By Robbin Gould
FMCA introduced a member benefit in 1980 that proved to be of particular interest to frequent travelers: the Mail Forwarding Service.
The January 1980 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine announced, “FMCA members are invited to use the association’s Mail Forwarding Address as their mail station while traveling.” The article also noted that this service “solves one of the major problems faced by many members by allowing them to receive mail regardless of their motorhome traveling schedule.”
Many members using the service over the years have voiced their appreciation for the convenience of having their mail delivered to them wherever they may be, and for the care and attention shown by FMCA mail forwarding personnel.
Although the staff receives high marks, occasionally they’ve been challenged by the delivery of something unconventional. Cindy Ackley, FMCA’s mail forwarding supervisor, recalled some of the more unusual items. One was a turkey, which showed up in simple packaging, with the staff unaware of its contents. When a funny smell began to permeate the mail forwarding area, employees searched for the source of the odor. They narrowed it down to the offending box, and that’s when they spied the words “Keep Frozen” written on it in very fine print.
Another time, a package for a member identified as “Fine Porcelain China” arrived. It happened to be a toilet.
“There was also the Christmas card that would not stop playing music, and we had to place it on the loading dock so we could get some relief,” Cindy said. “And the medium-size box a member said contained a birthday cake baked by an elderly relative. The member invited us to either eat the cake or discard it.”
The Mail Forwarding service currently is used by approximately 1,700 member families, who have their mail delivered to FMCA’s Round Bottom Road address; it is sent to them weekly to the address they provide.
Another member benefit that proved to be popular, the Emergency Message Service, was introduced in 1983. An article in the January issue that year noted, “FMCA members may now utilize the national office as a message bank.”
Frank Perry, L3500, proposed the idea of a message service at a 1982 Executive Committee meeting, based on a suggestion made by Warren Johnson, L9848. The Executive Committee unanimously accepted the proposal.
To use the new service, individuals were instructed to call FMCA via the “toll-free WATS line” and leave a message with a live receptionist. Messages were written on index cards and stored in a recipe-sized file box. When an FMCA member called the office to check whether any phone messages had been left for him or her, the receptionist would retrieve the appropriate index card and read the messages aloud. Members also could leave a message for their family members, who could call to check for an update from their traveling relatives.
In 1983 FMCA’s Emergency Message Service was transformed into a 24-hour answering system, with calls handled by an outside company after business hours, on weekends, and on holidays. The service was renamed the Traveler’s Message Service. In 1985 service hours were more limited, and FMCA office staff took over all the calls. In 1992 it became an automated voice mail system. As the call volume continued to increase, additional phone lines and updated computer software were installed.
In an article in the February 1996 issue of FMC describing the evolution of the message service, Bruce Holcomb, F54442, described a meeting the Finance and Management committees held with a communications consultant: “What shocked everyone present was to learn that FMCA has the largest and most unusual voice mail system in the world. No other system has provision for the subscriber (in our case, member) to open or close his message box at will, and at any time of the day, month, or year.”
Ironically, technology proved to be its undoing. The explosion of cell phone and e-mail usage rendered FMCA’s Traveler’s Message Service obsolete, and it was discontinued in December 2006.