I got a comment from a frustrated swapper saying she’s sent many swap items and only received two thank yous. It has made her want to stop swapping.
I’m feeling very bad about this, and it’s got me thinking about swap etiquette.
I’ve never explicitly stated that you must thank your partner for the items you receive, though I always encourage you to include your email address on your swap items in case your partner wants to thank you.
I know some people consistently send thank you emails. Those people feel a swap isn’t complete until all the thank you emails have been sent. But I know for sure there are people who get their stuff and love it, but never give it a second thought.
I know it because I fall into the latter camp more often than not. I’m not proud of it, and it’s not a conscious decision. It’s equal parts cluelessness, busy-ness, and distractability.
I’ve never really formed this into conscious thought before, but it’s easy for me to disregard the thank-you email for the following reasons:
1. I have a personal correspondence relationship with the sender, and I know I will eventually send something back. I always think I’m going to send something back within a week, but sometimes a few months will sneak by before I get to the bottom of my “respond” pile.
2. Since we are both lovers of snail mail, I think of email as “breaking the rules” and too “high tech” (and so I will reply in the US mail, but as mentioned above, this doesn’t always happen in a timely way)
3. A formal organized swap is like a contract. When I’ve sent and received all my items, I’ve fulfilled my contract and am not thinking about anything
I really don’t mean to be rude. That’s the cluelessness part.
Also - I’m not much of a scorekeeper. My correspondence system is rudimentary. I have an inbox and a storage box. Everything I get goes in the inbox. It doesn’t leave the inbox until I’ve answered it. Then it goes to the storage box (or on display). I don’t keep track of what I’ve sent to whom and when I’ve sent it. If I send something and don’t hear from the person, I’m not offended because I generally don’t even notice. My need to create is so powerful, and the joy of mailing is so rewarding, once the thing has left my hands I’ve moved on to the next wonderful thing. It’s almost a surprise when I hear back from someone.
Don’t get me wrong. I think thank yous are wonderful. It’s always gratifying to know your hard work has landed safely in appreciative hands. It’s always my intention to immediately acknowledge everything that comes through the mailbox.
But that’s where the busy-ness and distractibility comes in.
I get mail. I ooh and ahh and admire it. I think to myself “I love this so much, I’m going to send the person a special piece of mail as a thank you. A mere email isn’t enough. Real mail is so much better. I will sit right down tomorrow and make a postcard and pop it right in the mail to her.” And then all kinds of silly little things get in my way. Work, life, family. A new and exciting technique to try. A new swap deadline approaching. Before I know it, I’ve got unanswered mail going back 3 months. I feel dreadfully guilty. If I’d sent an email acknowledgement as soon as I received the piece, I might not get my reply in the mail any more quickly, but I wouldn’t feel quite so guilty about it.
I’m turning over a new leaf.
Because really, how hard is it to send an email? I don’t need to write a novel, detailing all the things I loved about the art. A quick message saying “I just wanted to let you know your card arrived safely in Massachusetts. Thank you so much!” is sufficient. I’m a fast typist. It might take 20 seconds.
Won’t you all please join me in this small show of appreciation?
When you receive your swap item in the mail, take that 20 seconds (or if you’re a hunt-and-peck kind of typist, 120 seconds) to let the sender know you received his or her work. If the item you receive doesn’t have an email address, you can leave a comment on the blog on the “received” page.
Everyone likes to be acknowledged.
Everyone likes to know that the MMSA system and the postal system is working.
Everyone likes to know the time and care they took to create an original piece of art was not done in vain.
Wow! what a lot of great discussion going on in the comments!
Thank you all for expressing your opinions so thoughtfully and respectfully and without judgement of others.
The beauty of this group is that it's casual. There is no membership required. You can pop in and out at will, and participate only in the things that are meaningful to you. I have no intention of changing any of that. We all have different needs, and get different things out of creating and swapping and online communities.
Keep those comments coming. After reading them all, I have a lot more understanding of why some people want/enjoy the follow up email and why some people don't. I don't wish to alienate anyone with a forced social-media component to the swaps. I think we will all continue to participate in the ways that make sense to us.
From what I've seen, there has been nothing but kindness, support and good will among swappers. I am always so delighted to go blog/flickr hopping and see so many MMSA swappers commenting and interacting and swapping beyond this blog.
Thank you all for being such a great community!!