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Mail order

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Mail order is a term which describes the buying of goods or services by mail delivery. The buyer places an order for the desired products with the merchant through some remote method such as through a telephone call. Then, the products are delivered to the customer. The products are typically delivered directly to an address supplied by the customer, such as a home address, but occasionaly the orders are delivered to a nearby retail location for the customer to pick up. Some merchants also allow the goods to be shipped directly to a third party consumer, which is an effective way to send a gift to an out-of-town recipient.

Aaron Montgomery Ward is credited with sending out the first mail order catalog in 1872 - for his Montgomery Ward mail order business. This first catalog was a single sheet of paper with a price list, 8 by 12 inches, showing the merchandise for sale and ordering instructions.

Over time, Montogomery Ward expanded their catalog, and they were joined in the business by other retailers such as Sears.

With the invention of the Internet, a company's website became the more usual way to order merchandise for delivery by mail, although the term "mail order" is not always used to describe the ordering of goods over the internet. It is more usual to refer to this as e-commerce or online shopping.

In the United States, an advantage of this type of shopping is that the merchant is typically not required by law to add sales tax to the price of the goods, unless they have a physical precense in the customers' state. There has been period discussion about ammending the law to make these sales taxable. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_order [May 2004]

Erotica as a booksellers' catalogue heading

Erotica (1854) is from Gk. neut. pl. of erotikos "amatory," from eros; originally a booksellers' catalogue heading. [like curiosa]
--Douglas Harper via http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=erotica&searchmode=none [May 2005]

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