Why I’ve (Sort of) Changed my Opinion on Thank You Cards

A couple of years ago, I wrote a lengthy, expletive-laced tirade about my distaste for thank you cards. In retrospect, the post was arguably one of the worst I’ve ever written for this blog — or any blog I’ve written for over the past 13 or so years. If you’re the type of person that likes getting made at someone on the internet for no reason, feel free to read that post and get mad at me. Even with improvements to the post after I realized that it was hot garbage, it’s still one I cringe while reading.

The strange thing is that I don’t even fully disagree with the primary point I was attempting to make in the post itself. Thank you cards are, as a concept, pretty annoying. Recipients don’t really want them, the sender doesn’t want to put the time into writing it and going to the post office, and the post office isn’t making much money1If any at all. off of a simple card. In general, I still see the thank you card as a flawed and ultimately poor way to show gratitude.

Notice how I specifically called out the thank you card in the last paragraph. This is because I think there’s a far better way to show gratitude to someone who has done something for us — a way that should become the cultural standard for how we handle saying thank you. It’s a way that’s been right under our noses the whole time. I’m speaking, of course, about the thank you email.

I can practically hear my millennial brethren cringing at that last suggestion. The email, the phone call, and the voicemail are becoming antiquated methods of communication among millennials and younger. A former co-worker of mine once2In early 2017. said that they don’t call any co-worker back who leaves them a voicemail because “if they didn’t find it important enough to IM me, it must not be important”. Throwing aside my own disagreements with that philosophy, I get where the person was coming from. Social media has created the need for instantaneous interaction and communication. To provide a delay from that makes the communication seem less valued, at least in part.

The problem with that logic, however, is that it can often take time, as well as careful wording, to show gratitude that seems genuine. That’s not to say you can’t thank someone with a quick “thanks” in passing. But since we live in an interconnected world where most interactions are not occurring face-to-face, most moments where we’re showing how grateful we are for someone’s help are conducted remotely and in real time. So how then do we set ourselves apart from everyone else also looking to show their thanks? Slow things down.

I’ve been on the job hunt for a little while now3As I mentioned in last week’s post, I tend to write these posts well in advance. This post, like the last one, was written in October. That said, I felt like gratitude and saying thank you was a good topic to discuss on Christmas Day., meaning I’ve filled out copious amounts of applications, received more rejection emails than I’d care to admit, and have attended a small handful of interviews. One thing I’ve tried my hardest to do is to write the recruiter, interviewer, or whomever I have contact information for a thank you email after every interview I have. I realize it’s small and, to this point, has meant very little in my job search. That said, I’ve found that my interactions with the hiring staff at the companies I’ve interacted with have been better than any I’ve experienced before.

I recognize it’s not a very deep thought to say “hey…you should be sending a thank you email to the people who interview you, even if you don’t get a job with them”. It’s pretty much interviewing 101. But at the same point in time, I don’t see people doing it that often — both from my own experiences as an interviewer, as well as from what I’ve heard being an interviewee myself. Therefore, in this one case, I think the concept of a thank you card must become more common, even if the literal thank you card itself is left in the sands of time for it.

Thank You Card? No Thank You.

There are many of the finer points of wedding planning that baffle me. I’ve had a bit of confusion over the purpose to groomsman/bridesmaid gifts, and have referenced the fact that I don’t particularly understand some of the formalities that weddings seem to breed. Despite all that, I’m largely tolerant enough of most wedding-related items that I get over it after I’ve had my few minutes1Or hours. of griping about not understanding why certain details are needed.

There is one item on the wedding agenda, however, that I don’t get. It’s not just a wedding item either. It’s a wasteful, pointless monstrosity that causes more damage to the environment than global warming, oil spills, and the copious amounts of glitter on prom dresses combined. I am, of course, talking about thank you cards.

Now before the manners police commits what would only be the third most egregious abuse of power by law enforcement in the USA in the last month2I can only assume this is still the case, regardless of when you read this post. YMMV., allow me to make a few points. I’m not against the concept of saying thank you. In fact, I firmly believe that saying please and thank you are so important that a law requiring their usage could become the 28th Amendment, and I would be first in line to sign that document. I’m also not against the greeting card industry as a whole. While I do find greeting cards to be a waste of time in general, there are some people who only keep in touch with their families via greeting cards and other frivolous, antiquated items. Coincidentally, when JoAnn Fabrics comes out with their new slogan “Home of All Your Frivolous, Antiquated Items”, remember you heard it here first.

What I see as unnecessary is not the existence of thank you cards, nor the premise of thanking someone for doing nice things for you. What I find unnecessary about them is one thing and one thing alone.

Why the hell are you wasting paper to tell me the exact same thing you told me twenty times at your actual wedding?3No really…

I get it. You’re grateful that people liked you enough to come to your wedding. Your guests took time out of their relaxing weekends to see you engage in your legally binding* nuptials, some of them potentially travelling great distances in order to do so. Those same people put on their Sunday BestTM clothing, made their way to a church4A building that many won’t enter outside of a wedding., and shared in your joy at your reception. If you’re lucky, women cried at the sight of your love and men showed enough restraint to not sleep with multiple bridesmaids in the same night. It was a beautiful thing that you’ll be talking about for years to come.

And you know what? You should talk about it for some time. It was your fucking wedding. Be happy that you got married. That’s great news. Some people who truly love each other can’t get married because the people who write and judge laws are frivolous, antiquated items5Hopefully this is only the case in the USA until June 2015, however I have very little faith in elderly Supreme Court justices and their ability to be progressive.. Rejoice in your bliss. Thank all of the people you want to during your wedding, in between the wedding and the reception, and at the reception itself. It’s what you should do. But don’t send a thank you card.

You’ve already thanked your guests an average of 17.8 times each by the end of the wedding night. You don’t need to say thank you again. We get it. You appreciate the fact that we didn’t give you chlamydia as your wedding present. There’s no need to thank us for that.

The worst part of it is that nearly every thank you card sounds exactly the same. Sure, the sentences may be in a slightly different order, and yes, there will be a couple of minor adjustments for sake of filling in names/gifts. But every thank you card will sound something like this:

Dearest Han and Leia,

Thank you for coming to our wedding! We were so happy that you were able to share in our happiest day! Derpino and I love the random gift from our registry you purchased for us. We will be sure to put your thoughtful gift to good use. We hope to see you soon and be sure to keep in touch!

Love,

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

Want to write this letter yourself? Here’s the template:

  1. Greet your guests as if they were Edwardian royalty
  2. Thank them for their attendance at the wedding
  3. Remind them you were happy they attended
  4. Express your love for the gift they purchased you. NOTE: You must describe the gift in as terrifyingly ridiculous detail as possible.
  5. Reassure your guest that their gift was the most important one
  6. Express a true (or fake) desire to see your guests again6Bonus points if one member of the newlyweds likes the guest in question, yet the other doesn’t.
  7. Love, The Happy Couple. It’s always love. Even if you haven’t seen your guest for twenty years, it’s love.

Of course, not everyone wants to write a thank you card. If I had my way, thank you cards would be written like this.

Hello Han and Leia,

Thank you for coming to our wedding and giving us a gift.

Regards,

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

How many things are wrong with the thank you note above? If the number you said is higher than zero, you’re wrong. IF there must be a thank you card sent out7Hint: There doesn’t., all the more that’s needed in the card is to thank your guests for coming and (if applicable) for giving you a gift. That’s it. No flowery bullshit about how you want to become closer with your second cousin twice-removed. No meticulous details about how much you loved the real Asian bamboo chopsticks that you won’t actually use after three months of marriage because you know how to use a fork. It’s simple, to the point, and conveys the exact same thing as the previous form letter.

Look, I know you want to express your gratitude for people coming to your wedding. That’s fine. But get to the fucking point in doing so. Either make your thank you cards completely personalized for each person you send one to, or go the complete other direction and send the one sentence card above. Don’t half-ass it and make your thank you card a form letter. Better yet, don’t make one at all.

However, if you must deliver a thank you card barrage on par with the bombing of Guernica upon your unsuspecting wedding guests, do me this one favor. Don’t buy your thank you cards from Hallmark and the like. Don’t buy your thank you cards from the hipster graphic designer who charges way too much for anything that can be remotely construed as whimsy. Don’t buy your thank you cards from anyone in between those levels either. Make them yourselves. And when you do — be sure to make them memorable by using the one font that angers oversensitive graphic designers, IT professionals, and fontifiles everywhere.

Do it for America. Or whatever country you live in. Just do it. It’s the right thing to do. Image credit: obeygiant.com

Author’s note: In this post’s original iteration written in January 2015, the post featured a paragraph that was admittedly fairly sexist how men and women write thank you cards. Sad paragraph was a failed, tasteless attempt at trying to be funny. I apologize.

I’ve chosen to keep the examples of the different ways the cards can be written, as a larger point is being illustrated with the two writing styles. That said, the sexist paragraph and the objectively antiquated gender roles referenced in the paragraph have been edited, once I re-realized when I had written8Edits took place in December 2017, mostly because despite the relatively high traffic it received historically, it’s a topic I talked about once and didn’t care about after that.. Apologies to anyone who might have been offended in reading the original post.