By popular demand* I bring you the Random House/FedEx story. This happened not *too* long ago. This is partially by memory, but I did write it down afterwards, because it was so great.
MAUREEN wanders into the local FedEx with a package she needs to send to Random House publishers. Random House is not far. She could take it there herself, but the last time she tried to surprise-take a package to a publisher she got pulled aside by security** and now she FedExes everything, even to people standing next to her.
After filling in the forms and putting the object into a FedEx envelope, MAUREEN walks to counter and presents the object for processing.
FEDEX GUY spins package around, examines label, frowns.
FEDEX GUY: I can’t send this.
MAUREEN stares, waiting for further explanation. When none is forthcoming, she spins the package back around and looks at the label, because apparently she is going to have to figure out what it is that she didn’t put on it. Because it’s not just a delivery service-it’s a TEST OF WITS. Finding no blank spaces, she feels like a bit of a FedEx failure.
FEDEX: (very disapproving look) I can’t send this to a random house.
FEDEX: I can’t send this to a random house. You need an address.
Now MAUREEN gets it. She can barely believe this wonderful thing is happening, but she gets it.
MAUREEN: Oh! No, no. It’s a publisher.
FEDEX: Yeah, but I can’t send it.
FEDEX: I can’t send to a random house.
MAUREEN: No, I mean, it’s a business. It has an address.
MAUREEN points to the address on the label, under Random House, person to be delivered to, number, street, city, and zip code.
FEDEX: (in a “you need to listen to me now” tone) I can’t send to a random house.
MAUREEN: No, it’s called Random House. But it’s a publisher. A business. That’s its name.
FEDEX: I can’t …
MAUREEN taps furiously on address.
FEDEX GUY examines package for a minute.
FEDEX: You can’t send stuff like this.
MAUREEN: THAT’S ITS NAME. It is CALLED Random House, but it is not a random house. It is a business at that address.
FEDEX: But you can’t have random house in the “send to” line.
MAUREEN: I HAVE TO. THAT’S WHERE IT IS GOING.
FEDEX GUY knows that he has said “you can’t send to a random house” about six times now and knows repeating it will not help. Looks at Maureen like she is very, very stupid.
MAUREEN: Listen, it is a publishing business. A well-known one. It is CALLED Random House. That is the actual, legal name of the business. Trust me. It will be fine. Your delivery people who get this, they’ll know what it is. I promise you. It’s not going to get lost.
FEDEX GUY is not persuaded, but shakes his head in a very New York City-style “okay, I will do this thing, because I have to do things for idiots every day of my life” way. He angrily scans the barcode.
FEDEX: I shouldn’t be sending this.
MAUREEN: Thank you.
FEDEX: That’s a stupid name.
MAUREEN: I’ll tell them.
Random House, consider yourself notified.
** This is true. It was the release of my first book. I tried to bring my editor a present and they came close to pinning me down on the floor and turning the hose on me … okay, they boxed me into a corner and asked me a lot of questions and wouldn’t let me leave. I was just trying to bring her a gift certificate. Anyway, I still shake when I think about it.