly in the picture.

The merchandise from The Simpsons was a more likely choice, as was the cookie jar shaped like a bear (cookies optional). I also liked the 1957 Chevy and the Mickey Mantle rookie card, even though both were way out of my budget.

Like the Postal Service, eBay also had created a web address specifically for me, containing even more items based upon my previous buying patterns. Or so they thought. I was quite disappointed, in fact, almost annoyed when I saw their choices.

I’m not sure why they thought I’d want an NFL jersey as I’ve never bought any type of sports jersey before. I’m more of a baseball and NASCAR fan, anyway. They did have Dale Earnhardt items, but nothing from Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon Jimmy Spencer or Dave Blaney, drivers whose merchandise I’ve actually purchased from eBay before.

A Kentucky Derby glass? No thanks, and I’ll certainly pass on the Yoda action figure. I belong to that minority of people who’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies and I don’t want any of the merchandise. I’m not sure why they keep on offering it to me.

The same goes for old cereal boxes, Roman coins and all the other unwanted stuff they’re trying to entice me with. Obviously, this new system still has a few kinks in it.

Where are the offers for some more obscure compact discs? Sure, I  think I now have everything by Warren Zevon and Joe Ely, but how about something rare by Jason and the Scorchers, Darden Smith or maybe Omar and the Howlers?  They did offer me a Billie Holiday album, but I think I’d prefer something by Mary Gauthier.

I hope the Postal Service has better luck remembering my preferences than eBay.  I’d hate to be disappointed when my yummy sandwich-by-mail arrives. If they mess up my order, Postmaster Davis may be taking me out to lunch after all. Don’t forget to hold the pickles, Rick. I’ll bring the Pepsi.



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