English: The Caligraph, a typewriter produced ...

English: The Caligraph, a typewriter produced by the American Writing Machine Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(It’s been a while since you’ve gotten a truly rage-filled post from me, hasn’t it? And, believe it or not, I mulled over this for 24 hours before writing it so what you’re about to read is the nice version. Well, nice for me.)

Over on Facebook yesterday, John aka ColderICE was ranting about a newbie buyer who left him a positive message in a negative feedback. I have had this happen many times and feel his pain and told him to email the buyer. He pointed out that emailing 100s of buyers a month gets really annoying and I told him to do as I have done: write up a template email that only sounds personalized for just this situation. Then you can send it (individually or in bulk) whenever this comes up and it will save time since you won’t always have to rewrite it. I actually do this for the majority of emails I send out in my life. It’s not easy to make a template sound personal, professional and fresh all at the same time but it can be done with some work.

Then John asked me to send him my template email so that he could try it on his buyer. Now John is a friend and he was in an (understable) rage so I’m going to cut him slack that he fired that off without really thinking about it. But then there were new comments on the thread from complete freaking strangers asking me to also send them my email template. In exchange, they offered nothing. And my reply to those people, in the nicest way I can possibly put it is:

Why the hell would I do that?

No, I’m not going to send you our templates that we’ve spent hours crafting.

I’m also not going to send you the files for the marketing materials my graphic designer did up.

Or the list of phone numbers for my best clients.

Or the list of my suppliers and the special prices I’ve worked out with them.

Or the designs for my new products.

Man, I’d heard we were in a generation of entitlement but it’s still shocking to see it in person. And even if I was somehow stupid enough to just give you my company’s materials in exchange for the amazing nothing you offered in return, it wouldn’t do anyone any good. I’d have to write up all new buyer emails because then there’d be random other people using my words making it (ironically) look like I stole the message from them. And you? What good would an email, written in the voice of my company, be to you?

Every single message your company sends to your buyers is in the voice of your company whether you realize it or not. The emails I write up from my personal account are completely different than the ones I write up for my client’s eBay accounts. Not only would switching a single email of yours out with one of mine make you look foolish because the email from me would stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of your messaging, it would achieve the opposite effect. Instead of your buyers feeling like the seller they’ve been working with the whole time wants to solve their problem, it will be immediately obvious that this “make it right” email was coming from someone completely different. And when every additional message you write goes back to that original voice, it will become even more clear that my email was just a template you stole and sour the whole situation further.

A template is only effective if it doesn’t sound like a template. As soon as the recipient figures out he’s been “templated,” you’ve just made the situation that much worse by showing him you don’t care enough to actually write a real email. There’s no faster way to make a situation go south.

If your messaging isn’t cutting it and you don’t have a writer in-house, you need to hire someone freelance to redo all of your outgoing communication in the same voice of your company. That means listing text, return policy, additional instructions and even About Me text in addition to all of your emails. You can’t just change one of them and expect that to do anything, especially if your idea of “fixing” is to steal someone else’s.

The tragic irony in all of this is that I’ve been working on an eBook about reworking your communication over your entire eBay account and how it can increase sales and feedback and now would be the perfect time to promote it… but the damn thing isn’t done yet. But, if nothing else, this little incident has taught me that there is a definite need for it so I should make sure it’s the next one I get out the door. Of course, these people will probably expect me to just send it to them for free anyway. 😉

Something I will never, ever understand is why people who don’t have writing skills think that’s something they shouldn’t have to pay for. If it were simple enough to do that it had no value, wouldn’t you be able to do it yourself? I feel like this is the modern equivalent of that idiot in high school English who seemed to be under the impression I’d let him copy off my test when he hadn’t done the reading just because he asked.

Your inability to write a strong email is only my problem if you’ve hired me to rewrite all your communication. If these random strangers had emailed me with a list of all the communication they regularly send out, links to their existing verbiage and asked me for a quote for what I’d charge to rewrite everything in their company voice, that would be a completely different story. But if you think anyone is going to give a complete stranger their hard work in exchange for absolutely nothing, you’re going to have a tough time in this real world of ours.

Usually writers are asked to give their work out for free in exchange for “exposure.” I suppose that I should be weirdly impressed with the candor of someone who doesn’t even pretend that’s the game and literally promises nothing in exchange for my work.