Thursday, October 21, 2010

No, Thank You

I consider myself a child of the new millennium (even though I was born waayyy before the year 2000). I've adopted pretty much all forms of modern technology. I firmly believe that the laptop computer, word processing software and e-mail are the best inventions since indoor plumbing and almost equally as vital. Heck, I'd much much rather type up something on the computer than hand-write it. I get a cramp when I have to write absent-from-school notes for my kids. And I'd a thousand times over rather send an e-mail then make a phone call. I'm all about convenience and using the tools at our disposal to make our lives easier.

But I draw the line at E-Thank You notes.

My son recently attended a birthday party - invite issued via E-Vite of course. I actually have no problems with E-Vite because it's a nice way to see who else was invited to the party, who's going and who's not, which comes in very handy when you are trying to arrange carpools or to instruct your kids on how it is not polite to discuss invitations in front of others who might not have received them. I embrace the E-Vite.

But just today I got a thank-you note for the gift we gave via an E-Thank You Card issued through American Greetings electronic cards website. WTF?

Sure, the thank you card had a cute little animated doggy who barked at me. And sure, it's greener to send e-things instead of flesh-and-blood paper products because no trees were sacrificed nor landfills filled in thanking me for my gift (don't talk about the gift-wrapping used to wrap said gift).

But how much more impersonal can you get? The same E-Thank You Card was sent en masse to all of the kids who went to this party. It is in no way customized. "You" were thanked for "your gift" and "your attendance" at the party. "You" could have been a hoard of soldier ants and "your gift" could have been a bag of fake doggie poo or a brand new car.

I get it that the art of letter writing has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo bird. I'm guilty of that myself. I'd rather e-mail when I need to actually communicate with other human beings, and if I can't get away with that - ex: Holiday Cards - I will type up a generic letter, mass produce it, and send it out with perhaps a single line of personalization.

But I draw the line at mass-produced thank you notes. What a smack in the face to someone who took the time to think up an appropriate gift, drive about locating said gift and then wrap it all in an effort to make some else's special event, well, special.

My kids are always required to hand-write thank you cards. I cheat and give them a template written out that they can copy over and over - Dear So-and-So, Thank you for the X. I'm so glad you came to my party/I plan to spend the money on/I can't wait to see you... Your Friend... But at least they are required to spend some of their time sitting at the table, carefully penning out the note, putting it in an envelope, addressing it, and mailing it. They are demonstrating that they appreciate the time and effort that whoever took to get them a gift by giving back some of their own time to offer thanks.

What's even more amazing is that E-Thank You Cards are actually a full step below what I had once thought of as the rock-bottom, can-you-give-any-less-effort method of offering a Thank You short of not sending a note at all (don't get me started on people who don't acknowledge a gift at all, especially one that has been shipped and thus could ostensibly never arrive without anyone ever being the wiser). At one point, I was scandalized by the photocopied, generic "Thank you for coming to my party and for my gift" cards that we would get in the mail. And these were a full step down from the preprinted thank you cards that had a blank line to be filled in after the "Dear" and the "Thank you for" so you could sort-of customize them without having to actually do any real work. The fill-in-the-blank cards I could even excuse because usually they came from very small children who could manage to maybe write their own names, so this was as much as they could do and I can't ask for more than that. And at least with those cards you had to stuff the envelopes, address them, hunt up stamps and find an ever-more-endangered mailbox.

With E-Thank You Cards you're talking the thirty seconds to type up one message to cover everyone and his/her gift and another thirty to specify e-mail addresses and poof! you're finished. I truly cannot think of less effort needed short of sending out a blanket e-mail without even the fancy card facade. I'm sure that's coming around the corner soon.


While I embrace an age that allows me to watch 999,999 different movies and TV shows without ever having to get off of my couch (love my new Apple TV!!), there are definite drawbacks. I can accept a fat butt, but loss of the niceties of society should be one of them.

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