Well, that's what we found out today when 18,000 residents received a letter from our Chairman asking them to send us £25.00. Even if just 1% are stirred to complain - that's 180 contacts (or 25 per hour). Fortunately it wasn't even 1% - but we have been quite busy!
First are the unavoidable but no less distressing calls; people phoning to tell you their husbands, wives or relations have died. These are inevitable - even the most diligent organisation which scours the local press and records every death notice will fail to note every passing. No group which relies on public goodwill would ever deliberately write to someone who has died, and I deeply regret the distress such contacts inadvertently cause.
The next group are the indignant. How did you get me name and address? Why did you write to me ? Take me off your list immediately! I have no objection to these calls, though why some have to be so downright obnoxious is a mystery. Again, we have no wish to write to people who don't want to hear from us, so we will gladly update our records for the benefit of both parties! I also understand why some people have data protection concerns and want to know how we obtained their name and address. Sadly many cannot accept that registered political parties are legally allowed to use the electoral register for campaigning and membership purposes. I recall one lady demanding we never contact her again - even requesting a signed letter confirming that we had removed her from our mailing list. I was therefore somewhat amused when the same lady wrote an equally obnoxious letter just before the election to complain that her neighbours had received a postal vote letter and she hadn't.
And then we have the angry brigade! They come in various shades or purple, but have common traits; they all seem to read the Daily Mail and are fond of either quoting Richard Littlejohn or sending cuttings, with various words and phrases neatly underlined. And just in case you thought these things were apocryphal, many do use green (or red) ink and write "and another thing....." They also write on the reverse of the letter you have sent them, and if they run out of space (which is almost inevitable given how much they need to get off their chests) they continue around the edges and in the margins - and even enclose other scraps of second hand paper with postscripts.
We had one chap today who phoned to tell me what he thought of us. Our answering machine will record for 60 seconds before cutting out. He called five times using his full minute each time. Had he not used the first 40 seconds of each call recapping what he said on the previous one, he might have got through it faster. The most amusing aspect was when he then called a sixth time and shouted, "and if you had bought a British answering machine instead of this foreign crap it wouldn't keep cutting out on me. Goodbye."
The pièce de résistance however arrived at the office several years ago. An outspoken councillor had said or done something which caused outrage and anguish. As the row raged, the postman delivered a beautifully hand-woven and lined Smythson envelope. It was hand addressed and delivered with a first class postage stamp. Inside the envelope was a matching, hand-woven correspondence card, with the name and address neatly cut off. Written on the card, in green ink, was the following
"(name of councillor) is a clapped out old fart"
What was most amusing, however, was the writer, having painstakingly removed the address from the top of the card, signed it! Then, realising what he had done, 'tippexed' out the signature leaving it still legible if held up to the light.
The postcard (along with various other contributions) takes pride of place on my office noticeboard!