Gail Rosenblum
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In this season of goodwill and gargantuan shopping lists, a growing number of consumers might find something unique in their mailboxes. It’s small enough to fit into a stocking and distinctive enough to influence our future buying habits.

It is the thank-you note.

No, no. Not from the kids or grandkids, although I wish that were the case. These notes, often e-mailed but increasingly handwritten, are arriving from many of the services we hire and the stores we patronize.

“Thank you for your business!”

Quaint? Absolutely.

A powerful modern marketing tool? Oh, yes. That, too.

In a world of 24/7 consumerism, of massive shopping aisles devoid of employees to help us, of robocalls and 30-minute phone holds to get assistance, the personal thank-you note has become a 21st-century reminder that a real, live person is somewhere in the chain and grateful for our business.

Or, cynically, someone who at least understands that customer loyalty is built upon such throwback gratification.

One of my work colleagues was tickled recently to receive a thank-you note from his eye clinic — with five employee signatures: “Enjoy your new and improved vision!”

I regularly receive thank-you notes from my Realtor, my travel agent, women’s clothing boutiques, even a pub where we recently hosted a birthday party.

“Hopefully, you all had fun and things met your expectations!” (We did and they did.)

Help Scout, a Boston-based software company, suggests that businesses “go old school and handwrite a note to thank your customers. It’s surprising how rarely this proven way of showing gratitude is actually used. Can you remember the last time you received a handwritten thank-you card? You’ll make your customer’s day.”

“A lot of ‘old school’ is coming back,” agreed Sue Hawkes, a Minnetonka-based certified business coach, author and speaker.

“Young people are going to cloth diapers, whole foods. It’s back to the basics.”

That includes the thank-you note, she said. “A lot of that is just good manners, but you build relationships that way.”

The trend is pleasing validation to Charles G. Parten (charlesgparten.com), an Edina-based business adviser and coach in the United States and Canada. He’s been writing handwritten thank-you notes, on card stock no less, “for, gosh, 35 years or so.”

Parten estimates that he writes upward of 500 thank-you notes annually.

“I write, ‘Thank you so much’ for whatever has taken place,” he said. His daughters playfully tease him about his propensity to spend large chunks of each workweek “mailing things.”

“I keep the post office in business,” he admitted. “I’m not boasting, but I think I am unique,” noting that he rarely sees reciprocity in his own mailbox.

“I get very few personal notes in a year, although I get a lot of texts. I just think a personal touch has so much more impact.”

Michael Sciortino agrees that there is “simply no substitute for authentic, personal, human relationships. That’s what going back to the original thank-you note will do.”

He is author of a 2015 book, “Gratitude Marketing: How You Can Create Clients for Life by Using 33 Simple Secrets From Successful Financial Advisors.”

Thank-you notes are among his 33 secrets? Yep.

He suggests that businesses separate themselves from all the noise of commerce and handwrite three thank-you notes every day.

While an e-mailed thanks is “better than nothing, nothing replaces a handwritten thank-you note,” he said. “When I need a product or service, I ask, ‘Who took the time to care about me?’ ”

Hawkes also champions authenticity. She recalls one client who flew up to the Twin Cities for the recent launch of her book, “Chasing Perfection: Shattering the Illusion.”

The client later penned a two-page thanks on notebook paper “right out of school,” she said.

“I’ve referred a ton of people to him because of that.”

So, fellow shoppers: Thank you for your business.

Now, about those kids and grandkids. …

gail.rosenblum@startribune.com 612-673-7350 • Twitter: @grosenblum