The Outside Rail

“Hi, I’m calling to order my calendars. I order them every year from you. You should know who I am and have all of my information.”

“I only need one this year. The person I bought the second one for passed away.”

“My mama drank tequila when she was pregnant with me, so I don’t hear so well. Can you speak up?”

“My friends owned some horses in California. I was their official jockey hugger. Now that was a good job.”

“Heyy, it’s Angelo. How ya been? Another year. I’m 85 this year and never thought I’d make it to 50. I need to order my calendars again this year. I’m not sure how many I need. Maybe 15. I’ll call you back when I figure it out. Does 2 o’clock work? I like to call after 2. People are back from lunch then.”

“Can you tell me when the Eclipse Awards are? I already ordered my calendar with you, but I need to know when to watch for the Eclipse Awards.”

“I can’t pay you until Fridy. I get paid on Fridy.”

“Is Effinex in the calendar?”

“I ordered a calendar in October and I still don’t have it. Why don’t I have it? I should have it by now, shouldn’t I?”

“I keep trying to order on the website and it asks me about the Paypal. I don’t have the Paypal.”

And on and on and on and on.

Over at ST, we don’t do much retail. Except this time of year. Calendar time. We make a wall calendar – officially it’s the Thoroughbred Racing Calendar and it’s been around since the 1980s, maybe earlier. It used to be connecte to a catalog, which we had nothing to do with. We’ve been involved since 2004 and the project is old-school, small business. We make the calendar, send out notices (by email and regular mail), take the orders, pack the calendars, ship the calendars, talk to people, talk to people, talk to people.

Did I mention we talk to people?

Our customers come back every year. They order online, by mail and by telephone. The calls are the best, and the worst. They come in bunches, waves, floods. They will give you ADD, carpal tunnel and a headache. Oddly, the phone will go hours without ringing and then ring 10 times in 10 minutes. We have two lines, and can't always keep up. 

Some customers are matter of fact (I’ve completed an order in 49 seconds – the all-time record). Some seem like long-lost relatives who call once a year just to chat – and, oh yeah, buy a calendar or two or two. The above-mentioned Angelo used to tend bar in New York City, “in the garment district.” He used to order 50 calendars with an ANGELO THE BARTENDER or ANGELO THE LAWN DOCTOR strip glued to the back, and hand them out to the regulars. I was always going to stop in the place for a drink and meet the man. Now he’s retired and he only orders 15 or so for his buddies. They used to be regulars at the OTB.

There are plenty we recognize by voice or name. Alice from West Point, Virginia not New York, asks us for Breeders’ Cup results and other racing information (we look it up, print it out and mail it with the calendar). Annie Weeden, who used to ride races, orders some for friends and catches up. Kaethy from Switzerland orders a bunch. We used to ship to two customers in Switzerland until I connected them. Now we only have to ship one package every year and they sort them out.

John lives in California but is as Irish as Guinness. I just missed him at Del Mar this year, though Sean met him at Santa Anita a few years back. If you’re a regular out there, he might have cashed your ticket. He needs his calendars early, to take them to Ireland for Christmas. I hope they make it in time.

Tony Cazz owns a The Rattlesnake bar in Boston. Or he did, I can’t remember. Anyway, he always orders. I sent him 50 for the bar's Kentucky Derby party one year. Same with the guy at the The Blind Lemon on Hatch Street in Cincinnati. Alfredo is a veterinarian in Mexico. Well, I think he is. He goes to the AAEP convention every year and gets us to send the calendars there. The convention was early this year because we missed it. He’s still getting the calendars, it’s just a bit more involved.

There are others. I’m always surprised at how many racing fans live in Massachusetts, Florida and in Zone 4 for you postage people (Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and so on). We sell calendars to people in Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, North Dakota, Nevada. I’ll have to see if we hit all 50 states. There’s a customer named Ava Gardner. I don’t think it’s her. I hope Malverne in St. Thomas made out OK in the hurricanes (great news, he called in December and placed his order – told me they are rebuilding and doing OK). A customer told me today that there was no hurry with the shipment because it’s bad luck to hang – or even open – a calendar before Jan. 1. Another guy always sends a flier for his Rhythm and Blues Cruise, which really sounds like fun. Taj Mahal usually plays.

People ask about old copies to complete collections. We have them back to 2004 and our cover horses have included Afleet Alex, Street Sense, the 2004 Arlington Million, Havre de Grace, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Bernardini and Barbaro (they shared), Wise Dan, California Chrome, American Pharoah and so on. The photos – by Barbara Livingston, Tod Marks and other masters – are treasures. Gun Runner graces the cover of the 2018 version. 

Smarter people (and better business people) would have figured out how to get out of the order taking or product fulfillment by now. Amazon could do this, right? Yes and no. We don’t sell that many calendars, or I don’t think we do. I signed up for a seller account this year, then saw it get disconnected for lack of use. We’ll see.

We also don’t have that many customers. And there is a certain marking of time. We talk to people once a year. They say hello, buy a calendar or two, talk about the weather (Kimo in Long Beach brags about the weather), ask about our business, marvel at horses past and present and get on with their lives.

Some know us because of The Saratoga Special. Some have no idea who we are. All are hooked on racing, or know someone who is.

We’ll be talking to them.

Editor’s Note: This was not a calendar solicitation, but if you’d like to order you can do so here or you can call (410) 392-5867 and say hello.

 

2018 Calendar