Tuesday 6 December 2011

Those boomerang postcards!

Have you ever had a boomerang postcard? That is, one that you've sent off for a competition, but comes back to your own address instead? They are annoying, aren't they - and expensive too, as the stamp has often been franked when it comes back to you, so just popping it back in the postbox might not work as the recipient might be asked to pay a surcharge, and refuse the delivery. Also, sometimes it takes so long for these boomerangs to come back to you that it's too late to send it again - the closing date has already gone.

When it happens, you might be lucky enough to get a refund of the cost of the stamp, if you complain to your local Post Office. If they are feeling very generous, they might give you a whole BOOK of stamps. But of course that won't compensate you for missing out on the prize that you could have won if the card had reached its destination.

So here are a few tips to help to make sure your cards go where they are intended to, and don't come flocking back like homing pigeons.

First of all, remember that most post is sorted by machinery these days. The "magic eye" in it isn't trained to look for words like "to" and "from", so most of the time putting those on your card doesn't help. All it looks  for is the postcode. And it expects to see that clearly and boldly written, on a line on its own, at the very bottom of the address. So when you are writing the address you are sending to, make sure that it really is as clear and distinct as it can be.

Now turn your attention to your own details on the other side of the card. This time you want the sorting machinery (which apparently isn't clever enough to think "Oh, the stamp is on the other side so that must be where the card is  going to" - something that would solve all our problems) to be as confused as possible and miss spotting your postcode. The first thing you can do to help is to turn your postcard through a right angle and have the short edges at the top and bottom. As it goes through the machine with the long edges top and bottom, your postcode will seem to be sideways on to it, so it won't be able to read it.
Then make sure the postcode isn't on the bottom line. Put something underneath it - your phone number, your email address, the answer to the competition question if there is one, or even a pattern of pretty squiggles! You could also put  your postcode  on the same line as your county, if the card is wide enough.

If you are using picture postcards with all your writing on one side, your finished card would look like this. Note how the sender's own details are as low down the card as possible, so that they don't get obscured by the postmark. If your card is drawn as a winner and they can't read your address, they'll have to throw it away and draw a different winner!

All this is good practice anyway as it makes your card clear and easy to read for the promoter as well as the Post Office. It won't guarantee that your cards don't come back to you, but it will make sure it happens less often.

But there is one way to make sure your cards DO come back to you, and I experienced it  just yesterday. I picked up the mail and there was a boomerang card among it, so I started to get angry and turned the card over to see which competition I'd lost out on. Yes, the card was stamped, but I'd been in such a hurry to post my entry that I had completely forgotten to write the address it was supposed to go to.  Please don't ever do that!

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