SOON TO BE LICKED
So far as I know, the editorial page of the Oct. 27 issue of Pensions & Investments contains the longest article ever published about our firm, Cohen, Klingenstein & Marks. Since, according to Nelson's, we are the No. 1 large-capitalization, growth equities manager over the past 10 years, and since we are one of the fastest growing investment counselors of any type, I was disappointed that the piece, by Barry B. Burr, focused on our postal practices. He characterized our mail procedure as nefarious.
Mr. Burr telephoned me because inside the envelope containing our monthly newsletter, which he as been receiving since early last year, was a sealed letter from a third party to a fourth party. Mr. Burr was "amazed" when "without further information from me, (the response came) 'I know what happened.' "
"I know what happened" was taken to mean, "It happens all the time, and I don't care."
I knew right away because the first time a letter-within-a-letter was discovered many years ago, it was so perplexing that the unraveling of the mystery is indelibly fixed in my mind. As far as we know, Mr. Burr's surprise letter is the third of its type, in, perhaps, 150,000 pieces of mail over 15 years. (Possibly there are a couple others of which we haven't been informed.)
How does it happen? Until now, we have not sealed our newsletter envelopes. We have merely tucked in the flaps. When these envelopes are placed in mail boxes and, later, tossed into postal bins, it is possible that under extremely unusual conditions, another letter can squeeze itself into one of our envelopes. We figured this out at the first reported occurrence.
Why then do we expose the mailing public to even this tiny possibility of sharing the envelope with our newsletter? Because the United States Postal Service told us to.
I know! I know! One should not do everything the Postal Service says. But we told the mail person: We have a large mailing of non-confidential matter; we have no sealing machine; what should we do?
"Tuck in the flap," the USPS said.
"We do it."
The USPS told us that, in the old days, there had been a lower rate for tucked-in mail, but while tucking was still done, the rate disappeared for lack of demand.
Please note this: for all the years of Express mail, two or three days after putting a piece of special mail in the special box (or as soon as the USPS gets it done), a receipt of sorts arrives from the USPS, as evidence of shipment -- in an unsealed envelope with the flap tucked in. From the USPS, itself, please note. (Well, to be thoroughly honest, in the past few months they have taken to taping the tab down.)
As it happens, we are acquiring a sealer. I don't remember the details of my conversation with Mr. Burr so exactly as he does, but he says, "The firm, because it will have other uses for it, plans to buy an envelope sealer next month." More than half of all pieces of mail that leave here are newsletters. Other uses? Indeed!
We regret any piece of mail that is misdirected. We regret every piece of mail that is misdirected. But, for pete's sake, the USPS made us do it.
If you publish it in full, it will be the longest letter we've ever had published in a journal such as yours.
We are the best performing firm in our class and growing like lighting; did we have to have a tale about playing post office? But, then if this letter is here, we've been put in the public eye. And some believe any mention is worth having.
If one wonders if a journalist can misconstrue an innocent interviewee, wonder no more. If one wonders if a journalist can misjudge the important of an incident, wonder no more. With all the news that these times have brought, need this item run the length of your editorial page? And how about this space on your letters page?
With it all, though, there is one thing that confuses me. I've read Mr. Burr's work for years. I knew who he was when he phoned. I was eager to have him write about us. But, when he asked all his questions about the letter-within-the-letter and what to do about it, I asked him, if he was going to write about us. He said, "No."
George M. Cohen
Cohen, Klingenstein & Marks Inc.