When I first came to work at Krause Publications in 1978 in Iola, Wis., many of my phone calls began with the caller telling me, “This is long distance.”
I always smiled at that because in those days the only people who could call the office as a local call were the thousand or so people who lived in Iola itself or the 300 or so who lived four miles south in the Village of Scandinavia.
Times have sure changed, but sometimes people are slow to change with it.
I had a phone call yesterday that arrived on a second line while I was conversing with someone else.
After I wrapped up the call I was on, I pushed the message button to listen to a 24-second message. It was an older fellow who had called, judging by his voice, but instead of leaving his phone number, he simply said he had tried to contact two other people and now I was not available either.
Obviously, I cannot call him back and will never know what he wanted.
Sure, it is frustrating not to reach a person when you are telephoning, but in this day and age, most people are juggling many different tasks and they are not simply waiting around for someone to phone them.
I get a lot of email, as I am sure most people do. The price of it is the spam that constantly gets through filters, but a lot of important messages reach me as well.
However, there is a very old convention that would help even emailers.
When I was in school and taught how to write a business letter, the goal was to put everything the recipient needed to know on one sheet of paper, from the address of both sender and recipient to the statement of what was desired.
This form was developed to speed everyone along in answering letters.
With email, the same principle applies. If you are asking for something, please provide all of the necessary information. There is a large number of people who forget to provide what is necessary to get a helpful response.
Instead, I find myself often emailing back for more information.
Then there are letters to the editor or responses to our weekly poll questions.
I understand that people don’t want their identities known because they fear retribution, or for security reasons don’t want their street addresses published.
But for readers of Numismatic News, not knowing who writes something can be very unsatisfying.
If someone reports the first example of a new coin in change, what good is it if you don’t know where the finder is?
Could there be regional differences in collector opinions of whether the cent should be abolished or other issues? We would never know if every collector wrote anonymously.
Could the editor simply be faking opinions and running them without names and cities and states?
You get the idea.
I always give priority to responses from people who give me their full name, city and state. If they ask me to delete some of this information, I can do that. In the case of coin finds, I can delete the name but publish the city and state. This satisfies both emailer and readers.
No matter what the technology, cutting edge, or old-fashioned, the point of it all is communicating all of the information necessary to those who need it.
That makes all our experiences much more understandable and satisfying.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”