1902 Sears, Roebuck and Co. Letterhead - Cheapest Supply House on Earth
Sears, Roebuck Catalogue Introduction Letter
Attached inside the front cover of my 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue No. 112 was this two sided letter. The introduction letter which was made to appear typed is on a sheet of paper with the above letterhead. The letterhead features "Sears, Roebuck and Co., Cheapest Supply House on Earth". With several notable claims such as "Our Trade Reaches Around The World", "Our Mammoth Catalogue Contains Over 100,000 Illusrations and Quatations" and "We Sell Everything". Most of the content of the letter is a rather long winded attempt to explain why Sears, Roebuck and Co. charges 50 cents for their catalog. When "It is today and it has for all time been the custom for all catalogue houses, every kind of institution selling goods by mail order, to issue various catalogues and mail them postpaid to any address, either free on application or for a very small fraction of their cost." Below is the full text of the introduction letter both front and back. Even though the page was bound in the cataloge it doesn't feature a page number.
Author: John Reinhart
OUR LIBERAL C. O. D. SUBJECT TO EXAMINATION, PAY AFTER RECEIVED TERMS, ARE FULLY EXPLAINED ON PAGE 2.
OUR REFERENCES. SEE PAGES 12 AND 13 We refer by special permission to the National City Bank of New York, Capital and Surplus, $15,700,000.00 the Metropolitan National Bank and Corn Exchange National Bank of Chicago, combined capital and surplus, $8,000,000.00.
This big catalogue has been made so thoroughly complete in every department that it is intended to be used for ordering goods and for reference, season after season.
This one book, if preserved, can be used for sending us orders and for reference for several years, for it has been made thoroughly complete in every department. The prices quoted are the very lowest Chicago wholesale prices, with all advertising expense deducted. If you should order from this book two or three years hence, and there should be any reduction in price on the goods ordered by you, we will give you the benefit of the lower price and return the difference to you in cash.
It will not be necessary for you to send for any other catalogue or price list from any house, as this catalogue is complete in every department and quotes the lowest possible prices on everything.
Understand, as long as you preserve this catalogue you can use it either for reference or for sending orders to us, always with the understanding that the goods are guaranteed to be perfectly satisfactory to you or your money will be returned to you, and where any prices have been reduced you will get the benefit of the reduction without notice and the difference will be returned to you in cash.
We have departed from the long established rule, universally adopted by all other catalogue houses that sell goods from catalogues, circulars, booklets, samples or by mail order, and wholly in the interest of our customers and lower prices we are making a charge to cover the first cost of every catalogue we publish. It is today and it has for all time been the custom for all catalogue houses, every kind of institution selling goods by mail order, to issue various catalogues and mail them postpaid to any address, either free on application or for a very small fraction of their cost. The amount of money thus annually wasted in the vast amount of printed matter, in the thousands of tons of paper that are annually printed up into catalogues, the enormous amount of postage paid to circulate these catalogues into every one of the over 70,000 postoffices, the amount of money that is expended for all this that goes into the hands of people who never buy one penny's worth of goods, would reach a figure so large, so colossal as would stagger almost any buyer or seller.
All this expense, all this wasted advertising that goes to people who do not buy, is paid for by the people who do buy. Every penny expended in printed matter and postage is accounted for as an item of wasted advertising expense and added to the selling price of the goods, and when you buy an article from a catalogue or mail order house that supplies catalogues free or for a fraction of their cost, you will pay an extra price to cover a number of catalogues that have been mailed to people who never buy.
We believe it is time to discontinue asking our customers to pay us money for something they have never received. If we have sent out a large number of catalogues to people who have never bought from us, we do not believe we have any right to charge you any part of the expense by adding it to the selling price of the goods you order from us.
This catalogue costs us money the same as our merchandise costs us money, and if a party wishes our catalogue, the only way we can furnish it to him in fairness to our customers is to ask him to pay us the cost price of the book; then if he never buys from us we are not the loser; but by reason of his having paid for the catalogue, we have not been compelled to add any catalogue advertising expense to our selling price, and he can buy from us at a much lower price than he can buy from any other house.
Then our old customers who buy from us regularly season after season will have no reason to complain of our going to a big expense to furnish catalogues free or for a fraction of their cost to people who do not buy, and adding this expense to oujr selling prices. Under our system it has all been deducted.
The prices quoted in this catalogue are for the cost of the goods bought in large quantities for cash, our economical handling expense and our one small percentage of profit added, but not one penny for wasted catalogue circulation.
We do not compete with other houses on the price of catalogues, no more do other houses attempt to compete with us on the prices we make on merchandise.
We accept all orders with the understanding that if any goods ordered from us are not perfectly satisfactory when received they can be returned to us at our expense, and we will immediately return your money together with any freight or express charges you may have paid. We make you perfectly secure and sell to you at much lower prices than any other house. In order to do this we must get paid for our catalogues, we must ask our customers to send no order amounting to less than 50 cents, and by getting pay for our catalogues and filling no small orders under 50 cents, we make a big saving and we give you the benefit of every penny saved in the incomparably low prices quoted in this book.
In presenting this catalogue, we wish to warn our customers against impostors, who, knowing we make the lowest prices of any house in the world, travel about the country claiming to represent us, soliciting orders and collecting money. All such people are frauds and should be treated as such, for there is no one outside of our store, either in Chicago or elsewhere, who is authorised to solicit an order or collect one dollar for our account.
On the basis of far more value for your money than you can get elsewhere, made possible by our getting paid for our catalogues, thereby saving the great waste incurred by the old time methods and deducting this expense from our selling prices, we earnestly speak for your trade.
Yours very truly,
SEARS, ROEBUCK & CO,
Source: 1902 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue No. 112