Why greeting cards are a big waste of time

Published 10:09 am Friday, December 12, 2014

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“If it is a legitimately good deal, go ahead and order the Groupon,” I told my wife as she grabbed the credit card. A few keystrokes later and we had ordered our first Christmas cards as a married couple.

I didn’t really think too much about a Christmas card for our first year of marriage, but I don’t think Sera would have let the holiday come this year if we didn’t send out cards.

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I’ve never been a fan of cards. They’re the side salad before the main dish, and when they come in the mail without a gift, they become the main dish. There are several reasons why I don’t like the concept of greeting cards.

1. Cards can cost a lot of money! The average card costs between $2 and $4. Thankfully Sera nabbed this Groupon deal at something like 20 cents a card. When you add up how many people you plan on wishing “Merry Christmas” via snail mail, it can quickly become overwhelming at the average rate. American’s purchase approximately $6.5 billion greeting cards every year; that’s a lot of cash.

Who is buying all of these? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just give everyone the money you would have spent on their card instead of the card itself? You can send an e-mail with the heartfelt message you craft for free.

2. Nobody is writing heartfelt messages inside their greeting cards. Have you already received holiday cards this year? Was there a nice note written on the inside? I doubt it. The personal touch of mailing cards is gone.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has always handmade her cards no matter the occasion. This is a kind of card I can appreciate, as I’ve seen firsthand the work it takes to make them. The billions of cards that we purchase from the oversaturated card aisles throughout retailers may contain a message we sincerely mean, but when they’re written by someone else, it feels much less meaningful.

One of my favorite movies, “500 Days of Summer,” features a greeting card writer who finds himself unfulfilled with his job (note: that is not a synopsis of the film). Toward the end of the movie, the main character utters a very meaningful statement. “I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth.”

3. Another reason I don’t like the concept of greeting cards is that I never know what to do with them after I open them. Sera likes to hang them up on our refrigerator, but at one point should we take down the Thanksgiving card from last year? I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels bad throwing cards away, but I’m not sure why.

At work I have a drawer full of thank-you notes, which makes sense to keep because they are very personal. We saved a lot of our wedding cards for evidence at our immigration interview this past spring.

Sera took other cards from our nuptial and re-purposed them as artwork in frames. But what do we do with all the other cards we get? My system of leaving them on the kitchen island until Sera does something with them is working well for now, but I think a tutorial on her system for greeting card removal will be forthcoming.

Do you want to know what my friends and family received this year? No letter, just a card with our faces on one side and Beesly, our dog, on the other. Maybe one day I’ll be sending out my bestselling book featuring the best stories from this column. I’ll send it to a professional printer though, not something I snuck off the printer at my office late one night.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of sending greeting cards. In 2014, I believe there are just better ways for me to recognize special occasions. I do still appreciate getting them though, so dear friends and family, don’t feel bad about filling our mailbox this holiday season.

Unfortunately for my tastes, I’m sure Sera would like to make our card-sending an annual tradition. I’ll have my wife start checking Groupon daily for another great deal to use for next year in hopes of America spending only $6 billion next year.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.