Friday, 14 January 2011


Being on the receiving end of a constant barrage of pizza delivery leaflets and advertising bumf for the local hardware store, toy store, steakhouse, Chinese restaurant and so on, you’d think I’d have more sense than to offer to do ‘leafleting’ for a friend’s business… but apparently I don’t! When I took on the task of ‘marketing guru’ (my words, not theirs) I figured that in order to spread the word about how fabulous their business is, without it costing a small fortune, pushing carefully worded leaflets through as many doors as I could physically manage seemed like a remarkably cheap and easy option. After all, I wanted to get fit and lose weight for the fantastic beach holiday I’d booked for the spring, and I’ve never exactly been a fan of going to the gym, so it made perfect sense to combine long walks outdoors with an advertising campaign. It seemed like a win-win solution. I’ve seen sullen, moronic teenage boys doing it, and I’ve even noticed a couple of grey-haired old ladies doing it, so how hard can it possibly be? It’s rather a good job that words contain no calories at all, or I’d now be morbidly obese after eating so many of my own.

I’d never had the need to pay any attention whatsoever to people’s letterboxes before, other than my own, so my first trip around the block with my stash of colourfully printed and neatly folded leaflets was a bit of a revelation. For reasons known only to themselves (maybe personal preference, possibly vandalism) many households have dispensed with the formality of a letterbox flap, favouring the bare brushes look. These, I found, are the easiest of all to deal with, as the leaflets slide effortlessly through them. A close second are the ones with loose-hinged flaps and no brushes. Plop – another leaflet delivered. Unfortunately, these types are few and far between, as I discovered. I have no idea how some people receive any mail whatsoever, as it’d take something similar to a crowbar to prize the industrially-sprung flap open, and then, when it’s finally up, there seems to be some sort of impenetrable wall of hard bristles preventing anything from entering the property via that route. The postman must have oodles of fun!

As this was a favour rather than paid employment, I opted for the minimal effort approach, avoiding anywhere which involved pressing entry buttons on security doors or climbing up staircases, subsequently, anyone living in a flat round my way will have to find out about the wonderful service on offer via other means. There was also no way on earth I was going to continually bend down to floor level, risking a slipped disc in order to put leaflets through letterboxes just inches above pavement level. I am after all, a marketing guru and am not training for the Olympics. Other homes given a wide berth included those with complicated gate locks and long driveways. Also, I deliberately avoided anywhere where the homeowners were standing in the front gardens. I’m not brave enough (or daft enough) for any direct confrontation with residents already cheesed off with a ton and a half of junk mail. Common courtesy also prevailed, and wherever I noticed ‘no junk mail’ signs I simply moved onto the next house, after all, there’s no point whatsoever in wasting paperwork in a vain attempt at handing it to people who’ve already informed you they’re not remotely interested.

When I first started my new ‘hobby’ I had no idea what a health and safety hazard it’d be it was to push bare fingers through doors, but after 30 minutes of pushing flimsy paper through a blockade of metal and brushes most of my nails were broken and my poor cuticles were red raw. I then got the shock of my life, as somebody’s large, unruly dog decided that my fingertips were fair game and jumped up snatching the leaflet from my grasp as I pushed it through the letterbox. It was barking loudly and in a quite frenzied manner as it pounded the back of the door, presumably with its feet. I swear I could feel it’s breath on my finger tips as I snatched my hand back in sheer terror. From that moment on I avoided any doors bearing notices regarding pets on the premises, and I was far more wary about putting any part of my hands more than a few millimetres inside the letterbox.

Wandering around the village where I had lived for over 20 years, I suddenly found myself venturing down roads and alleyways I’d never noticed before. It was during one of these explorations that I happened upon a tiny gated community where ‘the cat people’ apparently live. Not a soul to be seen, but literally dozens of cats appeared from nowhere the minute I entered. I felt uneasy and the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand on end as I noticed that every door had a cat flap, and every neatly trimmed front garden was lovingly adorned with all manner of cat sculptures and feline imagery. Next to each doormat were water and food bowls, and there were window stickers proclaiming things like “Mr Tiddles lives here”. The smell was unmistakable, and I was rather glad I hadn’t arrived on a warm day. I suddenly realised that many of the garden sculptures were, in fact, memorials to deceased moggies. This was now freaking me out, and I suddenly felt like an extra in some sort of weird horror movie, so I shoved a couple of leaflets through the nearest letterboxes and hastily beat a retreat back into the real world.

Homeowners don’t seem to be at all aware that when somebody is standing on their front doorstep, albeit for just a few seconds, conversations in adjacent rooms where windows are wide open can be heard with no effort at all. It’s often amusing and occasionally quite disturbing, to be inadvertently privy to snippets of private conversations. “…..but it didn’t matter because his leg fell off anyway……!” Of course, no leafleters want to hear people swearing about unsolicited mail as they gingerly attempt to deliver their advertisements without disturbing the homeowners, but unfortunately it comes with the territory.

My own pet peeve regarding anyone delivering stuff to my front door, whether it be the postman, paper boy or someone wanting me to know that their pizzas are bigger, better and cheaper than everyone elses, is when they fail to use my path and choose to walk right across my paved front garden to my neighbours house. I used to find this infuriating, however, one particularly chilly afternoon I’d been on the go for about 20 minutes when it began to spit with rain. I must admit, I began cutting corners myself in order to get back home before I got thoroughly soaked.

This whole experience has been quite a revelation. What I’d originally believed to be a relatively painless way of cutting advertising costs actually turned out to be a rather more complicated affair. True, I had got the fresh air and exercise that I’d wished for, however, I hadn’t anticipated how sore my fingers could get or how taxing it can be on the nerves, especially when faced with the Hound of the Baskervilles just inches away, the other side of a wooden door.

So, the next time you curse out loud at the sound of yet another takeaway menu dropping onto your mat, either move to an upstairs flat with a door entry system or a house with a long driveway and fiddly front gate, not forgetting to fit your letterbox flap with the strongest springs money can buy and several inches of thick brushes, along with ensuring that your rottweiler guards your home with all the menace of a psychopath… alternatively, why not just put a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on your door.

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