If there is any sight more gratifying to retailers’ hearts during the holiday shopping season than eager, underemployed consumers camping out in front of their stores, they aren’t saying.
For the most part, direct marketers haven’t capitalized on these annual overblown media events. But thanks to the efforts of a few die-hard DM consumer enthusiasts, this may be changing.
One such DM customer blogs under the name GameSchnook. GameSchnook recently spent several weeks living outdoors in hopes of securing a Wee PlayBox video game console. But unlike the consumers who garnered much media attention a week ago, GameSchnook didn’t line up in front of a brick-and-mortar retail establishment.
In early November, GameSchnook, who lives in suburban Long Island, set up camp right next to his curbside mailbox. Armed with a sleeping bag, a case of Red Bull energy drink, a laptop computer, cell phone and BlackBerry, GameSchnook eagerly awaited his chance to purchase the game system via a direct marketing channel – any channel, whether mail, telemarketing or the Web.
GameSchnook chronicled his camping-out adventures. What follow are selected entries from his online diary.
Monday Nov. 6, 7:28 am
Started this morning by calling Wee PlayBox’s customer service center. Asked CS rep “George” (he has a bit of an accent, but I think I got the name right) to check whether Wee PlayBox has sent out its catalogs, as mine hasn’t come yet and the mailman says he doesn’t know anything about it. George told me not to worry, noted that I was calling from the New York area, and asked me what I thought about the latest signing by the Mets.
I told him I liked it, and asked him where he was. He paused for a minute and said “Akron.” Boy, is the Ohio accent clipped! Almost British.
Wednesday, Nov. 8, 10:15 am
No offer in today’s mail to buy the Wee PlayBox. Called George and suggested the company send their catalogs in plain envelopes, or maybe political fundraising outer envelopes, to reduce the chances of letter carriers swiping them.
George told me to have faith in America’s get-the-job-done spirit. He noted I was calling from the New York area, and asked me what I thought about the latest signing by the Mets. I asked him how the weather was in Akron. I thought I heard him typing, and then he said “cloudy, with a chance of rain.”
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 12:10 pm
One online news source says that some retail stores were given only 50 Wee PlayBoxes to sell. Panic! Does the entire direct mail channel count as only one store? When my offer comes, should I send my reply in via priority overnight? Called customer service, asked George to tell me the number of Wee PlayBox catalogs that were mailed out. He’s going to call me back. He also noted that I was calling from New York, and asked me what I thought about the latest signing by the Mets.
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 12:12 pm
Called George back to make sure he has my number. He said he did. I told George he sounded different than the last time we spoke. He said he had a cold. He then asked if I was calling from New York, and wanted to know what I thought about the latest signing by the Mets.
I’m really surprised at how closely someone who’s from Akron follows the Mets.
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 3:40 pm
Once again, the mail has come and gone. No big colorful Wee PlayBox catalog. Just boring direct mail. Note to marketers: “Disconnect Notice” isn’t compelling enough to make me open your offer!
I added that envelope – unopened – to my campfire. Tough break, Citizens Gas and Energy. Try harder next time if you want to sell me something.
Thursday, Nov. 16, 4:18 pm
Called George. Wanted to know whether the Wee PlayBox catalogs were sent out First Class or Standard mail. He hesitated and asked, “What is ‘First Class’?”
How can they not know what First Class mail is in Akron?
Side note: Odd. George sounded like a woman on this call.
Thursday, Nov. 16, 8:20 pm
Tried to call George at customer service, but they’ve blocked my number.
Switching to text and e-mail.
Friday, Nov. 17, 11:44 am
Text messaged George to make sure he had my mobile number. No response, not even about the Mets.
Friday, Nov. 17, 1:13 pm
According to the news, some guys waiting in line in front of a Toys ‘R’ Us got into a scuffle with mall security. See, that’s what’s great about shopping via direct marketing! Nobody ever got a black eye or a bloody nose ordering from a catalog.
Wouldn’t it be cool if the Direct Marketing Association used THAT as a slogan this holiday season? They could take out ads showing Rudolph in traction or something.
Friday, Nov. 17, 2:27 pm
I’m back, but I had to leave my campsite briefly after an altercation with the mailman. I still think he swiped my Wee PlayBox catalog, no matter what he says.
Side note: I thought mailmen were only allowed to use mace on dogs.
Saturday, Nov. 18, 11:04 am
My phone, laptop and BlackBerry’s batteries are dying. Don’t want to leave the wait by the mailbox again: Will wire into a traffic signal for current.
Saturday, Nov. 18, 2:20 pm
Fully charged. Those city electric grids are powerful! Don’t know how to get the traffic lights unjammed from the four-way yellow they’re now stuck on, but that’s not my problem.
Texted Wee PlayBox customer service to see if they had gotten my other texts, and asked them to re-send any messages they may have sent when my service went down. No reply. Despair.
Saturday, Nov. 18, 3:15 pm
The traffic light repairman the city sent out and I had a great talk about the Wee PlayBox. I told him I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The! Best! Video game system ever produced in Laos! He said the first game I pick up should be “Loser Patrol.” He sure was hung up on this “Loser Patrol” – he mentioned it at least four times.
Google doesn’t have anything about this game – hot damn! I could be ahead of the curve on this one!
Saturday, Nov. 18, 6:14 pm
Giving up. Three hundred thousand Wee PlayBoxs have been sold via retail. As far as I can tell, NONE via direct marketing, except on eBay at five times the manufacturer’s suggested price. DM has failed me.
Saturday, Nov. 18, 6:22 pm
Texted FedEx and suggested they expand their Sunday delivery service to secondary markets. No reply yet, but I have faith. Just bought more Red Bull, and am chaining myself to a FedEx truck’s bumper to make sure I don’t miss their reply.
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