With a few too many things left on her holiday to-do list last December, Katie Ashton decided to outsource her Christmas cards.
“I just thought, the cards are either not going to go this year, or you should pay more money and have someone do it for you,” says Ashton, a Chicago attorney and mother of two.
She turned the task over to Red Stamp, a Minneapolis-based Internet stationer. Ashton sent Red Stamp two photos and a contact list; the company designed, hand-addressed and mailed about 100 cards to her family and friends.
For those whose holiday wish is to simplify the holidays, outsourcing cards is a timesaving tool akin to shopping online or buying ready-to-serve turkey dinners at the grocery store.
But is sending Grandma a card that’s signed and sealed by someone else taking the quest for convenience a little too far?
“I wouldn’t like it to find out that I had been outsourced,” says Anna Post, author of Emily Post’s Wedding Parties (Collins, 2007) and great-great-granddaughter of the etiquette icon.
“The whole point to me of the personal correspondence is to take a little time to think about that person and what they mean to you,” Post says. “If you really want to send your love at the holidays, it’s really nice if you’re doing it.”
Red Stamp owner Erin Newkirk says it’s the sentiment, not the handwriting, that matters most.
Customers who want to include a personal message in a card tell the company what to write. Some even dictate the text for their thank-you notes.
“You still thought about it,” Newkirk says. “It’s just executed in a different way.”
Newkirk acknowledges that outsourcing cards isn’t for everyone. Shawn Herrin agrees. In December 2004, his Colorado Springs-based technology company launched SendHappy.com with the motto “Handwritten cards, all the love, none of the hassle.”
Herrin describes sales as “minimal” and plans to retool the Web site with a greater focus on business clients. He based that decision on feedback from family, friends and customers.
“While they love the convenience of it, they can’t get over that hump of, is this really the right thing to do?” says Herrin.
Outsourcing cards also will cost more than the do-it-yourself route.
Red Stamp customers pay between $2 and $5 per card, including postage.
For Ashton, however, the time saved was worth a fortune. “That was free time for me to spend with my kids or do a million other things,” she says.
She had her name printed on the cards. Other Red Stamp clients opt for handwritten signatures and select masculine or feminine penmanship.
In the end, it’s up to customers to know whether sending a card with unfamiliar handwriting or an unexpected postmark might offend a recipient, Newkirk says.
Ashton learned her lesson on another occasion.
She had Red Stamp send a handwritten thank-you note to someone who knows her penmanship all too well.
“My only negative experience was from my mother, who did not appreciate it,” Ashton says.