TORONTO - Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that in this digital age of email and instant messaging you can still send an old-fashioned telegram.
And the owner of Telegrams Canada, Colin Stone, says demand for the old-school service is steady, with about 20,000 messages being sent through his company each year.
But before you consider penning one for fun, Stone admits the act of sending a telegram is pricey enough that he considers it a "luxury."
A traceable telegram of up to 100 words can be sent to someone in Canada or the U.S. by regular mail for $18.95. It takes two to four business days to arrive.
A hand-delivered telegram with faster delivery sent within Canada or to many other countries including England, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and the United Arab Emirates is $24.95 plus 99 cents per word. For some countries it's $44.95 to start and 99 cents per word to send a telegram there.
"It is expensive, there's no doubt it's more of a luxury item now, because it stands out, it's different," says Stone.
"Telegrams have this timeless appeal that people still latch onto. A telegram is something a person is actually going to keep in a shoebox and pull it out 20 years from now, they have it to keep."
It's still relatively common for some Canadians to receive telegrams from abroad announcing a wedding or a death in the family, says Stone, adding that the Italian market is responsible for a big chunk of his business.
"If someone gets married or someone dies you send a telegram, that's just what's done there, culturally that's what people do," he says.
"There are people who still send telegrams who have always sent them, because that's the way they do things, but there are also younger people who realize they can still send one — and you're not going to congratulate someone on their wedding by tweeting them in 140 characters."
He estimates his company sends a few thousand telegrams a year from within Canada, with many headed to the U.S., as a legal means to opt out of contracts, particularly for timeshare properties.
"Legally a lot of those contracts allow them to cancel by telegram, so they can put the telegram in at 11:59 p.m. and it's still going to be legally valid that they cancelled the contract before a midnight (deadline)," he says.
"It's the same effect as having your lawyer send a letter except you don't have to go through all of that and you can sent it at 11:59 at night."