Hal Rubenstein

The Pen is Mightier than the Pad

It is National Thank You Note Month. Sounds cute, doesn’t it? So lovely and back in the day, right? Something your favorite aunt used to do. Why I bet you haven’t written one since your wedding, and weren’t those a pain, or did you have those printed up? Well guess what? If you are not in the habit of sending them, you don’t know what you are missing.

However, let’s get one thing straight. A text message is not a Thank You note. Neither is an email. They’re better than nothing, true. But neither make much more of an impression than then the email blast from Ann Taylor Loft proclaiming Winter Fashions at 70% off.

A Thank You note comes on a paper product called stationery. Just to be clear, Post-its are not stationery. They are litter, waiting to happen. Thank You stationery comes in a stack, usually about 5” x 7” in size and you can often find boxes of them where you buy your printer paper and ink though the staff will probably be clueless as to where they’re located, because they don’t use them either. When you find them, check out how nice the paper stock is. Kind of like the Declaration of Independence but not as dry. Also note that the paper is blank. Which means you may have to buy a pen. Please note – a Sharpie is not a pen. Neither is that metal stick rattling around in back of your desk drawer that either skips or spits ink. Buy a new one. A decent one. And save it just for Thank You notes.

Now, If you really want to do Thank You notes up right, you can get stationery printed with your name on embossed on the paper from somewhere fancy like Cartier or any of the hundreds of online websites. This isn’t complicated. It’s just strange, like the first time you used your iPhone.

A Thank You note shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to write. It needn’t be more than three sentences. It should be written immediately after the event in question, it should be heartfelt, and must be written, signed and addressed by hand. Finally, if you can remember where a mailbox is, it needs to be put into one. Don’t forget a stamp. You can buy them online too.

Now, here’s what happens. Your recipient goes to his or her mailbox, just like you do. And opens it, just like you do. And what’s in there? The same crap you get. Circulars. Letters marked “For immediate attention” that don’t require anything of the sort. There are bills, catalogues, magazines, promotions, invitations to events that require you pay a lot of money to attend and, of course, lots of stuff addressed to “Occupant”. Always heartwarming.

But what’s this? Why, there’s a letter! Addressed to me? Written just to me! OMG! Someone sat down to say something nice about last night/the weekend/our dinner/my company. Why, that is so cool!

Thank You notes stop people dead in their tracks because they’re now scarce as unicorns. Receiving one will make someone’s day sure as finding $20 on the sidewalk. Writing one will get you remembered, make you stand out, is more likely to get you invited back more often, may make a connection that is lasting, and just might get you referred to someone who can change your future. Write a celebratory one to a restaurant and you are likely to wind up on their VIP list. (Honest, it doesn’t take much more. I worked in restaurant for a dozen years so I know). Write a thoughtful one to an interviewer and your resume will land higher in the pile. Write a vulnerable one to someone you’re crushing on and you may get laid sooner than you think. A text won’t any of the above ever happen. And Thank you notes never go to spam.

You can’t lose. Thank you notes are more than sweet. They’re magic. Now if you could just do something about your penmanship.