mail order fun

Eating my morning cereal studying the back of the cereal box, propped up in bed leafing through a catalog satisfyingly fat with pages or curled up in the lounge chair browsing my way through Internet websites, makes no difference to me, I relish shopping at home. After days of drooling over my options, comparing cost with cash capabilities, I take a deep breath, make the plunge, order and sit back to wait for the promised package.

In the early 1960s, my imagination zoomed in on the black and white line drawing for 100 dolls advertised in the back of the magazine for $1 plus 25 cents shipping and handling. I loved dolls –100 would not be too many for me. The text assured me the expensively molded dolls measured up to 4 inches. Small dolls, yes, but 100 of them, such riches! I wanted all 100 dolls, each dressed differently as nurses, babies, brides, grooms, dancers, ballerinas, clowns, cowboys and Indians. I saved up my allowances and ordered a set.

The dolls arrived in a small square, cardboard box. They were 1.5 inches high, unpainted, very detailed figurines made of pink, pressed plastic depicting dancers, nurses, cowgirls and Santa with a sled – which measured 4 inches in length – and about three copies of each design. I was so disappointed. I was robbed of $1.25.

Sure it came with a money back guarantee, but I was a little kid. I swallowed my disappointment, shoved the cheap, plastic, figures aside and forgot about them until recently. A search of the Internet for “100 dolls” pointed me to a website with a picture of the ad and the dolls. In the late 1950s and 1960s, the company captured the imagination of many little girls perusing the ads in the back of magazines.

No warm fuzzies with that bit of memorabilia, but the experience did not dampen my enthusiasm for sending off for stuff.

As a 12 year-old, our club of cousins saved up box tops and cash to order a doll advertised on a box of cereal. We may have aged out of playing with dolls, but that did not matter – we wanted that doll because it came with several outfits.
Together, we only had enough money and box tops to order one doll. That satisfied our need for a secret club project. We puzzled over the phrase on the order blank, “No stamps, please.” We could not understand how the mailman would deliver our order without a stamp, so we ignored the sentence and stuffed an envelope with cash and box tops anyway. I know, today everything mandates “No cash, please. Checks, credit cards or PayPal only.” But, this was back when we confidently taped a quarter or two to a piece of cardboard to pay for our purchase and knew we would get it.

Once we received our doll we did not know what to do with her. Planning, purchasing and receiving the package in the mail proved the better part of the fun. We changed her clothes and admired her during our sporadic club meetings. The rest of the time she remained in her pristine box. It was not until my family moved across the country and broke up the club that she found a permanent, loving home with a younger cousin.

I still am a little kid savoring the ads and pleasure of pulling a package out of the mailbox with my name on it. These days, however, I study electronic catalogs with pop-out windows for a closer look at the product, rotating pictures of all sides and magnifiers to study even the stitching.

Better yet – last year I discovered digital product premiums – unique codes added to each individual package of the product. I can log-in to the company’s website, add my codes and contemplate the choices for redeeming my premiums. Besides receiving coupons for free beverages, I have signed up for free magazine subscriptions, restaurant gift certificates, a printed photo book that I filled with pictures of my family and a most satisfactory, name brand backpack with custom designed zipper tabs. In other words – enough premiums to compensate any day for one disappointing box of 100 dolls.