It seems the art of sending and getting greeting cards is a declining one, certainly insofar as customary paper manifestations. Hanging up fewer and fewer Christmas cards results in less decorative ambience than it once did.
I find that on-line access to services such as Hallmark e-cards (for a minimal annual fee) provides a key benefit missed by the traditional card, namely immediacy. Moreover, there are headings not easily or automatically found in the declining number and stock of card shops: how many Groundhog Day or Tax Day cards can we usually peruse? Further, there is a reasonably wide range of options within categories, frequently updated, with varying lengths and degrees of animation. The capacity to personalize compares favourably with a hard copy card, especially since there is a handwritten style option.
But it is the quickness in sending the message, or scheduling it to be sent early on a selected day – no hand delivery, or stamp for mail delivery, required – which really seals the advantage. Compounding the convenience is that one does not have to scrunch down or look around other people to check out selections; nor are store hours a limiting factor.
Another potential drawback of the printed card is that, unless using one blank inside, the message included often deflates the image or undercuts the tone on the front. Indeed, one wonders if some are written by frustrated poets, unenthusiastically seeking to supplement their meagre incomes.
It’s true that both traditional and on-line cards require a degree of plowing through trite or even jejune themes or wording; but at least the latter version has a dimension infused by their animation, which frequently obviates the need to add much personally. With the printed card, one compromises with a lower quality message, or tries to be creative with a blank edition, or keeps looking. Given the increasing expense and tedium of the sending experience, many people find that going the no-card-at-all route is increasingly appealing, without even necessarily exploring the on-line option.
There are, nevertheless, some important occasions which seem to remain better served by the more official, traditional card, such as for weddings and funerals. Something held in one’s hands feels like a more directly personal missive.
However, if printing cost efficiencies can be assuaged, there are possibilities in oft-overlooked niche markets for those who really need to ‘get the message’, such as:
- Reality show wannabees (Flaming chest hairs don’t equal ratings…)
- Eco-maniacal crusaders (A lot of trees go into your protest signs…)
- Spokespeople for unpopular or controversial causes (Your thousand words are not worth a picture…)
- Obnoxious service providers (Let me put you on hold for a multiple of two seconds…)
- Self-congratulatory public officials (Even the cell-phone camera doesn’t like you…)
- Inconsiderate pet owners (It’s your turn to try stepping on it…)
Such a list is limited only by practicality and one’s imagination.
Perhaps a group of diverse, but thematically related, subjects could be grouped into a series of collectible cards, like the graphic series many of us purchased and traded as youth. Seemingly ethereal or enigmatic subjects could be immortalized in the greeting cards format, existing long after an internet version has passed through ‘the cloud’. And, unless they are real, how can one ever truly lay one’s cards on the table?