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My Bright Orange Swedish Pension

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Our professions don’t exempt us from real life. Doctors get sick, contractors have leaky roofs – and people who work at Service Objects receive misaddressed mail, just like the rest of us. But one piece of junk mail that recently arrived at my house wasn’t just a mistake: it was a full-fledged tutorial on everything that can go wrong in a direct mail campaign.

For starters, it was a big orange envelope with a bold message on the front – in Swedish. Which I don’t speak. A quick visit to Google Translate revealed that by opening the envelope, I could discover how to see my entire Swedish pension online.

Alas, I don’t have a rich Swedish uncle who has left me a pension. However, the person who used to live in my house did speak Swedish. So this mailing might have been useful to her when she lived here. Unfortunately, that was over 12 years ago.

So now, let’s suppose that this was meant for her, and that she in fact would like to learn about her Swedish pension. The next problem was that her last name was incorrect. Or more accurately, it would have been correct had she not gotten married 18 years ago and taken her husband’s last name.

But that’s not all. The street address was incorrect as well. Actually, they kinda sorta got it right, which is why it probably ended up at my house. But the street name was translated into the same kind of pidgin Swedish that I haven’t seen since the prank subtitles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For example, “Saint” = Sankt and “Anne” should be “Ann”.

Mercifully, they did get my city of Santa Barbara, California correct. But it was written in European format, with the ZIP code first (e.g. 93109 Santa Barbara CA). And apparently they don’t do commas in Sweden.

Finally, they did at least make sure that this went to the United States. Because they put this no less than three times in the address, in three different styles (US, USA, and U.S.A.)

Of course, spending a little quality time with Service Objects could have fixed all of these problems, easily and automatically:

  • Our Address Validation 3 product would have turned this address into a correctly formatted, CASS-certified USPS address.
  • More important, our National Change of Address (NCOA) Live would have produced a current, up-to-the-minute address for the intended recipient.
  • Finally, our Lead Validation product could have validated their contact record and assessed the overall accuracy and viability before sending.

This incident was pretty funny. But at another level, it is also sad. Think of all the resources that were expended sending this piece of junk mail across the Atlantic. Now multiply this by all the other misaddressed pieces of mail that were probably sent out in this campaign. Then multiply it again by the amount of direct mail that crosses the globe every day. That sum could pay for a lot of Swedish pensions.

If there is one silver lining to this story – aside from hopefully entertaining our blog readers – it is that at least this piece of mail will not end up in a landfill somewhere. It now hangs proudly on our Wall of Shame here at Service Objects, as a reminder for why we do what we do. And how we can help YOU save money and resources.

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