It was an unusual package. Probably one that would have prompted a phone call to the FBI if I’d gotten in back during the anthrax scare. It was a manila envelope, about 6×8 inches. There was no clue who sent it, or what might be inside. It was impossibly thick and impossibly light at the same time, as if filled with helium.
Like a kid on Christmas morning, I ran my fingers along its sides, squeezed it, shook it, and attempted mental telepathy to divine its contents. No wiser for my deductive skills and ESP, I finally just tore the sucker open.
Inside was a honeycomb of soft clear plastic with a deep channel holding a single gunmetal grey pen. I lifted the pen out and found my name had been laser etched onto the metal barrel. The pen was heavy, robustly made, and coated with a liquidly smooth finish. I clicked the top and the action was both smooth and solid at the same time, like the shutter on a finely made German camera. I touched the tip of the pen to a piece of scrap paper and drew a squiggle. The pen glided across the page like an Olympic figure skater over virgin ice.
It must cost a frickin fortune, and besides, I have no need for custom pens.
Still, intrigued—and admiring the moxie, investment, and clever marketing design of the unsolicited sample—I took time to read the pitch letter from National Pen that came with the sample. And the upshot of their pitch was that, through this one-time-only offer to new customers, they would whip me up a batch of these pens for only 59¢ each.
Hell, I can’t even buy crappy plastic pens at Walmart for 59¢ each, much less nice metal ones, much less nice metal ones that have been customized for me, so why not?
That night oven dinner I told the family about the pen offer and passed around the sample. It was universally admired and everyone quickly agreed on the fact that, even though we had absolutely no need for custom pens, we absolutely must order some. We also agreed that, as Plane Tales doesn’t really have a logo, per se, we should put the Race 53 wings and the Plane Tales URL on the pens.
Then came the disagreements.
First we disagreed on color, as we had the choice of black, gunmetal, navy blue, sky blue, red, green, and hideous purple. Well, it wasn’t total disagreement. No one liked the purple. The lighter sky blue was similar to some of the blues on the Plane Tales Plane, but I worried that the white laser etching wouldn’t show up as well as it would on a darker pen. Black was the best bet on this front, but everybody and his brother has black pens. And of course, there was the issue that we only had one sample and there was no real way to know how closely the colors of the actual pens would match the brochure. And so it went.
We have a lot of fun thinking things to death in our family.
In the end, the color argument was settled when we realized that the order form had a box to check for assorted colors. Next, we disagreed on how many of these pens that we didn’t need we should order, given that we had this one-time super low price and there were virtually no limits on how many pens we could buy with the coupon. I don’t think that at this point we’d even talked about what the heck we were going to do with custom Plane Tale/Race 53 pens.
How many pens did we decide to order? I embarrassed to admit to the actual number, but it was a lot. According to the tracking email from UPS, the box of pens weighed 19.6 pounds. Yeah. That’s pretty much a lifetime supply of pens.
But we got a great deal.