As always, Romancemama is out there scouring the web for encouraging examples of rejection letters that someone really regretted writing. Today, I’d like to take you back in time, to a world before faxes, cell phones, and answering machines — the long ago time before the telephone existed. Yes, children, there was a day when you couldn’t tweet to tell all your friends how bored you are, when you could not call Domino’s from your car so the pizza will get to your house at the same time you do, when you could not even dial a prayer. Believe it or not.
There was a thing called the telegraph. Like old-fashioned landline phones, the telegraph operated through a system of wires, strung from pole to pole all over this great land of ours. You could get a telegraph operator on your end to send a coded message to an operator where your recipient was. The message would be printed out and taken by messenger to the addressee. Very cumbersome, but better than sending messages by horse and rider.
But this guy named Alexander Graham Bell got an idea — what if, instead of coded words, you could actually send voices over the wires? Wow, what a great idea! So he worked it all out and eventually got it to work. Very sure of the wonderfulness of this invention, one of Al’s investors sent a proposal to Western Union, the largest telegraph company. After all, they had all the wiring and stuff in place; all they had to do was introduce the “telephone” to their customers.
Now, Western Union was one of the biggest, richest companies in America back in 1876, and they were the world expert on communications technology. They knew everything about communications technology, such as it existed back then.
So what did they say when they were offered this new invendtion at a bargain rate? Did they jump to sign Al and his “telephone” to a long term contract?
Well, this is referred to as a regrettable rejection for a reason, so you bright children have guessed already. NOPE.
The head of Western Union said: “The idea of installing ‘telephones’ in every city is idiotic… This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
Think of that the next time you send a telegram.
Umm, you do send telegrams, don’t you????
PS There is an unpleasant rumor floating around that Western Union had an ulterior motive — they were actually trying to develop their own telephone-like device, and thir rejection letter was in fact an attempt to discourage a potential competitior. So when you get a rejection, remember that there may be things going on behind the scenes that you don’t have even a hint of. It ain’t necessarily about how good your project is, but sometimes it is who you might be upstaging.