“So Call Toll-Free For More Information…”

WHEN I WAS A KID, hell, even when I was a teenager, I loved getting mail. From my dad, a pen-pal, my book-of-the-month-club subscription, it didn’t matter. I loved getting something…anything, really, in the mail. I’d have a little spring in my step walking down our steep driveaway to the mailbox after school.

There’s not a lot of options to get mail when you’re a kid, especially in the late 70’s, early 80’s. So that’s why I used to call toll-free numbers that were listed in TV commercials. I took dozens of companies up on their offers to supply FREE information by mail…like this one for the Craftmatic adjustable bed:

Or this one from Technical Career Institute. I swear I saw this so many times I can still remember the script, nearly verbatim: “How did I get this great career? It all started the day I enrolled in this school…”


And of course, you can’t be a kid on Long Island without seeing the commercial below, featuring Yankee great Phil Rizzuto, airing virtually every hour. I know I got the free information, but, alas, despite my anxiety over money my grandmother wouldn’t let me be a Money Store customer.


As part of a marketing campaign, these commercials were probably pretty effective, and even in the NYC/Long Island area, a cost-effective way to reach a lot of people. Remember, this was before the interwebs, but these were the video equivalent of web ads – they were on multiple local NYC independent TV channels (WPIX, WOR) targeting a specific demographic. I remember seeing these on summer mornings during reruns of The Jeffersons and All in the Family (now you know a lot of what I did during summer mornings when I was a kid). 12-year old kids weren’t their target market, however – it was retirees, and the unemployed.

Every now and then I still get a little good feeling knowing there’s mail awaiting me, wondering what might be in that slot. Of course, that feeling usually comes after a day or two of feeling good when there’s no mail – no low-interest refinancing offers, not another post card showing how a house down the street sold for an insane amount, and, no outstanding bills (they don’t all come via email, though most do).

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