A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 16 November 2015

Hooptedoodle #199 - Back to Business-as-Usual

Exhibit A
Here's an item from my outgoing email this morning:

To: hello@xyzdesign.co.uk                                                  Today     10:57am

Subject: Creativity vs Function

Hi there - yesterday I bought a greetings card published by XYZ Design.

Now that I sit down to write the thing, and open the plastic package, I am surprised to find that the envelope is black. Just plain black.

It doesn't happen often, but I am speechless with admiration. My compliments. Unfortunately, due to a sad lack of foresight on my part, I do not have a white pen with which to address the envelope, so my enthusiasm is not as complete as it might have been.

Whoever thought this one up really should go and have a look at themselves in the mirror - preferably with the light turned off.



Normally I would like to think I can handle a small matter like this without the Victor Meldew impression, but I also believe that the paying customer is entitled to an opinion. What I have done is pinch a spare white envelope of the right size from one of last year's Xmas cards, so all is well. I could also, of course, have applied a label to the black envelope, but I think I would need some preliminary lab study of the likely effect on the adhesive of black paper dye, and time is short. Also, I am not confident just how old my roll of labels is, so this is not a straightforward matter, and the replacement envelope will be fine. In any case, if I 'm going to supply my own label, I might as well knock up my own envelope, with some old pages from a jotter and some selotape, and maybe make up my own card with coloured pasta and old yogurt pots.

I have already nominated the greetings stationery industry for a Donkey Award in a previous post, in recognition of glossy and dark coloured envelopes which will not take a legible address - in consequence, I am not proposing to go to the Full Donkey for today's episode - these awards are not so easy to earn.

While I am enthusing about the retail industry, the Contesse reports that she has been awarded a special gift box by Marks & Spencer, no less, because she has spent a certain amount recently on clothes and suchlike. She has a busy day today, but since she was driving into the city anyway she planned to stop at M&S shortly after 8am to collect her reward for support of the Directors' Pension Fund. 

Problem - it seems the gift box contains a bottle of wine, amongst other comestibles, and it is against the law for UK retail outlets to sell alcohol before 10am. Ah, I hear you protest, but they were not selling this bottle, they were giving it away, and no-one had asked for it. Well, you are correct, but it makes no difference - they may not give away alcohol before 10am either. In consequence, the Contesse had to rearrrange her day slightly so she could call back at the store once the sun was officially above the yardarm.




  1. M&S can be rather strange - I once bought some clothes there and crossed one of their limits. They basically gave me big box of women's cosmetics and similar as a reward.

    1. M&S may be one of the stores which tend to forget that male customers exist. Boots (the chemist) are a bit like that - if you try to find the shaving foam you may find it hard to locate - they may have scrapped that section of the shelving to feature a new range of moisturisers. Lakeland definitely used to be like that - just the presence of a male customer was enough to cause very obvious unease.

  2. The Royal Mail used to ban black, blue etc envelopes, but nowadays using a printed label is so frequent that I suppise their opposition would lack a point.nAs you undoubtedly possess a large cache of paints and are workng on Spanish then might I suggest that you could have painted on the address in acrylic white ? That way you would not have destroyed the creative integrity if the little work of art that some genius had conceptualised. I once went along to meet the team working on our account at a branding agency that the company were clients of. We were intriduced to the Creative team, the writing half if which was dressed in a sort of black Vietcong suit. I advanced to him and proffered my hand whereupon he cowered in a corner. Tim doesn't shake hands explained their Account Director...whereupon Tim emerged from behind the potted pkant where he had very likely been digging a tunnel to hide in.

    As to Marks and Sparks I suspect tgat you have technically bought the wine as a purchase was necessary to win the prize of a free bottle. The two itens , iriginal purchase and gift cannot be disassociated otherwise retailers could avoid the law by selling children a bix if candies and then giving them a bottle of chateau lafitte, a can of sniffy glue, a bowie knife and 40 fags as a free gift.

    1. Excellent Tim story - I think I may have met Tim's brother.

      The white acrylic address is a good idea, except if I wrote someone's address in white paint with my usual skill, the recipient would assume it was from someone trying to disguise their handwriting, and they might phone the police.

    2. You are quite right, lewisgunner, in anticipating the creativity of the merchant class. Reminds me of one Reg Ansett, who ran a car service in country Victoria between the wars. When the state government banned road transport operators from competing with the state railways, he set himself up as a fruit seller. People wishing to travel between country towns could buy a very expensive apple, and get a free car ride! Worked a treat and old Reg went on to found his own airline, TV stations and all sorts of businesses.

  3. Should do what I do and buy the cheap cards (and labels), the envelopes for which are free from design improvements and remain white (if flimsy).

    That'll learn 'em.

    1. That's a sound strategy - snag here in the Front of Beyond is that the only outlets for cheap cards are the village post office (choice of Deepest Sympathy cards or birthday cards with jokes about farting) or Tesco (whose range of cards in our local branch must be avoided by anyone who has any tendency to suicidal depression).

      I was raised with a fondness for the Medici Society cards, and I have a friend with a bookshop in Haddington which stocks classier stuff - arty, nice Scottish photos, wildlife studies, all that - but it's another car trip. Shops like Clinton have lowered the bar all round - apart from increasing the flow of rubbish, they have also made it smart for idiots to use black envelopes as a statement of their exquisite taste.


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