I donít have customers. I have friends.

Yes, I have many customers on my mailing list. Like all businesses, I never have enough customers. Iím always looking to expand.

Unlike many businesses though, my customer list is more than a mailing list. Too many companies treat their customers like another asset. ďWhatís your customer number?Ē That really turns me off.

To tell you the truth, every one of my customers has a customer number. But you never see it on your invoices. The only reason I use customer numbers is for technical reasons. It helps me track invoices and order histories with my computer.

I choose not to give folks their customer number. Because when I answer the phone, I want to hear, ďThis is Bob Smith calling.Ē Thatís a heck of a lot friendlier than ďThis is customer #1134 calling.Ē Blah!

Some folks send me notes about the comments that I put into pricelists. Some folks tell me about their kids or grandkids. Some folks tell me when they are sick and havenít been able to order. And so on. Sometimes I feel like a philatelic doctor!

A good customer of mine recently wrote to me that his wife of many years passed away. I didnít know her personally. But I sent him a sympathy card. Why? It only cost a few dollars to buy an appropriate card. This person is a really good customer and Iím sure a card would let him know that Iím thinking about him at his time of loss. Stamps aside, this guy is a human being and he was hurting. Maybe my card eased the pain a little bit?

Iíd be lying to you if I said I wasnít a stamp dealer for the money. Yes, I make a profit from the stamps I sell. Thatís the whole point of being in business. However, this is more than just a business to me. I have philatelic friends and I help my friends fill holes in their collections.

Sometimes I give stuff away for free. Why? Because itís the right thing to do. I donít give stuff away all of the time. And I usually give stuff away to folks who donít even know it is coming.

I have a friend who recently underwent some surgery. He also had a stroke several years ago and weíve shared survivor stories (I had a stroke in 2009). Heís trying to be a stamp dealer for some time and Iíve been working with him and giving him advice.

Long story short, he sent me an email saying that he had to curtail future purchases because some medical bills came in. As luck would have it, I bought a collection and I did much better than expected on it. I had a small accumulation of some moderately priced early US material in it. I sent him the stamps and put a note in it. ďGo sell this stuff and maybe it will pay a few of those medical bills.Ē

You would have thought that I gave him a winning lottery ticket. He never saw it coming and he was so appreciative.

When I buy collections, there is always some amount of ordinary/inexpensive material lying around. This stuff is worth a few dollars at most and it usually ends up in one of my specials with other assorted items in a large box lot.

I took some of this stuff and sent it to a small group of guys that are in prison in TN. These guys have bought some stuff from me. Obviously, they donít have a ton of money while incarcerated.

It was like Christmas to those guys when they opened that package. Many collectors wouldnít think twice about these kinds of stamps. To them, it was like striking gold. And the price was right. They never saw it coming which is what makes it so great to do these kinds of things.

Another customer wanted a precancel on Scott #2130. There are two precancels: one in red and one in black. The Scott catalog lumps both under the ď2130aĒ variety. He asked for one copy. I sent him one of each. Cost to me: very little. But I went the extra mile for him because it was the right thing to do.

If you send me one of these standard pleas for ďSend me all of the free stuff you can,Ē Iím not likely to reply. But if youíre a customer of mine, you never know when you might get something free from me, however small it may be. Or you may get a card from me if youíre not feeling well or you recently lost a loved one.

I have many credit card moments. You hear about some of them in these pages. But at the end of the day, I have friends. Friends are more valuable than dollar bills. You canít buy these kinds of friends. They are friendships that spring up out of nowhere and last a long time. The sense of satisfaction knowing that you did something for someone and they appreciated it so much is beyond words. You canít put that in any bank.

Thank you for your business. But most of all, thank you for being a friend!