United States of Motherhood: Thank You-Schmank You: Let's Ban the Thank You Card

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thank You-Schmank You: Let's Ban the Thank You Card

Never was good with thank you cards. Never.

It wasn't something my mom really pushed when I was a kid.

My mother-in-law? She's old-school.

She ceaselessly hounded us for weeks to finish our wedding thank yous when in those same weeks I had a newborn, graduated from college, my husband went active duty, and we moved cross country to Missouri then moved cross country again to Alaska.

Excuses I know. They just were not a priority.

Now as a mother, I do try. Try miserably that is.

Yesterday we went looking in a box of party stuff for some pink sparklies from PB's birthday party from last year for a costume we are making.

Yes, the box, 12 months later, is still sitting in the office.

{{Shut up, I feel you judging me. Heh!}}

There we found some sparklies for her crazy hat... and a pile of half-written thank you notes.

Also in that box? Five loaded gift cards, 2 pairs earrings, a doll, a spa set, and the list goes on.

You see I made a rule to encourage us.

No using or playing with birthday gifts until all 25 notes were written.

How'd that work out for us? Hmmmm... I guess motivation was not enough.

For either of us.

Same rule applied to Eldest's birthday bash this summer. Still mostly unwritten and $200 in gift cards sits fallow on our island.

Here's the thing, we do evites and I hardly have half the mailing addresses anyways so it will be a major pain if he does actually finish hand writing them.

Seems too late. Maybe I want it to be too late.

Honestly? Is it just me or do thank you cards seem like a waste of time, paper, stamp, and pollution? Can't the party and party bag be thank you enough? Or perhaps an email?

Here's the thing: I hate getting mail. I glance at a beautiful thank you card and then cringe while I throw it in the trash when I get it.

I do the same for birthday cards.

It seems so decadent and wasteful in this age of clear cutting forests and global warming.

Of starving children and bloated bellies.

Of girls not having the basic sanitary napkins to go to school in Africa.

For us to throw away a card.

Christmas cards I understand because we at least display them for a month as decoration. Still? I sent our holiday letter electronically.

But a thank you card? It's discarded almost instantaneously, yes?

Then environmentally, was that 10 second read worth filling the landfills, the carbon-emitting mail truck, the cost, and yes, the time haranguing my daughter or son to hand write them?

I guess I see them as a waste when a simple email would be so much more responsible and appropriate and yes, in this day and age of over-scheduled families, easier.

Yes, I said it, easier.

Am I wrong?

I know older generations and old-schoolers will get out the sticks and rocks for this sentiment. They'll string me up, but I'd like their opinion as well as those from younger generations: Don't you think this throw back from a different age's time has passed?

I honestly think the push to keep it is from greeting card companies and elderly grandmothers with no email accounts. Just like the newspaper, perhaps the ink and paper version needs to fade away?

Truly, is it the paper, envelope, and stamp or the actual sentiment that counts?

I've had this idea in my brain for a while:

If we sent email thank yous, around $20 would be saved that I could donate instead to Heifer International or another charity. That's an entire flock of geese for a village. Seriously. A protein source for little bellies.

If you received such an electronic thank you with a note notating a donation to a worthy cause, would you be offended?

I am thinking for my sanity, the environment and for charity, we could start a movement.

Who is with me?

Thx for the Flickr pics by AllisonKo, by massdistraction, by paperladyinvites, by OkayMaybeNot


Sassmo said...

I hate writing them too, but some people expect them and are offended if you don't so I try to figure out who those people are and make sure they get them...

Michael Natkin said...

God yes. What a waste of time!

Alesia said...

I don't think showing your appreciation in a thoughtful handwritten note is a waste of time or energy. Someone has taken the care to give a gift and a written note is not too much to ask. It upsets me that taking the time to do things in a thoughtful manner are being left by the wayside these days. It is a valuable lesson to show children that we need to properly thank those who have shown their generosity. To send out impersonal, "I can't be bothered to take the minute out of my ever so important day" email is a very bad lesson for children.

If one really truly thinks about a gift and appreciates it, one would be moved to tell someone how they felt. I think that using the wasteful issue is a very slippery slope. Then we shouldn't use paper for so many other things and this just isn't a good excuse to not do what is nice and thoughtful. I know it sounds good, but it is just an excuse.

I can't get behind this and I'm a thirty three year old woman, not an old grandma. I think thanking someone with your personal human touch should not go out of style. It's sad to me.

Karen E - A.K.A. Beth said...

The last baby shower I went to was for my future daughter in law and it was at “her” mothers place. She does everything by the book and I couldn’t care less. During the tail end of the shower, after all the gifts had been passed around, she handed out the thank you card envelopes to everyone there to address to themselves. I am sitting there with my little plastic glass of wine from box, thinking, wouldn’t it be easier for my future daughter in law to just stand up and thank everyone for the gifts?? Do we all have to sit there and wait for the pen to be passed around so we can address our own thank you card? I passed on the whole thing, I know she liked the baby gifts and I know she was thankful. To this day I wonder how many of those cards actually got mailed, and the ones that did make it to the addressee, I am sure they are in the garbage by now. Who keeps thank-you cards? Go Green.

Brandi said...

I'm with you. I'll join your movement!

I'm big on thank you notes, but I don't think they need to be handwritten. We send handwritten ones to those who are not technologically savvy, but we do e-mail thank yous for everyone else. I make my kids actually put some thought into what they write (because there's nothing I hate more than a thank you note that just says "Thank you for the lovely gift." You know they pre-wrote them before they even got the gift.)

And if the gift giver is a close relative or friend, we also do thank you calls in addition to the e-mails.

Tendrils said...

LOL! lOve your post! Does this mean I don't have to send you a THANK YOU note for my Harry Potter books?!??! They came today! :) THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

JayInYoFace said...

I have never, and will never sit and write out thank you cards. When I do throw a party, after eating, pinata(if any), mingling and opening gifts, I simply stand where everyone can see me and thank everyone for their wonderful company and gifts!
I agree on many points, mainly about pollution and paper waste, but if you have the money, dont just donate when you're cutting corners.... DONATE WHENEVER YOU CAN.

"using the wasteful issue is a slippery slope"
It's not like she is forgoing paper all together, she is refusing to send out small thank you notes which are wasteful. Just like the paperless billing option, it is just another way to help our environment and any little thing helps!

By the way, are those over 12 month old gift cards still valid?

Ren said...

I think thank you notes for perfunctory gifts are generally unnecessary, unless you know that it is expected or very much appreciated by the individual. When someone goes out of their way to get something for you or do something for you, that's when a token of some sort is appropriate, be it a hand-written thank you note, flowers, or what-have-you.

Note that what I mean by perfunctory gifts above are typical gifts given in expected situations. An in-person or via-email "Thank You" for those seems quite sufficient.

That being said, we do make an effort to have our kids send thank you notes for birthday presents. Not for Christmas, though. Apparently, I'm a hypocrite. Or perhaps I'm just not in charge.... :-)

Ren said...

Oh, and I totally meant to add that you should spend gift cards as quickly as possible. It's too easy for them to become worthless when not used.

stellarize said...

i agree with you that thank you cards seem outdated. actually it's only been recently that ive even been interested in getting cards for anything. i think theyre a waste of time and just wasteful in general, especially when most of them are not me at all [i.e. cheesy, lame, etc].

sending an e-card instead seems a whole lot easier and explaining that you donated some money in place of sending a physical card sounds like a really awesome idea. i dont know how someone could get offended if you donated money instead..i mean it's definitely an admirable thing to do.

also it cracks me up that not being able to use the presents wasn't enough motivation to write the thank you cards.

Jules said...

I say e mailing or thanking people at the party is fine! I like the idea of donating the saved $ to a charity!

JamaGenie said...

Some "old" customs of politeness and civility should *never* die. How 'bout giving up a cell phone and donating that $$ to a charity each month????

Just sayin...

Hope said...

There are a few members of the family that we send a note of thanks to, but other than that, it's a phone call. I'm not a fan of email cards; they're easily forgettable. But I certainly don't get upset when I get one for my bday or a holiday. Unless it's from my grammy. I like to see her signature.

Spend those gift cards!!!

Jeanne Sager said...

I feel you honey! I hate doing them, and I hate getting cards (total waste of money - and trees!).

But I do think making kids do them is worth it just to have the appreciation value. I will admit I'm hurt when I do something for someone and there is 0 acknowledgment of it.

And if you want to go the e- route, it should be typed up by said kid, with an explanation for the people of WHY - a la, the "we saved a tree" or "we donated to X" answer.

Lori E said...

I am a genealogy researcher and do many trees for others. The stack of heartfelt thank you cards I have received from my clients are kept in my office and treasured. They have written the most beautiful messages in them. If I printed off an email message it just wouldn't be the same.

Do I think every gift requires a thank you card? No. I prefer to send them to people who have hosted a big party or done something special for me.

To stand and thank everyone at a birthday party is fine. You have opened the gifts there in front of the givers and can thank them.

For a wedding not everyone who gave a gift will be around when the gifts are opened. A thank you card or note is the right thing to do. If the gift came from out of town then of course you need to send a thank you so they know that you received it.

Every one is busy. That is not an excuse. It is usually the busiest people who get their thank yous out in a timely fashion.

Saving the environment? Pretty feeble excuse. Next time I will take a photo of what I would have bought you for your birthday and email it to you so we don't cause more environmental issues with the packaging and shipping of said items by actually buying it. This will also save me the gas I would have used driving from store to store to pick something special out for you. I'll just search Google images for the perfect gift.

Alex said...

I totally agree! I hate the pressure to send cards when I think nearly all are a waste of time, energy, resources etc. for exactly the same reasons you mention.

In my house we even refer to obligation as 'The Christmas Card Phenomenon'; giving/feeling the need to give because someone gave to you; not because you want to. and where do you stop if you have many relatives/co-workers?

I also can't stand it when people say 'oh, no don't get me anything' and then fall into apoplexy when you don't. Faux modesty is sickening!

Really, very few of us 'need' anything. The amount of seasonal waste is disgraceful. My family say 'lighten up', but I find it hard when I know the majority of the world's population subsist of around a dollar a day!

Anyway, ecards yes, even though I am aware of the impact of electronics, paper - no.

And yes, the money can be better used elsewhere: charity, buy a patch of forest, put it towards your kids education or something you actually 'need' or will truly enhance your life.

Wow, lapsed into rant mode there.

Ciao for now!

Dumblond said...

Ooo. Someone touched a nerve...Just another reason I love your blog posts. You get comments from every side of the issue.
I did not grow up sending out thank you cards for gifts. But for some reason, my mother insisted I do it for my high school graduation gifts...and then of course there were the thank you notes for our wedding...
I am lax when it comes to having my kids send thank you cards for birthdays. Unless someone went really out of their way or the gift was homemade or heartfelt, I just don't see how a note on top of my child (and myself) expressing our gratitude upon receiving and opening the gift.
I do think teaching our kids to be grateful and to express it is important but I don't believe in giving myself a headache to make sure that the gift giver is overwhelmed with my thanks...

Beki said...

I think that writing thank you's is a good idea. One, the kids have to go through the same torture we did as a kid ;) The other reason is common courtesy. It makes a person feel good when they are thanked for something they didn't have to do. A gift is a gift, not something you truly *have* to do. My last reason is letter writing is a dieing art form. Call me a grammar fascist if you will, but I think it helps prepare kids for "polite" society. Believe it or not one day they are going to need to have those good manners we have been trying to instill in them.

That being said, I personally have no problem sending out thank you's via email. A lot will depend on who I am sending the thank you too. I wouldn't email dear aunt Bessie. Mostly because she would consider it the height of rudeness. Grandma I would send an actual card to because she displays them on her fridge. My mom is weird that way. But to co-workers and friends, email is the way to go. If I want to get fancy schmancy, I will send a card from Care2.


Leslie said...

Ugh. Thank you cards. I have a stack waiting to be finished right now. I don't know. I definitely see the importance of showing gratitude for a gift. Still, are handwritten thank you notes always necessary? I don't think so - not if the sentiment is expressed in some way. It's the message, not the medium that counts. A thank you is a thank you.

Simbelmynë said...

Ban them. Ban them all!

The huge expanse of blank paper that's only 1% filled by the words Thank you, Love, Me.
The need to fill them with appropriate images...


MonsteRawr said...

I can't help but agree with Alesia, JamaGenie, and Lori E. I don't care how technologically savvy we get, nothing will ever take the place of a hand-written note. An e-mail can be copy and pasted or sent to multiple people, but when you see a note written in someone's own hand thanking you for your gift, you know that they were thinking specifically of you. If they were kind enough to send you a gift or do something nice for you, the least you can do is spent $5 and 5 minutes to jot them down a nice note.
(I also can't help but feel as if the "environmental" argument is just a means for justifying something that you don't want to do. Just saying...)

Anonymous said...

We are asked to look at almost everything these days from a feminist perspective. I mostly ignore this advice, as it is whack.

However, I DO apply it to thank you cards and other social niceties. I observe how often men engage in these practices and then - I act like a man! Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

So I agree with you, no thank you cards from me. :D


Amy said...

I'm with you! I never make my kids do it, and my mother-in-law is sure that some cousin I've never met -but knitted a blanket for my 3rd child - now hates me because she was never properly thanked.
I guess I'm just rude. Well, so be it. I'm sweet as can be to those I like! :)
This reason is more than enough for me to jump on the band wagon:
"Of girls not having the basic sanitary napkins to go to school in Africa."

mountainmama said...

Look, I think Ren nailed it when she said that there are certain occasions when a personal thank you note is absolutely the right way to acknowledge someone's kindness, but the rote writing of essentially meaningless little cards which end up filling bins and landfill and give me a bloody headache...oh, I'm sorry, am I starting a rant?

Leslie is also spot on when she points out that it is the medium, not the message, that is important. A genuine, heartfelt "thank you" with eye contact and some comment about the gift means much more to me than a piece of paper, however pretty.

Rajan said...

I love your post.....
but it doesn't mean that you have to send a Thankyou Card for it....
Sending Card is just like a formality....
I love your blog n have all respect for you....n its in my HEART which can't be sent.....lol
Rajan <3

Peachy said...

Alesia is 700% correct. Someone does something, gives something, thinks of you. How rude not to sit down and take a minute to think of them and their gift, and let them know you're doing so in a nmote they can actually keep and display for at least a few days. Good manners comprise thoughtfulness and consideration for people OTHER THAN OURSELVES. Jeez...

Anonymous said...

"and display for at least a few days."

And herein lies the key to the whole twisted panty puzzle. "Everyone is thankful to Meeee... I am the nicest person eeever... I do nice things for eeeveryone." Urgh.

It's a bit transparent IMO.


Manda said...

I couldn't agree more! My mother hounds me NONSTOP to write thank-yous. The guilt is ridiculous. I also do evites and wish I could just email my thank yous. But because I "can't" the list just sits there on my desk for ages. Because who has the time or energy to hand write all these notes, figure out the mailing addresses, and then stamp and actually mail them?Let's start a paperless movement, ok? I'm totally in.

*the captcha code here is evoidly. I'm thinking it's NO COINCIDENCE!!

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Thank You, THANK YOU Lil Sis!!!!

This ABSOLUTELY means we're not bad people for getting out 80% of our Wedding Gifts Thank You's from last Oct(Statue of Limitations expired at 12 months). The 20%? Thats the 20% that wouldve pitched a fit and not spoken to us/ disowned us without a Thank You card. (Thinking to myself?: Do I still have the receipt of the unused T.Y. cards??? Hmmmmm... That could be a donation?? ...or more likely Starbucks for a week?!)

I believe this lets lil Mo off the hook too from several years back too!!

BTW, think I thanked you and yours via e-mail? If not, the Cinema GC's were great! THANKS!! ..and it was totally awesome that ya all came down andd shared our day!

carrie said...

Personally, I love thank you cards - in whatever form. And I make my kids write them for gifts they receive when the person is not there to accept a heartfelt thank you. But I don't think any less of someone who chooses not to send them. It's just me.

But I LOATHE addressing my OWN thank you card! I think Emily Post would roll over in her grave if you asked her to do that! (She is dead, isn't she?)

Vange said...

I rarely receive thank you cards and when I do I like the feeling even though it is thrown pretty much straight away.

2 & half weeks before my first baby is due & I've started receiving wonderful & thoughtful gifts and I just want to show my appreciation by taking the time to write, address & mail thank you cards. Perhaps this is just reciprocating the gift giver's efforts in buying the present, wrapping it etc.

I think the fact that someone has taken the time - everyone is busy these days - & chose to spend a few minutes to thank someone through a card is extra special. Writing an email is quick & easy & less wasteful & still thoughtful but I think for some things, it's worth making the effort & writing a card.

Al_Pal said...

Wow, a lot of responses!

First off, I recycle paper, it doesn't go in the landfill!
But I am lucky and live in a very green city.

I think if you do put the money saved toward charity and say so, that is cool, but there are some people who really should get Thank You cards.

I addressed my own for a bridal shower. It was cool [I didn't have an issue with it]. :P

Amanda @ It's Blogworthy said...

Gosh I feel like cheering for this post! I hate thank you notes but I love thank yous. My son s first birthday was 2 weeks ago and I haven't written cards yet but for almost every single gift I've texted the giver a picture of my child playing with their gift and a thank you. How is that less personal thank a written card? I would rather get a heartfelt email or picture thank a pre printed thank you note mailed to me. I. Fact I would rather get nothing at all than have a thank you card with nothing actually written on it. As on gift giving it's the thought that counts. Really interesting post !

Krista said...

Ha ha, I think Amelia totally has it right, why does this expectation only seem to fall on women while the guys get a pass? I mean after a baby shower? Isn't it the guy's baby too??? ;)
I really do like the new trend from weddings of having a picture postcard printed and then writing your thank you on the back. For all my lovely friends (and my brother) I then enjoy displaying their wedding photo on my fridge or somewhere for quite awhile.
Basically, I think if you thank someone verbally, on the phone, or even by email, that is quite enough unless it is more than just a card (like a letter included).
I love to get "real" mail, but if it's just a signed card? Really, save your postage!
In this day and age when a phone call is basically cheaper than a card... call someone. Maybe call them more than once if it's someone like a grandparent!
My 3 cents...

Olivia Soet said...

This is my life right now. My mother and sister did my baby shower.. Hand made the thankyou cards and had everyone write there addresses on their own cards. It made me feel awful. I then got bullied into writing these painful stupid cards after I already thanked everyone to their faces... And I had to pay to mail them all when I am already sooo poor and struggling. Because God forbid I look ungrateful and embarrass my family. I HAtE THankyou cards. (Pregnancy rant)

Olivia Soet said...

Your sick! You need someone to hand write you a note to feel thanked for your gift? You know if it's a wedding they have to do that like 150 times!! I would seriously rather not receive a gift from someone like you... No one wants to sit and write that many cards in a certain amount of time as to not be seen as rude... No one. No one who sends these cards does it to show gratitude. They do it so they don't look bad. Lol can't you see that?

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