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Why Folks Like Me Dont Buy Greeting Cards

Published in ChicagoNow, March 7, 2017

I went to my local Jewel to buy a Bar Mitzvah card. This has never been an issue in the past. The selection of greeting cards used to be reasonably diverse. The store still has a section for Asian, Latino, Jewish, and other ethnic foods. On a typical weekend, I see lots of people of color and Spanish speakers shopping there. But if they want to buy a greeting card these days, like me they will be out of luck.

My friends who celebrate Passover, have you ever received one of these?

In addition to not having a Bar Mitzvah card, there were no cards depicting people of color or in Spanish. The displays pictured above and below were a misguided effort to appear “diverse” by having cards for Passover and Saint Patrick’s Day. I can’t speak for my friends who celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, but I assured the clerk helping me look for the Bar Mitzvah card that no one I knew would send someone a Passover card.

It’s getting close to Saint Patrick’s Day but still lots of cards available


And then there are the prices. The most basic card costs $4.99. Add to that the price of postage and you are looking at $5.48 just to mail a card to someone. Since I can do the same thing via email or Facebook to acknowledge someone’s birthday, I am reluctant to buy a card for this purpose. Aside from the cost, it’s wasteful of paper and ink. Not so good for the environment.

I know the greeting card industry is not asking for my advice, but I‘m going to share it anyhow.

  • The only birthday cards most folks buy is to go with a gift, and they are not willing to spend $4.99 or more for this. Cards for children’s birthdays and milestone birthdays would probably still sell, but you need to cut the price in half.

  • People will still buy cards for bridal showers, weddings, First Communions, and Bar and Bat Mitzvot, as they often give money or gift cards for these occasions and need a card to hold it. They will also buy cards to thank people or express sympathy. Mother’s and Father’s Day and Valentine cards will still sell, and maybe Christmas or Hanukkah cards, although the trend is to post online greetings or send photo cards. But all of these cards need to be affordable and reflect the diversity of people’s families.

  • Here’s what will not sell for sure – cards for what we used to call “Hallmark holidays” commemorating things that folks don’t really celebrate like Administrative Professionals Day, Employee Appreciation Day, Brothers’ Day, Aunt and Uncle Day, Middle Child’s Day, and Good Neighbor Day to name a few.

Greeting cards are in trouble. I get that. But to raise the price and lower the diversity depicted in the cards people actually want to buy will continue the downward spiral. This is an industry that should rethink what it is doing and respond to the needs of consumers. Instead of embracing the diversity of its customers, the industry is trying to appear inclusive by “celebrating” a variety of occasions that are meaningless in people’s lives.


by Laurie Levy
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