The people at Cohen, Klingenstein & Marks Inc., a New York-based investment management firm with more than $500 million under management, deserve a licking - and so do their envelopes.
The other day its quarterly review of its investment performance arrived in the mail, as usual. But this quarter, the review came with a check for $2,225! A real check.
What a realized return, I thought.
The problem was the check, as it turned out: 1) wasn't made out to me; 2) wasn't written by Cohen Klingenstein & Marks; and 3) wasn't even connected in any way with the firm.
In the business-size envelope with the normal quarterly report was a smaller envelope. Thinking it was part of the quarterly package, I opened the second envelope without hesitation and without examining the outside.
Therein I discovered the check.
There was nothing else in the envelope, only a long, business-type check. It was made out to an individual, whom I will leave unidentified. The check, I noticed, was written by a New York firm, which also will remained unnamed, on 72nd St. Cohen, Klingenstein & Marks is on Broadway. Scrutinizing further, I noticed the smaller envelope was addressed to a professional firm in Wayne, N.J..
How did this smaller envelope containing the check get into the Cohen Klingenstein & Marks communication? I called the investment firm and spoke with George M. Cohen, principal.
I mentioned the apparent errant enclosure in CKM's review to him and he said without any further information from me, "I know what happened."
I was amazed he knew.
"Every once in awhile it happens," he continued.
"It happens because our envelopes aren't sealed." Sure enough Cohen Klingenstein & Marks tucks in the outer flap of the envelope, rather than sealing it.
"Another letter falls into our envelope." A letter mailed by someone else somehow gets through the opening, albeit a thin opening, in the firm's envelope. "It has to fall into it precisely," he added.
Mr. Cohen said the firm has received calls before about errant enclosures. "We've had telephone bills, electric bills" fall into a CKM envelope. But it never had any envelopes containing checks, especially for $2,225, he added.
In some 10 years of mailing, he guesses, "this is the sixth time it has happened."
"It seems infrequent enough that we could live with it."
We could live with it? What about the business that wrote the check or the organization that was the intended recipient? It's not the money manager's check or a check of one of its clients that was misdirected. By the way, I forwarded the check.
Mr. Cohen said the firm, which mails about 700 to 800 of the investment reviews each quarter - all in unsealed envelopes - doesn't have an envelope sealer. But he said the firm, because it will have further uses for it, plans to buy an envelope sealer next month.
Anyway, Cohen Klingenstein & Marks might pay attention to its clients; but as for misdirecting an important mailing for someone else's clients, well, even though it has been aware of the problem, "It seems infrequent enough we could live with it."