The Evolution of Chatting

By Ernie Witham   |   June 6, 2019

Used to be that a chat was something you had over the backyard fence with your neighbor: “And then she said… and then he said… then they said…” 

Or maybe someone you ran into at the A&P: “Wow, that’s a lot of beer. Having the Elks Club over?”  

Or maybe with your new girlfriend’s dad: “Kid, we need to have a chat about my little girl whom I love more than all of my shotguns combined, which, like my little girl, are free of fingerprints. Understand?”

Today, most chats happen online: “Dude, next time we Skype can you, like, wear clothes?” 

Or: “It’s your mother. Are you still alive? Can I cancel the wake?” 

Or from Facebook: “Want to sell more books? Give us money and we will send emails to a bunch of random people who will be annoyed with you for weeks.” 

I’ve never been much for chatting. For one thing I grew up in New Hampshire, so I was more likely to see a moose over my back fence than a neighbor. Plus, even at the A&P I couldn’t afford to buy beer in bulk. And I only ever dated a girl until she wanted me to meet her dad.

But just recently I got an email from an online printer suggesting I check out their newly redesigned website. They offered cheap business cards. I had been thinking about getting some new cards since my old ones were completely out of date. Plus, they had started to yellow and curl a bit at the corners.

So, I went to the site, filled out a lot of info and then it wanted me to checkout. But I hadn’t uploaded any artwork. I tried it again. And again. Finally, I sent a chat to tell them their new site might need a tad bit of work. I got a return chat saying they would be happy to walk me through uploading online. It wasn’t too hard they said. People of all ages are doing it now.

Excuse me? I have been uploading artwork to printers for years. It’s way easier than driving to China to drop it off in person.

But, I thought maybe it was me, so I tried it again. This time I went to the checkout thinking maybe that’s when they wanted me to upload the artwork. Nope. But they had figured out my bill: $12.99 for the cards, $1.39 for tax and… $200 for shipping! I copied it and pasted it into another chat: “That seems a bit steep.” 

There was no return chat.

But now I was determined. So, I googled business cards online and picked one of the top 2,027 responses. In less than five minutes I had uploaded my artwork and ordered 500 cards. About $15 total – including shipping. I received follow-up emails to thank me for my order. Tell me my ship date. And recommend a plethora of other printed items from posters to coffee cups to personalized condoms – the perfect gift for an ex-girlfriend’s dad.

Last week, I got a well-sealed box in the mail from the printing company, opened it with the help of a butcher knife and pair of pliers, a little much for a package that weighed less than one pound, I thought. Inside were two small boxes. I opened one. It was full of totally blank business cards. I opened the second box – more totally blank business cards. Were they do-it-yourself business cards? I looked around to see if they had included a stencil and a box of Sharpies. No luck.

I went to the site and found the chat button. It said they were anxious to help me and I was now number 37 in the queue. I was tempted while waiting to order some of the coffee cups, but how many bare white coffee cups do you need? 

Finally, I had a chat with a guy. Told him, although it might be great fun to hand out totally blank business cards, I wasn’t sure it would do much for self-promotion.

“So sorry,” he chatted. “Your order came in while we were improving our system.” He promised to send a new batch right away. 

Can’t wait to see them. In the meantime, anyone want to chat?


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