Yesterday, a second package from Goulet Pen Company arrived. I bought a fountain pen, some ink and some paper. This purchase is part of my unplugging adventure, my efforts to slow down, be more attentive and mindful of the now, and feel more feedback from the analog world all around me. More on the latter later.
At any rate, I unpacked the box. Apparently, the packer from Goulet Pens always puts a tiny Tootsie Pop in the packaging. It’s a delightful, unexpected, tiny detail that feels like getting a smile inside the box. I then checked the invoice and was surprised to find a handwritten note (with a fountain pen, of course) expressing the sentiment that they hoped I enjoyed the products I had purchased, naming them, and then, at the bottom, naming the color and brand of ink used in their personal note. I was shocked!
Now, this is brilliant and far more than simple advertising. The note was educational, as I know little of nothing about the various brands and colors of ink available for my pen. It’s also such a human and personal touch in a world that is increasingly devoid of such simple, personal attentiveness. And that’s part of the point of choosing to write with a fountain pen, isn’t it? Taking the time required to demonstrate a personal touch—literally and figuratively.
I checked my previous invoice. It too, written by a different person, included a personal note referencing the products purchased and the phone call I had made to them earlier on the morning I had placed the order. It also included the name of the color and brand of fountain pen ink used.
This simple, personal note takes a bit of time to write. The writer can’t be in a rush, has to know what the customer purchased and then spend the time handwriting the note itself. In today’s workplace that places more emphasis on quotas and measurable performance benchmarks, this time-consuming personal touch would immediately be eliminated. Obviously Goulet Pen Co. has other priorities: expending the resources required to pay just a little bit of human kindness, personal attention, to an invisible person they will most likely never see.
I suppose I was more affected by this than I would otherwise have been because I had been exploring the many, many videos the owner, Brian, has in their site. His videos are primarily informational videos about the products they sell, “how to,”1 and answering customer questions. But I had just seen a video about the company itself. It featured each of the employees expressing their personal thanks to the customers who make their jobs possible, who make it possible for them to have their homes, to be able to come to work every day. It was a fun and lighthearted video in many ways, but these are literally the words they were using! And here, these people were writing notes on my invoices.
In some inexplicable way, I felt as though I had been down to the corner grocer and helped him keep his business running, helped him feed his kids. I was paying fair prices for products I wanted to use to increase my own personal touch in this world, and in that endeavor, I was made to feel like I was already touching the lives of these people who were also touching my life. Brian Goulet and his team have accomplished an extraordinary thing: making an online business into a personal encounter between real people—in our case, on opposite coasts of the country.
I could have purchased the pens and supplies from Amazon for the same amount of money. I would have helped those packers and shippers keep their jobs, and I would have contributed to the extraordinary wealth of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s extremely wealthy CEO2 who is publicly vocal about his insistence that he pay a drastically lower tax rate than even his own, often poor, low level employees. I don’t want to support an economic model that so disproportionately distributes income despite hard work.
I choose to support small businesses, local businesses when possible. I choose to use our family’s purchasing power to keep jobs and taxes and revenue as local as possible. I want to touch the lives of the people around me as much as I can, support them in the difficult task of making it in a much more brutal USA than the one in which I grew up. I choose to do what I can to support middle class working folks and their families.
I choose to support a more personal encounter with people in the market place, even when separated by geography. Try talking on the phone to a human being at Amazon.com. I don’t think you even can. Then try talking to a human being at Goulet Pen Co. You don’t even have to deal with those impersonal phone menu systems that “can understand complete sentences. So, tell me, how can I help you today?” These systems eliminate middle class jobs, put real people out of work, and put you on the company payroll (by forcing you to spend your time doing their work—routing your own call) without your getting paid for that work—the ultimate insult in job outsourcing.
The Goulet Pen Company is on to something: bring people together in more personal ways in this impersonal digital marketplace. Kudos to them! I hope they choose to stay the course even when tempted to cut costs and increase margins. I think Brian understands that his company’s success could evaporate in an instant, that they’re lucky as well as committed to some awesome core values, and that among the most important of those is the personal touch they are doing so well.
I wish them continued success. They certainly have our business.