Column: Coping with unordered stuff

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 25, 2001

Not long ago I was barely watching an early morning news program on the television when a topic I’ve been wanting to cover in a column came up on the screen.

Friday, May 25, 2001

Not long ago I was barely watching an early morning news program on the television when a topic I’ve been wanting to cover in a column came up on the screen.

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The name of this news segment is &uot;The Legal Edge,&uot; a rather regular feature on a nearby television station. Sponsors of this very interesting and informative program are the Iowa State Bar Association and the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association. And the topic that morning which really drew my attention was based on unordered merchandise.

According to the lawyer-host of this program, unordered merchandise should be considered as gifts and can be used or consumed. Thus, no payment has to be made. That’s about as simple as it gets in the legal world.

I was once tempted to contact the U.S. Postal Service’s Inspection Division to obtain the exact regulation regarding those &uot;surprises &uot; which come in the mail. Now, thanks to &uot;The Legal Edge,&uot; this isn’t necessary.

To pay for those unordered items could be considered as encouraging a very questionable practice. Also, paying for any of these items could soon get your name on all too many other &uot;sucker lists.&uot;

Come to think of it, the name and address foolishness is the basis for all too much of the current unordered merchandise problem. What I’m referring to are those small peel-off and stick-on adhesive personalized address labels. There’s usually a flag, eagle, emblem or some other symbol on the left side.

Right now I have 33 different versions of my name and address, based on those designs, from seven different organizations. (I actually belong to three of these organizations). There are four different variations of my name and address. And two of those variations use the nine-digit ZIP code.

Frankly, I just don’t use those nine numbers. The 56007 designation for Albert Lea has worked out very nicely all these years, so why should I add on the four extra numbers when they don’t impede or speed up the delivery of mail? Incidentally, how did five of those organizations determine my nine-digit zip code?

I have a certain way of using my legal name which those address labels don’t show at all. That alone indicates these are unordered items, If I would have had the opportunity to order (and pay) for those labels, there would have been just one design of my choice on the left, my preferred name and address, and the five-digit ZIP code.

One version of these labels indicates someone was really horsing around with my name. It’s &uot;Mr. Ed.&uot; I’ve always considered the mister part to be rather superfluous. Those particular &uot;Mr. Ed&uot; address labels, plus several flowery ones, will be the very last to be placed in the upper left hand corner of outgoing envelopes.

Since these address labels can be considered as gifts, there seems to be an obligation to use (recycle) them. And one of the most interesting uses of these labels I encountered was at the Freeborn County Fair.

About a year or two ago I was assigned to a shift at the Tribune booth under the grandstand. There was a box on the table to hold entries for winning prizes to be won later. These prizes could have been complimentary subscriptions to the Tribune for three months. Next to this box with the slot in the top were the prize entry forms.

Some of the folks passing by the Tribune booth would stop and fill out the entry forms with their names and addresses and telephone numbers. However, I observed a few folks who had figured out a real time-saver. They used the small address labels sent out as fund raisers by some charities or organizations. All it took for them to do was place a clearly printed label on the entry form, write down the telephone number, and insert the potential winner in the slot.

Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.