These little gifts from charities are taking on a life of their own

March 26, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

If I could say a few words to the many charities that are always writing me and requesting a donation and enclosing a small "gift" of return address labels as a token of their appreciation, I'd begin by saying, with all due respect: Will you stop with the return address labels?!

Please. I'm begging you.

In fact, I'll make you a deal.

I'll send you money if you promise not to send me any more return address labels.

Look, if you want to send a small "gift," send me a coupon for a 7-Eleven coffee or a sleeve of golf balls.

Send something I can use.

But no more return address labels, OK?

Got all I need, thank you.

Look, I know it's getting harder and harder for charities to raise money in this I-got-mine, to-hell-with-you era.

Who's got 20 bucks for the March of Dimes or Disabled American Veterans after plunking down a few thou for a new plasma TV or a cruise to the Caribbean?

But, see, when you charities keep sending people return address labels over and over and over again, people really start to get annoyed.

C'mon, how many return address labels does anyone need?

Personally, I now have about 16,000 return address labels that have been sent to me by various charities.

I have so many return address labels that we have a drawer in the kitchen where we keep them all.

And do you know what we call this drawer?

We call it the drawer where we keep the stupid return address labels.

That's how many we have.

We have so many return address labels that if I were to quit my job and do nothing but write letters to people, 10 or 20 a day, I'd have enough return address labels to last until I die.

But here's the problem: I hardly write any letters anymore.

In fact, I hardly mail anything.

Like many people, I pay all my bills online.

And I keep in touch with family and friends who live far away via phone and e-mails, not letters.

This is how people do things in 2007.

They don't use the mail like they used to.

So sending me return address labels as a "gift" is like sending me a quill pen or a butter churn.

It's something I have no use for anymore.

Now let's explore another issue that arises from all these return address labels you send me.

And that issue is: guilt.

In the past, I would open a letter from a charity, the March of Dimes, say, and find these return address labels and think: Well, I have to give a donation. Look what those nice people sent me.

Then I'd reach for my checkbook.

But you know what? Those days are over. The guilt is gone.

And do you know what killed it? I'll tell you what killed it. Sixteen thousand return address labels - that's what killed it.

So many return address labels - week after week, year after year, for decades - that I actually started to hate return address labels.

Think about that for a moment.

Do you realize how hard it is to hate an inanimate object?

Especially a little slip of paper with your name and address and a sticky backing?

It's almost impossible.

But there it is: I began to hate return address labels.

So that's my deal with charities from now on: You don't send me return address labels, I'll send you a contribution.

Look, I'm not trying to play hardball here. You people do great work.

But enough is enough with the labels.

Which isn't to say I wouldn't want to receive some other kind of small "gift" from you people as a token of your appreciation.

Think about the 7-Eleven coffee coupon.

Or the golf balls.

Something different.

Hey, we all need a change sometimes, don't we?

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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