Sending out the letters
There's nothing more frustrating than showing up at a company
and being told they never received my advance material. This
excuse has plagued my 17 years of travel and so I think it's
worth a look at why this happens.
About a month before my anticipated arrival at a company I mail
the CEO a letter of introduction. Actually, it's a bright yellow
postcard-size card with a brief explanation of what I do, my
anticipated arrival dates and thanking him beforehand for any
courtesies extended to me. Also enclosed in the envelope are
several news clippings concerning my trek. For many years I was
on the road year round and of course it wasn't and still isn't
feasible to carry these letters on my bike. So, thanks to friends
and former girlfriends I devised a way to send the letters out.
Let's say I was in Belgium. I get out a map, calendar, plot the
locations of companies on the map and then try to anticipate
where I'll be in a month. I then contact a friend back in the
US who I've entrusted with all the envelopes and tell them which
anticipated arrival dates to write on the postcards. They are
then dropped off at a post office.
Having visited over 3,000 companies I've become somewhat of an
expert as to how the mail works at corporations. The majority
of the time an assistant or secretary opens the mail, logs it
in and passes it on. Actually, quite a few CEO's open up their
mail. Many times someone in the mail room opens and screens the
Now, when I show up at a company and get told they hadn't received
my advance material it's usually the result of one of the five
1. The letter is in fact there but it's somewhere they haven't
looked. Because what I do is so unusual many companies don't
know where or to whom to refer the letter. For example: my letter
has ended up at various times with Building Services, Public
Relations, Corporate Communications, Head of Security, General
Counsel, Corporate Affairs, Human Resources, External Affairs
and, many times it's still on the CEO's desk because he wants
to meet with me himself.
2. The post office had indeed messed up and failed to deliver
the mail correctly.
3. The letter is there but got misplaced by the company's sloppy
4. The letter was received, opened, then knowingly tossed in
5. They are lying.
I know the last scenario sounds harsh and why would they bother
lying to someone so insignificant as me but, I've learned it's
a ploy some companies use. By saying they hadn't received my
advance material it gives them an excuse to say they had no advance
warning of my visit and therefore have no one available to meet
with me. Yep, over the years I've caught several companies trying
this scenario only to slip up in the course of the conversation
and mention something that was only known by having read the
While traveling in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain, I would
hear the same line about how they never received my letter. In
Spain and Italy it could well be true because their postal systems
are known for being sloppy and unreliable. Companies in other
countries could well have been correct also because it's a long
way for a letter to travel (from the USA to Europe).
How do I lessen the chance of companies saying this? Well, now
I have a girlfriend in Switzerland mailing the letters out from
there. It's well known that the Swiss Post service is one of
the world's most efficient.
So, as you read my Swiss stories you can arch up your brows like
mine do when a company here says they hadn't received my letter.