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A Really Bad Fundaising Idea:
I normally don't like using a blog to complain about random stuff in life, but here's one that might be of interest to readers. (And obviously, if that sort of post isn't your cup of tea, just skip it.)

  Yesterday's mail included a postcard indicating that there was a certified mail letter waiting for me at the post office. I haven't received such a letter in years, so I figured, hey, who knows, might be important. So I made a special trip to the post office to pick it up, drove over, found a parking spot, and waited in line. And waited, and waited. And when I finally got to the front of the line, the postal employee took a few minutes to find my letter in a large stack of envelopes that were all obviously from the same source. So finally the employee finds my letter, and it's . . . . drum roll please . . . a direct mail fundraising letter from the RNC. Yup, just a form letter. I opened it, and it explains that the letter was sent certified mail because it's critically important that I received the letter in person so I could take "immediate action."

  Of course, the only "immediate action" I wanted to take was to send the RNC a bill for the 40 minutes or so of my time that I wasted just to get a form letter. As Adam Sandler might ask, who are the ad wizards that came up with this one? Any, so goes my complaint about random stuff in life today. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Oren:
Also annoying are the Verizon ads that come in "Priority" envelopes just like the actual priority mail envelopes. Only fooled me once though.
8.22.2008 5:59pm
zippypinhead:
This ploy to infuriate, I mean "attract," potential donors is so ham-handed and likely to backfire that one almost has to wonder if it was the diabolically brilliant spawn of a DNC dirty tricks squad.
8.22.2008 6:07pm
Anderson (mail):
But, Prof. Kerr, you were supposed to have a member of your household staff pick up the letter.
8.22.2008 6:08pm
Eli Rabett (www):
What I would really like is a take back button after I have contributed to some organization if they keep bugging me for more.
8.22.2008 6:09pm
Perseus (mail):
I wanted to take was to send the RNC a bill for the 40 minutes or so of my time that I wasted just to get a form letter.

Don't forget negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
8.22.2008 6:09pm
mad the swine (mail):
"...one almost has to wonder if it was the diabolically brilliant spawn of a DNC dirty tricks squad."

Probably the same one that slipped McCain a mickey so he forgot how many houses he owns. :)
8.22.2008 6:10pm
OrinKerr:
But, Prof. Kerr, you were supposed to have a member of your household staff pick up the letter.

Anderson,

I give the staff Fridays off in August; that must have been my mistake!
8.22.2008 6:10pm
Dave N (mail):
Dumb, dumb, dumb for the RNC to pull such a stunt.

Eli Rabbet complains that after he has given money, he gets solicited for more. That is undoubtedly true. A first fundraising letter (particularly if from a rented list) will often barely pay for itself, if that. However, the donors have now shown interest in the particular cause--and can be expected to give more in the future.
8.22.2008 6:17pm
David Warner:
I blame direct-mail geek Karl Rove. Seriously. I know some former Republicans that were pushed over the edge by similar antics.
8.22.2008 6:26pm
Oren:
I recently had a very testy exchange with Harper's Magazine (good toilet reading for $1/issue) over why they gave my name to various liberal organizations (and the subsequent fund-raising bullshit I endured) without asking. They offered to take me off the list which got me very angry because that was the *minimum* I expected. I gave up a few minutes later when they admitted they had never formalized a policy on what uses of subscriber information are opt-in versus opt-out.
8.22.2008 6:37pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Yeah, Lazio pulled one like that on me too! I donated to Giuliani when he was running against Hillary for Senate, then when he dropped out I guess that money supposedly went to Lazio... but anyway, shortly after that, I had to get dressed and come down to the front door of my building early in the morning and sign for some registered mail... which was just a Lazio solicitation letter! No wonder he lost.
8.22.2008 6:47pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Oren:

They haven't formulated a policy because they want to keep as much "opt-out" as possible. That's WHY with postal rates as high as they are, they can still afford to sell you a subscription at $1 an issue. Selling their lists is an important revenue stream without which magazines wouldn't survive.

If you don't want your address info sold, buy it off the newsstand.
8.22.2008 6:49pm
Anderson (mail):
I gave up a few minutes later when they admitted they had never formalized a policy on what uses of subscriber information are opt-in versus opt-out.

Because Harper's was selling your name, not giving it away. They are perpetually cash-strapped.

Not that it's okay of course.
8.22.2008 6:49pm
Joe Kowalski (mail):

...over why they gave my name to various liberal organizations (and the subsequent fund-raising bullshit I endured) without asking.

Our Catholic parish has apparently done something similar, because not 2 weeks after we registered as parishioners, we began getting a deluge of mail from every cloister of nuns and foreign charity organization out there asking for donations. While I don't mind giving to the Church, I expressed my disappointment to the (lay) parish administrator....
8.22.2008 6:50pm
Anderson (mail):
Great chimaxx's think alike.
8.22.2008 6:50pm
Rubber Goose (mail):
Having subscribed simultaneously to National Review (its viewpoint being similar to mine) and Harper's (solely for the cryptic crossword in the back,) I used to get most delightfully odd mix of junk mail.
8.22.2008 6:54pm
Splunge:
Guess you were pwned, huh? Did the certified letter notice not have a checkbox where you can just ask them to deliver it the next day? It seems unlikely it was one of those addressee-only, signature-required letters, as they cost like $3 to mail.

Anyway, yeah, the RNC has their head up their ass thinking this is a good idea, but I'm amused by the vanity on display here, in thinking something important might be dropping out of the sky from an unknown source (an invitation to meet the President? join the Obamessiah's team? accept a million dollars from Ed McMahon in recognition of outstanding blawg work?)

After all, anyone who knew you would use some other method to find you in an urgent situation, like telephoning. So it had to be a stranger. You may already have won!!!

[OK Comments: Get up on the wrong side of the bed today, Splunge? I was assuming it was bad news, not good news. I've heard of notice in civil suits being filed by certified mail; I thought perhaps I was being sued. If that strikes you as "vain," I think we disagree on what vanity is.]
8.22.2008 6:58pm
Oren:
Chimaxx, you can also just call and make a subscription and opt out at the same time. Saves a bunch of $$.
8.22.2008 7:01pm
Anderson (mail):
After all, anyone who knew you would use some other method to find you in an urgent situation, like telephoning.

Legal documents are sometimes served by certified mail - it's never a good idea to ignore such letters.

Heck, his rich great-uncle could've passed away and left him seven homes. Or possibly nine.
8.22.2008 7:08pm
Houston Lawyer:
Nothing good ever comes by certified mail. Anyone who really needs you will call.
8.22.2008 7:09pm
Chuck C (mail):
Splunge,
Certified letters are used for important things, like notice of a lawsuit, notice of zoning hearings, notice that you are named in a will, etc

Most people do not expect to receive junk mail via certified mail. A certified letter costs $2.70 + first class postage.
8.22.2008 7:09pm
Anderson (mail):
A certified letter costs $2.70 + first class postage.

I hope the RNC sent out a *lot* of those.
8.22.2008 7:13pm
Bruce:
Cripes, I hope the Democrats don't start doing this.
8.22.2008 7:39pm
PersonFromPorlock:
So, why don't you send the RNC a bill?
8.22.2008 7:42pm
OrinKerr:
PFP,

Because I don't have a contractual arrangement with the RNC that would justify me charging them for my time.
8.22.2008 7:45pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Another example of why I think creating a new intentional tort category of "deliberate waste of time" would deter much socially wasteful activity. Only 40 minutes of Professor Kerr's time you ask? The elegant beauty of the class action beckons . . .
8.22.2008 7:47pm
Splunge:
Certified letters are used for important things, like notice of a lawsuit, notice of zoning hearings, notice that you are named in a will, etc

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I can't imagine anyone getting a summons except by direct personal service. I would be astonished if a certified first-class letter would be sufficent.

Notices of this and that are certainly sent by certified mail, but, er, if it was not sufficiently time-critical that it could be sent by mail, then why would it be time-critical enough for the recipient to make a special effort to go pick it up, instead of asking the PO to redeliver the next day?

I suspect Professor Kerr's annoyance springs more from being made a fool of than from the actual waste of time involved, which is likely not to exceed the time he might waste watching (say) a week's worth of campaign ads on the TV mixed in with his favorite show.
8.22.2008 7:50pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Splunge:

I have a client that is about to be screwed because he didn't go pick up a piece of mail that was sent to him RRR by the other side (and further has failed to return my phone calls or emails).

Things that are sent certified mail tend to be things that the sender wants proof that they either got to you, or made a reasonable effort to get it to you. Especially in the second category, failing to go pick it up, much like my client, has a good chance of leaving you in a tricky situation.
8.22.2008 8:04pm
OrinKerr:
Splunge,

Well, you certainly win the Profoundly Silly Comments Award today. I went to the PO to pick it up because I'm out of town this weekend, and I didn't want to worry all weekend about what bad news might be coming my way when I returned. And yes, I was really annoyed by the 40 minutes, as it interrupted a project I was trying to finish (creative theory about TV, except the only TV I watch with any regularity is C-SPAN). Finally, if I thought I had been made a fool of, I'm not sure why why would I announce that in front of 25,000 readers.

Anyway, congrats on the award.
8.22.2008 8:04pm
CDR D (mail):
>>>I can't imagine anyone getting a summons except by direct personal service.<<<

In my county, a Jury Summons comes by regular 1st class mail. No personal service. Just a lot of big red (ominous looking) printing.

Probably explains why many go straight to the shredder.
8.22.2008 8:19pm
LM (mail):

Finally, if I thought I had been made a fool of, I'm not sure why why would I announce that in front of 25,000 readers.

... which make me not sure you're qualified to be writing books about the internet.
8.22.2008 8:29pm
James Lindgren (mail):
I don't get much from the RNC, but I get a lot of email from the DNC and the Obama campaign, esp. email.

Jim Lindgren
8.22.2008 8:35pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):
i would support legislation banning political fundraising by certified mail. its a content natural restraint that would probably pass 1st amendment muster.

its seems reasonable if certified mail has become cheap enough to be abused like this.

i really don't see a downside-who does it harm? not the fund raisers who certainly arn't going to get more money like this.
8.22.2008 8:41pm
OrinKerr:
... which make me not sure you're qualified to be writing books about the internet.

Hilarious. Nicely done.
8.22.2008 8:46pm
wooga:

Our Catholic parish has apparently done something similar, because not 2 weeks after we registered as parishioners, we began getting a deluge of mail from every cloister of nuns and foreign charity organization out there asking for donations.


I merely visited a local non-denominational church, and filled out the 'visitor' box on the attendance pad (which at every other church I've attended was merely to keep accurate attendance and update active membership rolls).

Now, I get bombarded with ads for what seems like every one of these floozy churches in a 20 mile radius. And they are all extremely annoying, with garish bright color patterns and families of surprisingly indeterminate ethnic composition (yet strangely with radioactive white beaming teeth). It's like a freaking drug company commercial crossed with a community college brochure.
8.22.2008 9:07pm
PersonFromPorlock:
OrinKerr:

Because I don't have a contractual arrangement with the RNC that would justify me charging them for my time.

Oh, I dunno. You could probably make an implicit contract out of their inducing you to spend time presumably to receive something of value, or at least significance.
8.22.2008 9:12pm
Waldensian (mail):
John McCain sent me a dollar. Really, a crisp new dollar bill, with some sort of baloney about how he was trusting me to return that and more.

I bought a Diet Dr. Pepper with it. I figured, correctly, that the notoriously picky drink machine would accept this beautiful currency.

This soda windfall is just about the most I can expect from a McCain presidency, I figure.
8.22.2008 9:13pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Splunge, be astonished:

California CCP 415.40: "A summons may be served on a person outside this state in any manner provided by this article or by sending a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the person to be served by first-class mail, postage prepaid, requiring a return receipt. Service of a summons by this form of mail is deemed complete on the 10th day after such mailing."

I've used this several times when serving out-of-state respondents. It works exactly once, per case. There's nothing, you'll notice, that says the summons can only be mailed in an envelope; we've had some success, where we think the Respondent (I do family law) is going to avoid service, with sending the Summons and Petition, by certified express mail, in a box, preferably colorful. From time to time, I've even thrown in a handful of peanuts, so the box rattles provocatively.
8.22.2008 9:24pm
Alex C:
Splunge, I know you're getting a lot of heat for this right now but I think the best thing to do is just go to your boss and explain that there's no such thing as bad publicity and wait for this to blow over. Oh, and all the best of luck to you in the direct mail marketing business.
8.22.2008 9:26pm
tsotha:
You guys haven't even scratched the surface of bad things that can come in registered mail. And I guess that's Oren's big complaint - sending something registered mail is forcing the recipient to allot time to your letter, because you can't just ignore, for example, the IRS.

I've received exactly three registered letters, and it was bad situation that would have been worse for my inattention each time.
8.22.2008 9:49pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
Ever since I donated to Cato, Heritage, IJ, etc. I keep getting findraising letters with return envelopes with a 42¢ stamp attached. I consider this too presumptuous and of course I don't want to reward the PO by throwing it away, so I use them to pay bills, using a sticker over the address. At this point I have a large pile of them. Do they really get that many responses with them that they can trrow away an additional 42¢ on each non-reply?
8.22.2008 10:54pm
Bruce:
From time to time, I've even thrown in a handful of peanuts, so the box rattles provocatively.

Nice!
8.22.2008 11:19pm
Just Saying:
I can't find it on Google or his site, but I could swear this exact something happened to Prof Bainbridge a few years ago. I believe he retaliated by donating to a libertarian candidate.
8.22.2008 11:26pm
therut:
If I get a certified letter I feel absolute panic. I figure it is a lawyer sending me a letter to inform me of a law suit. Just a fear in the great USA today of all physicians. Knock on wood none have been from a lawyer YET! Cause it is all just a roll of the dice. Nothing to do with good Medicine.
8.23.2008 12:14am
Jeff Hall (www):
There's nothing, you'll notice, that says the summons can only be mailed in an envelope; we've had some success, where we think the Respondent (I do family law) is going to avoid service, with sending the Summons and Petition, by certified express mail, in a box, preferably colorful. From time to time, I've even thrown in a handful of peanuts, so the box rattles provocatively.

Mr. Gould-Saltman, you include a common allergen with your summonses? Sounds like something from an LA Law episode. Or maybe LAPD Blue.
8.23.2008 1:46am
Daryl Herbert (www):
John McCain sent me a dollar. Really, a crisp new dollar bill, with some sort of baloney about how he was trusting me to return that and more.

Me too!

J-Mac is never going to see that dollar again. I gave $200--which puts me right at the disclosure limit. If I give any more--maybe even if I give the dollar back?--that would make my donation/name/employer/etc. public knowledge. In my field, donating to Republicans is very not cool. I can't start donating openly to the GOP until/if I go to work for defense firms.
8.23.2008 2:03am
vinnie (mail):
send a check for 10 cents. Certified. Include a note that says something more eloquent* than, if they don't cash your check quickly t will prove that the RNC doesn't need "every dime they can get", AND you will blog to that effect. After they pay the slob to go get it, the manager to open and read it, AND at least two levels of "pushing this upstairs" you will have cost them more than they received . It MIGHT teach them a leson.

*( you are capable where as I am not)
8.23.2008 2:51am
Draconem:
Jeff said : Mr. Gould-Saltman, you include a common allergen with your summonses?

Do you think he might possibly be talking about a different kind of peanut? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foam_peanut

Regardless, I'm definitely laughing at the thought of legumes bouncing around on a summons inside a box. Common allergen indeed... Ya kook!
8.23.2008 3:35am
pete (mail) (www):

Finally, if I thought I had been made a fool of, I'm not sure why why would I announce that in front of 25,000 readers.

Anyway, congrats on the award.


You should send him his award via certified letter to make sure he gets it.
8.23.2008 10:39am
Eli Rabett (www):
Damn right I get ticked at the never ending solicitation after I give. OTOH I once had a roommate who was engaged in a junk mail war with another guy. He got a sackful every day.
8.23.2008 12:24pm
Anderson (mail):
congrats on the award

Nine more, Splunge, and you qualify for the toaster. I've enjoyed mine!
8.23.2008 1:10pm
KenB (mail):
We have a notice of such a letter now, and the clue is "RNC" in the block indicating the sender. I won't be picking it up.

We looked in the sender block, because years ago we got another such letter. My wife was worried about what it might be. As a lawyer, I wondered if some former client was disaffected. Waiting at the post office made me late for work. When I got back to the office, I wrote an angry letter to the RNC, telling them of the inconvenience and that, if they could afford to send such letters, they already had more money than they needed. Alas, all to no avail.
8.23.2008 2:49pm
teqjack (mail):
I would certainly have tried to get a certified letter.

But, the RNC (actually, the Senatorial subset) did this to me repeatedly decades ago, I learned a defense. A clerk told me if I refused delivery, it would be sent back and the sender would be on the hook for return postage, though this may not be entirely correct. So the next four times I insisted on seeing the return address before accepting, and refused delivery.
8.23.2008 5:20pm
cboldt (mail):
There's no space on the notification postcard, to sign and say "just put it in the mailbox."?
8.23.2008 5:59pm
CDR D (mail):
>>>There's no space on the notification postcard, to sign and say "just put it in the mailbox."?

****

I think there is. I got a notification "slip" in my mailbox today for "certified mail" being held at the post office. I caught up with the carrier, and asked her, "what is this?"

She said she had tried to deliver it yesterday, but no one answered the door. I told her that I wasn't inclined to go to the post office to pick it up, so she asked me to sign the slip, which I did, and she checked a box for redelivery. I told her to plop it on the porch, and she said she would.

Since I am not expecting anything important, I'll bet it is a political fundraising solicitation.

I doubt it is a Jury Summons. The county is too poor to send those by any means other than regular mail, and that is a good thing.

Boo E'fn Hoo.
8.23.2008 7:07pm
Porkchop:
I usually take the stuff from the Republican envelope and put in the Democratic envelope, and vice versa, and then I mail them both. It doesn't stop the solicitations, but it makes me feel good.
8.23.2008 10:25pm
CDR D (mail):
I don't know if anyone is scrolling down this far anymore, but I thought I'd follow up on the Certified Mail post I made on 8/23. The mail carrier did as she said she would, and left it in my mailbox.

It was indeed a solicitation from the RNC, sobbing about how they are 9 million dollars short of their August fundraising target, and could I please slip them $150.00 or more if possible.

I don't know how many of these were sent out at three plus dollars each, but it seems to me they probably could have saved a hell of a lot of that 9 million by using 1st class mail. The "genius" who authorized this ought to fired forthwith before the RNC goes broke from mal/mis-management.

The sob letter was signed by Carly Fiorina. Not sure, but didn't she leave HP under a cloud?

Oh, and although it's probably not germane, isn't Carly the daughter(?) of a 9th CCA judge? Sneed(?)
8.25.2008 6:29pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
The RNC and its satellites send me stacks and stacks of solicitations, even though the only money I've ever donated to any political cause is $20/year to the RNC. Many of these arrive in fake Priority Mail/FedEx envelopesm, complete with 'tracking numbers' etc. At one time I had a stack of about 50 reply-paid envelopes from Republican groups.

Since (as I said) I never respond to these solicitations, I am convinced that this is not real fund-raising activity. I believe that the RNC (and some related groups) are being milked by professional mass-mailing operators, who get paid by volume. They probably kick back party of their take to the RNC staffers who contract with them.

IOW, it's a racket.
8.28.2008 4:28am