All Hail Snail Mail
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because in these overtexting days, nothing shows you care more than your actual handwriting.
So many startup founders seem to pride themselves on breaking all the rules. Not Tomer Alpert. Instead, it was a dutiful exercise in etiquette that prompted the Telluride-based entrepreneur to create Felt last year, an iPad app for mailing handwritten cards to recipients by way of the trusty ol’ USPS. And, like a lot of risky-guy behaviors before it, it also had a little something to do with trying to impress a girl.
“Me being the guy who wants to win brownie points, I was like, ‘Yeah, we totally should,’ even though I’d never sent a thank-you card in my life,” Alpert says, recalling the night his then girlfriend, Gracie, suggested sending a handwritten note to thank the hosts of the dinner party they’d just left.
But it was late, not exactly the right time to roll up at Hallmark. There had to be an app, they thought. When they looked, what they found were various ways to send cards printed with text. They weren’t satisfied. One of the best parts of receiving a card in the mail is, after all, the message written in the sender’s own handwriting.
Select a card, and it unfolds to let you pen a note…
“To us, that wasn’t what a thank-you card was. A thank-you card was something you handwrote, so it was like, OK, let’s see how cool we can make this and how authentic an experience we can create,” says Alpert. “For us, the magic, the thing that excited us the most, was starting on an iPad, but not changing what a handwritten card meant.”
With a new feature released this month that allows senders to write and schedule cards ahead of time, the result is an easy-to-use timesaver that greets those who download it from the iTunes App store with a scrollable selection of 24 cards, all original designs, set against a backdrop of rustic wood paneling. Individual cards are $3.99 (though at the moment, you can save $1 per card when you buy 10 at a time). There are thank-you cards, holiday styles and anytime-appropriate, gender-neutral options suitable for sending brief notes to friends or professional contacts.
Select a card, and it unfolds to let you pen a note of between five and seven lines using either your finger or an iPad stylus (which Felt will gladly sell you for $1). While writing with an index finger is a bit clunky, the stylus option works smoothly, and there’s a choice of ink colors and widths. Address the envelope and proceed to checkout.
Within 24 hours, a card matching your chosen design is ready to hit an actual mailbox. Your message is printed to resemble ink on paper sourced from fourth-generation U.S. paper manufacturer Mohawk and tucked into a caramel-hued recycled-paper envelope— addressed as if it were by hand.
“We use some special technology to make sure that what you wrote doesn’t look computer-generated,” Alpert tells me. “Our printing technology creates smooth lines, and you can’t tell that you didn’t write it with a pen.”
When it comes to Felt, perhaps the best part is the plan-ahead feature: Choose to schedule a Felt card, and the company will hold on to your creation until it’s go time, making it possible to spend, say, an hour sometime this week getting every birthday card and holiday greeting you’ll need to send for the rest of 2014 queued up and delivered reliably on time.Felt is only the latest effort at work rekindling a cultural love affair with handwritten notes. For $5, San Francisco’s Black Sheep Postal Service will send a custom handwritten message on a screen-printed postcard made of extra thick matte board, while for $5, edgy writer-fans can sign up for Letters in the Mail from online literary mag The Rumpus to receive three or more handwritten missives a month from authors such as Stephen Elliott, Marc Maron and Cheryl Strayed.
How good would that make you look? Um, good. Very good.
“It can really say so much more than even what you wrote, the act of mailing something and handwriting something means so much,” says Alpert.
Speaking of meaningful things, remember Alpert’s onetime girlfriend?
She’s now his fiancée.