Business Letter Writing - Ordering Goods, Etc.

( Originally Published 1918 )

Necessity for Detail.—In no branch of business letter writing is definiteness and detail more necessary than in ordering goods. In no other branch are more things left unsaid that should have been said. No other branch is so fruitful of delay and unnecessary correspondence.

Of all letters these are the easiest to write and the most frequently incomplete. Where every order should be complete in itself, many simply contain a reference to some previous shipment, possibly made months ago, and ask to have it duplicated, without thought as to what trouble and delay it might create on the other end, nor whether old orders are preserved from one year to the other.

What Orders Should Contain.-(1) Shipping instructions; (2) quantity; (3) description of the goods; (4) catalogue reference by page and mark or number; (5) shipping date; (6) number of the order.

(1) The order usually begins with the shipping instructions, the first of which is the name and address of the consignee, if other than the person or firm ordering, and then the method, whether by mail, express or freight, and if by freight, by what route. If these instructions are given and not followed by the shipper, he is responsible in case of loss. If they are not given, the shipper may choose his own method of shipping and the route without liability by reason thereof.

(2) The quantity of the goods ordered should be definitely stated, as whether a dozen, a gross or any other quantity. Where single articles are ordered, they should be enumerated as "1 only." Figures should always be used to designate quantity.

(3) Where more than one article is embraced in an order, a separate line should be given to each. The description should be clear and concise so as to properly identify what is wanted, even if there should be an error in reference to catalog page or number. If size governs, it should be stated in figures. Color should always be given. Price should also be given, or where the price is not known, some price limits should be fixed, as "not exceeding $3 a doz."

(4) Where goods are selected from a catalog, the date or number of the catalog should be given, as well as the page on which the article appears and its catalog number, if the goods are thus marked. These serve to identify the goods still further and where such references are made, they indicate that the order is placed on the basis of the prices therein listed, any changes therefrom calling for correspondence between the parties in that regard.

(5) The shipping date should always be given, especially if the goods are to be held for later shipment. If there be any special, urgent need for the goods, the necessary date of arrival should be given, in order to protect the consignee in case of delay in making shipment and consequent arrival. Ordinarily where goods are wanted promptly, it is sufficient to simply state, "Ship at once."

(6) Most concerns serially number their orders which makes it easier to refer to them in subsequent correspondence. Where they are numbered, the number should be given.

Order Blanks.—Business houses do not trust the ordering of goods to letters, but use printed order blanks, made to conform to their purchasing requirements. Manufacturers, jobbers, wholesalers and mail order houses generally pro-vide order blanks for the use of their customers. Most stationery stores carry order blanks in book or pad form, and their use is preferable to a letter.

Remittance With Order.—Where an order comes from one with whom a credit account has not been opened, the amount of the order, if it can be ascertained, should be remitted and reference made to it. In such case as where the exact amount is not ascertainable in advance, a reason able proportion should accompany the order, coupled with the statement that the balance will be remitted on receipt of bill or the goods shipped with such balance C. O. D.

Copies of Orders: Good business dictates that a copy be retained of every order placed, whether by letter or on a printed form.

Order for Goods by Letter. Where goods are ordered by letter, the following should be the form :

Enter my order for the following goods to be shipped by freight (Penna. Ry., Ft. Wayne

1 only, mahogany rocker, No. 456...$35.00
6 Oak D. R. Chairs, No. 776, $8 each.. 48.00
1 only, mahogany floor lamp, No. 34. 15.00

Check being enclosed for $98.00

The catalog numbers and prices are taken from your April, 1921, catalog. If there has been any change in either goods or prices, kindly advise before making shipment.

Notes—The letter is brief but complete. If it had come from a regular customer on open account, the amount would not have been remitted, but following the shipping date would have been added "on your regular terms."

Acknowledgment of Orders

Promptness Required.--If promptness ever serves, it is in connection with the acknowledgment of an order. Under no circumstances let an acknowledgment wait. Attend to it the same day the order is received. It may be that there is something about the order that prevents its being shipped promptly, such as credit standing to be investigated. That does not excuse delay in sending the acknowledgment—it only makes it more important, for in such cases the acknowledgment is made the vehicle for carrying the re-quest for references, pre-payment or permission to ship collect.

Contents.—Where the order can be accepted, the acknowledgment should contain hearty thanks, reference to the customer's order number, the shipper's order number or date of the order for identification, reference to shipping instructions and their being complied with and a courteous closing, expressive of a desire to serve and of the confidence that the goods will be all or more than expected.

Effect of Acknowledgment. The acknowledgment of an order is an acceptance and ratification and makes a valid contract of purchase and sale out of what was in law nothing but an offer to buy.

Forms of Acknowledgment—The forms of acknowledgment vary according to the circumstances attending each case. There is a more elaborate form used in acknowledging the first order from a new customer than from a regular one. The size or importance of the order may also make a difference. Where it is used as a basis for seeking credit information or references, still another form is used. They will be given in order.

(a) First Order From a New Customer:

It was particularly gratifying to receive in this morning's mail your order No. 123 for our Supremacy Fountain Pens. We welcome you heartily to the ranks of those who are introducing to their trade this pen into whose perfecting we have put fifteen years of exacting work.

We note that your order calls for 6 doz. No. 3 pens; 2 doz. No. 4; 2 doz. No. 5, all long or regular sizes, and 1 doz. No. 3 and / doz. each Nos. 4 and 5 shorts, all in chased holders with gold clips on the longs only, amounting to one gross in the aggregate.

Shipment will be made not later than May 16, as you request, and according to your routing instructions.

We pledge you our fullest co-operation, standing ready to serve you in every way, with the utmost confidence that in our pens both you and your trade will find a measure of satisfaction long hoped but never before realized.

(b) Order From Regular Customer:

Accept our thanks and appreciation of your order No. 564 under date of June 3, for 3 Happy Monday Washing Machines, which will be entered for immediate shipment under our File No. 769 to which please refer should you have occasion to write regarding it.

We will follow your instructions as to extra parts on two of the machines.

(c) Order of Unusual Size:

It certainly did us good to receive your order No. 587 this morning, not only because it is the largest one we have ever received from you, but because it shows that your own sales force is now thoroughly sold on our goods and are working under the stimulus of conviction of merit that is a builder of business for us both.

Express to your men our appreciation of their efforts and assure them, and be assured yourselves, that we will not be unmindful of the obligation to render the utmost in value and service in this and all other business that may come from your organization.

The more power to you all!

(d) Orders as Basis for Credit References:

We have your order given to our representative and will be glad to have the opportunity of having your assistance in establishing our products among your customers.

We have not had the privilege of previous transactions with you and consequently have no basis upon which to establish terms on open account until we can secure the usual information and make the necessary investigation.

Should you be in urgent need of the goods, we hope that it will be entirely satisfactory to you to allow us to make the shipment and collect on delivery, and will be glad to have your reply to that effect in the enclosed stamped addressed envelope, or by phone, if you prefer. We are anxious that there shall be no delay in taking care of your needs.

We will also appreciate the names of a few concerns including some in our city, if there be any, with whom you have had transactions on open account and with whom we may communicate for information to complete our credit records. We know you will realize that this is a regular requirement in connection with business generally, and we hope we may have your co-operation in this in order that we may promptly be in a' position to extend to you the privileges of an open account.

(e) First Shipment With Draft Attached to B/L:

We are glad to advise you that your recent order has been passed for immediate shipment, and draft attached to bill of lading will go forward for collection through the First National Bank of your city, in accordance with permission from you on that account.

We thank you for your assistance in this respect which is of considerable advantage to us and enables us to have the benefit of your cooperation in supplying funds to protect your further needs as far as it is possible to do.

We also acknowledge with thanks the credit reference you gave us, and we have no question but that the replies will result in our being in a position to extend to you all open account advantages.

(f) Order Where Previous Account Unpaid:

We are pleased to acknowledge receipt of your recent order for additional goods and the same has been passed for immediate shipment, which we trust will reach you promptly.

On referring to our ledger we find the following account is still unsettled: (Give date, goods and amount).

This amount is over-due on the basis of our regular terms of 30 days from date of invoice. If the matter has been overlooked we trust you will give the settlement of this account such personal attention as is necessary to have check sent us as soon as possible if remittance is not already on the way.

We are obliged to ask for particular attention to settlements in order that we may secure the use of all available funds for purchases of raw material on a cash basis to provide for your further needs. So you see your remittances are at once reinvested for your account in the merchandising service we are rendering our customers.

As it is possible that remittance has been sent us and not reached our books for credit, we would thank you for advice to that effect so the matter may be investigated and proper credit given your account.

(g) Order Held Awaiting Payment of Previous Account:

It was gratifying to receive an additional order from you, but we note on reference to our ledger that the following account is overdue and unpaid: (Give date, goods and amount).

If settlement has been overlooked, we trust we will have your remittance by return mail, or advise as to why payment is delayed, so that we may give prompt attention to your order upon receipt of your reply. It may be that remittance is already on the way but has not yet reached our books.

We must depend upon. special attention to settlements within the 30 day period in accordance with our terms of sale, as it is necessary to secure the use of all available funds for purchases of raw material on a cash basis to protect our customers' needs—and that includes yours as well. In this way our customers can render us most valuable assistance and enable us to continue giving them satisfactory service.

Please let us have reply with remittance as requested in enclosed stamped addressed envelope.

P. S.: Please reply on the back of this letter in order that same may receive prompt attention by the proper department.

(h) Order Passed on Payment of Previous Account :

We are more than pleased to note the fine spirit of cooperation that prompted you to make remittance for your previous account, and we have passed your recent order for immediate shipment and trust the goods will arrive without delay and prove abundantly satisfactory.

If you could only sit at this end of the line and come to know what is involved in keeping all parts of a great organization running smoothly so that there might be no interruption in either production or service, you could begin to appreciate how welcome are prompt remittances in payment of accounts.

Post Card Acknowledgments.—A printed post card or mailing card may be used to acknowledge the ordinary, routine orders, the forms providing the proper blanks to be filled in. They should never be used if the order is of a private nature, or large or important or from a new customer. The form might be:

We are pleased to acknowledge your order No. — which will be filled and shipped according to your instructions, and under our No. -- to which please refer if correspondence is necessary.

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