There are few at Crane with more stationery experience than Mary-Kay Senecal. With 34 years under her belt at the company, she brings some serious know-how to all her roles. And there have been many. In her tenure to date she’s covered everything from proofreading and typesetting to supervising on the factory floor, to managing Customer Service. While her current day job is as Production Account Manager, she’s also earned the title of Crane’s resident etiquette expert and serves as the guiding voice for the many stationery etiquette and how-to questions that flow into Crane’s Concierge email. We sat down with her to talk tips, teamwork, and why she thinks more people are turning to handwritten notes when the message really counts.
Tell me about how you started at Crane?
I started at Crane in 1984 as a Typesetter/Proofreader, assuming the role of 2nd Shift supervisor 10 years later. After 4 years as a supervisor, I went on to manage Customer Service, Order Management, and other production areas for 15 years. Currently, I work with business development and sales as a management contact and production resource as well as serve as a liaison between Customer Service/Estimating and Production. I also oversee the Employee Suggestion program, organize employee and community events, and serve as the Crane Concierge responding to various stationery etiquette questions.
Tell me about your typical day.
I begin the day reviewing our daily orders to ensure all commitments are on track to ship on time. Throughout the day, I consult with production on any orders needing special attention and coordinate expedited delivery requests from Customer Service. I oversee a shop floor Expeditor who responds to order change requests and troubleshoots order production issues. I check the Concierge e-mail regularly and respond to etiquette questions. I am also involved with various committees and projects; so, I am on the go most of the day attending meetings and doing follow-up work. Staying busy doing a variety of things I really enjoy makes the day go by quickly!
You’ve performed many roles at Crane through your tenure here – what have been some of your favorites and why?
My favorite role has been my interactions and relationships with our customers that I have enjoyed over the years. Personalized stationery is a product attached to human emotion, which is both challenging and extremely satisfying at the same time. It is very rewarding just knowing that my efforts have contributed in some way to the customer experience of being delighted with a personal item that will be treasured throughout their lifetime.
Writing, language, and grammar have also been of interest to me. Responding to Concierge etiquette questions is very enjoyable and keeps me up to date with new trends.
Besides customer relations, I am involved with employee and community activities, which is a lot of fun and allows me to get to know everyone throughout the company. Really understanding what people do and what they value has resulted in effective collaborations and great teamwork at Crane Stationery!
You’re known as the in-house etiquette expert – What kinds of questions do you hear most frequently?
The most common questions we receive involve proper addressing of wedding envelopes (use of titles, etc.) and how the names of the parents, bride, groom, etc. should appear on the invitation in various situations (i.e. divorced parents, parents both hold a medical degree, etc.) Recently, we have received questions about what paper items should be included in a stationery wardrobe for either a man or a woman. This might be a good sign that people are starting to think more about personalized correspondence rather than an impersonal e-mail.
Funniest question you’ve ever gotten?
Two questions come to mind. The first question is one you would think is just common sense; so, it gave me a chuckle, perhaps because I have worked with stationery for so long. A woman received a gift of stationery flat cards with a motif printed at the top. She wanted to use the card to write back to her friend; but she didn’t know what side of the card to write on. Rest assured I was very pleasant in my explanation to write her message underneath the motif, not on the blank side.
The second question was from a woman who asked about how to word her step-daughter’s wedding invitation so that guests knew she and her husband were footing the bill and not his ex-wife. Of course, she was disappointed to learn that when following proper etiquette, “who is paying” never drives the wording on the formal invitation. Since she was so adamant and really wanted to put in a plug for herself, I suggested having their names (as the hosts) appear on the Reception card that was being enclosed with the invitation packet. I sure hope she followed this advice!
Ever get questions you didn’t know how to answer?
Questions regarding the proper form of address for members of the military, the clergy, or government officials for formal invitations, envelope addressing, or personal stationery vary between the branches of service, religious denominations, etc. For these questions, my best resource is Robert Hickey, author of Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, & Forms of address. Mr. Hickey is referenced in Crane’s Wedding Blue Book of etiquette as an expert consultant in this area.
What are you doing when you’re not at Crane?
For exercise, I like to powerwalk, go to the gym, bike ride, and hike with my friends. For entertainment, I enjoy live concerts, sporting events, sitting by a fire with good friends, and “Girls’ Weekends”. Beach vacations are my favorite; however, I recently returned from my first trip to Europe and absolutely loved it. I guess staying at a beach in Europe would be the perfect combination! For hobbies, I like to garden, go berry picking with my dad, bake, play word games, just to name a few. One thing I do both at home and at Crane, every chance I get, is to deliver a clever pun, usually answered by a few groans! The best response is a pun right back at me . . . Then the game begins!
Tell me about the most memorable letter you’ve ever received.
I have received many hand-written notes over the years; but the ones that mean the most come from someone whose heart you touched in an unexpected way. One of the most memorable letters I received was from a woman who worked for me many years ago. She came into work one morning and was very sad as her beloved pet was ill and she knew he would not make it much longer. I told her to leave, not worry about work, and go take care of things at home. Days later, she sent me the most touching hand-written note expressing how grateful she was for my understanding and urging to go home as she was able to be with her pet during his last hours, which she would have missed if she had stayed at work. To me, it was just something anyone would do for an employee; but to her, it meant much more. I have always held on to that letter. A personal hand-written heart-felt message is one of the best gifts anyone can receive.