An Awesome, Plain Text Email

My most recent post included a basic example of a plain text transactional email. I explained how even a simple email with your particular style could go a long way over something generic. Well, the message must have resonated, because one of our readers reached out that same day to share an example of a company doing exactly this... and doing it really well!

In turn, we were delighted enough to share this email with our own readers. So stick around, you might learn something!

(Funny) Business as Usual

The creator of this email gem is a small company called TopatoCo*: an online retailer for web comic merchandise. They sell t-shirts, books, artwork, and more for some of the best web comics out there (including some of my favorites, like Dresden Codak and Axe Cop.)

Let's take a look at the email they send their customers upon ordering some of this sweet merchandise:

From: TopatoCo Strategery and Support <>
Date: Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 2:24 PM
Subject: Someone is About to Get a Package From TopatoCo!
To: John Doe <>

And that someone is John Doe! John is about to get a package in the mail from TopatoCo, former juror-hypnotization consulting firm turned world famous webcomic merchandise distributor!

Basically we just wanted to let you know that your order 12345 has shipped and the tracking information follows (if available). Thank you so much!

Shipped on [shipping date] using [shipping method]: [tracking link]

If your package is destined for a distant, magical land it can take up to four weeks depending on how seriously the Customs Agent takes their job. We strongly urge you to familiarize yourself on any weird silliness your local mail delivery place might pull when receiving and delivering packages from the US Postal Service. USPS tracking is not available for international destinations (unless you paid for Express shipping), but all packages have Customs IDs that can sometimes be used to determine the approximate location of mischevious packages. 
If you need more information, please visit or write to Thanks for supporting independent artists on the Inter-Tubes of CyyyyberSpace! 

TopatoCo provides storefront and/or shipping services for the following independent creators. Learn more about them at 

Holly, Kaliis, Jeffrey, Lucid John, and Wolfman Green

"TopatoCo. We Used to Teach Lawyers How to Hypnotize Jurors."

Why We Like It

In no particular order but numbered nonetheless...

1) Real reply-to address

They've slapped their support address right on there, so if their customers have any question it's as easy as possible to get them noticed: just click reply! We've written about the no-reply address anti-pattern before, and it's refreshing to see someone doing it right.

2) Company name on the envelope

Though the letter is later signed by people, it's officially from "TopatoCo Strategery and Support". Perhaps a long name, but the company is the first word and that's what matters. Your customers will recognize your company name, not your CEO, or Head of Support, or Chief Cat Herder.

3) Curious subject line

It's just begging you to open it, isn't it?

4) Personalized with buyer's name and shipping details

Of course, John Doe's name and shipping details are dynamically injected into the template. It's transactional email 101, but there are still plenty of companies out there sending generic "thanks for your order!" notifications. The more custom detail you can get in there, the better.

5) Written by humans, signed by humans

The whole letter smacks of being hand-written, and it's signed by real people. Odds are, your customers are real people too! How inviting. I haven't confirmed this, but I'd bet their customers respond all the time just to say "thanks for being so awesome".

6) Funny, funny, funny

What's a web comic without some humor? This fits their market in a big way, but it also gets the reader through some pretty gory details regarding shipping minutiae. No one wants to read that stuff, but it's quite important for some! Making the content engaging straight through really helps soothe these "boring" details.

Keep It Simple

All that style and flavor, and not a single image or any fancy HTML. This should be easy, folks! But so many companies get it wrong that there's plenty of room for you to stand out. Most email users aren't expecting anything of note in their inbox today, so take the opportunity to hit them where they least expect it with a little extra delight.

* TopatoCo is not a customer of Mandrill, I just knew I had to write them up when I saw their email. They're a small company doing great things for independent artists, and they're nailing their transactional email along the way. What's not to like?

What companies have really caught you off guard in the inbox, recently?