Tyrades column: Do greeting cards face a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
Spending a rainy Saturday afternoon reminiscing over congratulatory keepsakes stored in the attic. Clutching vintage Valentines purchased at an estate sale. Sorting through all those shoeboxes of yellowing mementos in your late great-aunt Sadie’s House Where Time Stood Still.
(Mementos as in “reminders that great-aunt Sadie spent all your inheritance on mothballs”!)
I’m afraid future generations will encounter fewer and fewer such heart-warming experiences.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, sales of paper greeting cards have declined 13 percent in the past five years. An increasing number of people in all age groups are relying on ephemeral texts and social media to commemorate major milestones such as births, weddings, anniversaries, promotions, graduations, achieving just the right lighting for this week’s selfie with the Egg McMuffin, etc.
Small greeting card companies are running scared, and even industry leader Hallmark is slashing costs and refocusing its attention on internet business.
Many of the independent owners of Hallmark brick-and-mortar locations are closing up shop, as Hallmark brainstorms opening retail outlets inside venues such as hospitals and hardware stores. (Surely there will be a joint-venture musical card that plays “If I had a hammer … I’d fix your porch before you break the OTHER leg, knucklehead.”)
To its credit, the company is also overhauling its phone app to make it easier to buy and send personalized paper cards. But considering recent news about software glitches, don’t be surprised if they wind up killing trees just to send out messages like “Congratulations on your bar mitzvah — or winning the Iowa Democratic caucus. One of those. I think. Runner-up mitzvah?”
People are busy and cost-conscious and dealing with commitment issues. In 1944 Hallmark launched the “When you care enough to send the very best” slogan. Nowadays, consumers are more like “When you care enough to tell your 13-year-old to tell Alexa to send your best friend from college whatever kind of emoji conveys ‘Losing all your children, pets and limbs in a house fire has gotta be a bummer, man.’”
Ergonomics has become an issue. No one has the patience to get writer’s cramp scrawling mushy sentiments for snail-mailing cross-country. Not when they can spill all their innermost thoughts (and their credit card number) to some potbellied, bearded chatroom “hottie” in Russia.
People have gotten hooked on free news apps instead of newspapers and magazines and free streaming media in place of CDs and DVDs. It’s only natural that greeting cards also suffer the movement away from physical objects. According to a trusted pediatric journal, the leading cause of constipation in the United States is people stubbornly holding out for the invention of virtual toilet paper.
I fear for the welfare of those greeting-card writers who had been making a living digging deep into their souls to express lofty sentiments. (Granted, lofty sentiments that are often drowned out by Junior screaming, “Grandma forgot to put the check in the card — AGAIN. Can’t we put her in a home?” — but lofty sentiments, nonetheless.)
*Sigh* I feel a little poorer because of the passing of the golden age of greeting cards, but we have bigger things to worry about.
Like those giant mutant silverfish that built up an immunity to great-aunt Sadie’s mothballs. Our only hope: if Lacey Chabert or Candace Cameron Bure can hitch them to a sleigh in a Hallmark Channel movie.
Copyright 2020 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.
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