Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales

Making Money At Home - For Fun

Remailing Letters For Profit - And Fun

by Norris Chambers

  Many years ago, while trying to decide on something to try in mail order, I read the classified ads in Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, and noticed a long list of remail services. For a fee, usually 25 cents, the advertiser would remail any letter you sent, giving it a postmark from the city where he lived. I supposed that this would enable some vain person to make his co-workers think he was taking an extensive vacation while actually he was holed up with a relative, or somewhere. There was also an offer of a monthly service for three dollars, which entitled the subscriber to have as many letters mailed as he wished. If he expected replies, he sent some money for a forwarding account. If only one reply was expected, a stamp was sent for forwarding it. This seemed interesting, so I mailed an enquiry to all the advertisers and asked for information. I received several presentations, all basically offering the same service. After looking them all over, I picked what I considered the best parts of the lot, and made my own printed information flyer. Then I placed my ad in both magazines, wording it almost like the ones that were already there.

  The business began to roll in, along with the checks and dollar bills. I was surprised at the response, and began to remail as agreed. For a few weeks I thought I had uncovered a gold mine, but then a few little specks of fool's gold began to appear. At first, there were registered letters to my clients to sign for and forward - these I mailed by registered mail, as I had received them. Many of my customers began to get letters from law firms. Among my clientele I found that I had drug companies, pharmacies, and even a college. Many had envelopes printed with their business names and my addresses. I never dreamed that my modest home would be the site of a college with expensive looking envelopes complete with an impressive picture of a beautiful large building and a traditional campus!

  At this point, I consulted an attorney and asked about my liabilities and responsibility in this endeavor. He said that I was performing a service as advertised, and that it would take a court order to examine my books. He thought I was doing a legal thing, but one that might become a little troublesome as it expanded.

  It expanded one night about ten o'clock when the door bell rang. I looked through the peep-hole in time to see a taxi back out of the driveway and head east. When I opened the door, a lady with an array of luggage was standing on the porch, and behind her were four small children. It looked as if they ranged in age from two to six.

  "I'm looking for Joe Smith," she said. I didn't recognize the name.

  "You must have the wrong house," I explained. She handed me an envelope and asked me to read the letter. Suddenly I recognized it as one I had remailed a few days before. I invited them in and read the letter.

  "Dear Millie," it started, "I am doing well here in Texas. I have a good job and have rented a house. I will send you money for tickets as soon as I have saved enough."

  "My mother let me have money for the tickets," she took the letter as I handed it back to her. "so we just came on. I don't understand."

  A quick explanation of my remailing service brought understanding, but didn't do much to soothe her feelings. It appeared that her husband was sending me the letters from their home town in Ohio. She thought he was in Texas.

  "What will we do?" she sobbed. One of the kids also started crying. I thought my wife might start crying too, or worse, as she began to comprehend the enormity of the situation. I did some quick thinking.

  "There's just one solution," I told her. "We will call a taxi and you can get a room in a hotel for the night, then tomorrow you can go home. I will pay for the hotel and tickets, and give you enough money for meals." She smiled for the first time, and I think that she must have been eternally grateful. I never saw or heard from her again.

  But my mistake does not mean that the remailing service cannot be a good source of income at home. I made the mistake of using my home address for the business. This would not have happened if I had used a post office box.

  Some of the people who were in the business then are still advertising. That means they are making a career out of it.

  When picking a business to start, when you look through the ads go back several months or years, and see if the same names are advertising consistently. If an ad appears only once or twice, then you can assume that it didn't pay. But if the same ones continue month after month, that means someone has made it work. Of course, as you stay with a project longer, you build up a list of regular customers, and this helps you to stay where a newcomer might not. But the casual reader who looks at your ad is about as likely to pick yours as someone who has been advertising for years, and you have a likely prospect from each inquiry.

  In conclusion, the remailing business was a great experience, and I made a little money from it, even after deducting for the lady's expenses. It took me several years to really get out. Replies from classifieds continue for years. Those magazines are passed around and re-read, and apparently the readers ignore the date. I even get orders now and then from things I advertised 25 years ago. It is a little frustrating to get a letter with a dollar bill in it for an item that I sold for that amount years ago, when the same item now would sell for eight or ten dollars. But, you can return the dollar and enclose a brief note trying to explain.

  Above all, have fun!

  Click on the Making Money At Home - For Fun story of your choice:

Assembling Products At Home

Making And Selling Rubber Stamps

The Remailing Business

Stuffing Envelopes

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