Pen in Hand

Two stories caught my eye a few weeks back.

One was about a technological development that will allow emails to be converted into "handwritten" letters by a robot. The CEO of Bond, Sonny Caberwal, wants to retain the delight of giving and receiving notes, without the "hassle of heading to the stationery store, writing out a letter, finding stamps, and locating a mailbox...

We don't think it's necessarily about the time you take to put together the gift; it's the intent." Bond is for all those times you're thinking of someone and want to do something about it. "We want to create technology that will let you finally act upon that intention."

Compare that with this second story about a 12-year-old football fan from Oklahomawho decided it was time to select an NFL team to become "his" team. Cade Pope wrote an handwritten letter to every owner in the league, asking them why he should choose their team. Handwritten. Why?

According to this young man, "it shows more expression and feelings, rather than typing it on a computer. And it explains a lot more if you actually write it, because you can actually tell what they are trying to say."

Yes, Cade, exactly.

So far Cade has received two replies. One was an e-mail from the co-chairman of the San Francisco 49ers, John York, who shared his personal experiences in trying to pick an NFL team as a boy.. The second was a handwritten reply from the owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson. "Cade, we would be honored if our Carolina Panthers became your team," wrote Richardson.

While I appreciate the sentiment behind the service provided by Bond in the first article, it seems the whole point of a handwritten note is the fact that it represents an above and beyond gesture on the part of the writer.​ The whole point of a handwritten letter is its uniqueness. It can't be cut and paste, it can't be duplicated. Speaking as a former GM who has written hundreds of handwritten welcome notes I can tell you that every note was a little different, even if the point was always the same: Welcome. We're glad you're here. Have fun.

So then, does the debate become, it's better to have something than nothing? Mmmm. Not sure I buy that. I can tell you that as a road warrior, checking into a hotel and being greeted by a typed letter with an illegible signature was insulting. It reeked of, "it's a service standard, let's check the box."

Compare that to this picture, one I've kept tucked inside my computer bag for months. - and brought with me to Honduras.


The danger of a robot service like Bond is that it takes away the "friction" - the time and energy and thought - that makes the handwritten note a standout.

Let's go back to our young friend, Cade. Does he know which team he will pick? “I do not yet,” Cade told The Post. “Because there’s still time to go and it is early so, I mean, I’ll give them a little more time. But if none of the others respond, I’m a Carolina Panthers fan.”"

The handwritten note wins again.

Share my obsession with all things handwritten? Here's a little stationery porn to enliven your day.

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