Cancer Cards and Greeting Cards Are Too Impersonal

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

Cancer CardThis morning, The Today Show had a report about greeting cards meant to be given to cancer patients. This is causing a stir, which was the point of the report.

Cards made especially for cancer patients are not a new concept; several websites exist that allow you to buy pre-made cards for those who have and had cancer. The controversy seems to be surrounding the mass-production of these cards by major companies like Hallmark (in the report, Hallmark is specifically singled out).

In the Today Show report, Steve Adubato argues that mass-produced greeting cards are too impersonal to give to cancer patients and survivors. He says that it doesn’t matter how ineloquent or awkward, as long as your sentiment comes from the heart - and from you – it will be well received.

I agree with Adubato, although I feel the same way about all greeting cards, not just the cancer-related ones. I know a lot of people like receiving greeting cards, and I don’t have a problem with that, but I’d just as soon receive no card at all. The same is true with giving; I’d rather give a card I made than buy one I settled on.

That’s really the key, I think: I have to settle for a card. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed a real decline in the quality of greeting cards over the past few years. Add to that the facts that what’s written in them aren’t your own words and that the exact same sentiment will be given to thousands of other people, and the whole business just leaves me feeling a bit cold. That goes extra for the cancer cards.

What do you think? Are greeting cards an acceptable way to express your feelings? Are cancer cards going too far?

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  1. I get the point of your comments and the report, but I think that sometimes some people just can’t make anymore of a gesture than a greeting card, and while homemade/self-designed cards are better the mass produced ones can still carry a message for care and concern. I like to think of it as that I may not have money or talent but I did take the time to read through dozens of cards to find one that best fit your and my personalities. I realize not everyone does that but I always do when I buy a card for someone.

    Now as far as cancer cards go, I think that the ones for people who were recently diagnosed is a little, umm, well, tacky I guess would be the word. But for survivors, I think it could be a positive memento for them. Like say they had anniversary cards like, “Yea, you’ve been in remission for 10 years!” If I had cancer I would like a reminder that my loved ones are keeping track of the years I continue to be with them. But I think something like that depends on the person receiving them, where as I don’t mind getting the mass produced things someone else might.

  2. I don’t mind getting store bought cards, as long as they aren’t sappy. I can’t stand those. As for cancer cards, I agree with Emily and Adubato: they’re a little tacky and impersonal.

    I also agree with you about the quality of store bought cards. The quality of them has gone down a lot in the past few years. It take me much longer to pick out a card than it used to because there just aren’t a lot of good ones out there.

  3. Actually, Mike and Emily, you guys always manage to find good cards for me (like the Coyote one and the talking hamster one).

  4. I forgot about the Coyote card, that one was awesome. But in my mind nothing will ever beat the pickle card.

  5. The best birthday card I’ve ever seen I found when I was in high school. It had a poorly photoshopped picture of a cat standing over a burning city (think Godzilla). The front of the card said, “That night, the city burned.” The inside said, “Happy birthday from me and the cat from Hell.”

  6. BC

    Hallmark’s job is to create quality heartfelt content for a range of consumers. Of all the corporate scum that is out there these days it becomes a little difficult to pick on one of the companies in the world that is doing good things for humanity (red card profits are donated to aids research). So really if there is a card that someone can send to a loved one when they just don’t have the right words of their own, what’s the harm? Your soapbox rant is a bit ridiculous.

  7. Hallmark’s job is to create quality heartfelt content for a range of consumers.

    If only there were actual quality to be found. Like I said, a decent pre-fab card is hard to find, and the best ones usually don’t carry Hallmark’s hallmark (you see what I did there?).

    …it becomes a little difficult to pick on one of the companies in the world that is doing good things for humanity.

    It could be argued (and I would take this position) that poorly-written, mass-produced sentiments don’t count as doing something good for humanity.

    when they just don’t have the right words of their own, what’s the harm?

    The harm is that we’re being trained that it’s acceptable to buy our way out of expressing genuine, heartfelt feelings for one another. Even if you put an hour into finding “just the right card,” it’s still less touching than a card you made yourself.

    For example: A while back, I went to a birthday party for a 2 year old. She loves Elmo. I could have bought her an Elmo card and she would have liked it, but instead, I drew Elmo on a card I made myself (and believe me, I can’t draw). All told, it probably took me about 2 hours.

    What did my effort get me? The child loved the card, as did her mother, who hung it on the fridge (where it stayed long after the birthday). Touching, personal, and from the heart. It also cost me less than buying a card would have.

    Your soapbox rant is a bit ridiculous.

    I have yet to see an affective counter-argument.

  8. BC

    the term “quality” is rather subjective, no? Quality formats? Quality design? Quality words? How about materials? Everybody has a unique aesthetic.

    While I Agee writing a personal message or making a sincere phone call would be my favorite method, a card can still be an honest and real way to connect.

    Hallmark hardly “trains” anybody to do anything. If the greeting card wasn’t a necessary tool for people who aren’t as ambitious or clever enough to make their own, the industry would be dead.

    I’m quite sure the two year old you’re reffering to was responding more to the licensed character elmo than wether or not you drew it. That’s another argument in it’s own right.

    An affective counter argument has been made you just don’t have the ability to see it.

  9. An affective counter argument has been made you just don’t have the ability to see it.

    And neither can I. His argument isn’t against greeting cards, it’s against the impersonal nature of store bought cards, as opposed to personalized ones made by the individual giving them.

    I can’t remember seeing you comment on here before. Do you work for Hallmark?

  10. BC

    …and my argument isn’t against handmade cards. It is that for many people who don’t feel comfortable enough to write their own sentiment or draw a crude elmo, store bought cards can be just as effective. Given that they’re carefully chosen by the sender.

    I don’t work for Hallmark, but will defend any privately owned American company that gives back to society and helps people connect in their relationships. As we’ve seen recently not many brand have had quite as much integrity.

  11. @BC – I’ll grant you that quality is a subjective term, although most people I talk to agree that it takes longer to find what they consider to be a “good” card than it used to.

    You seem to be confused about what I’m attacking here. I’m not going after Hallmark, but the entire greeting card industry, of which Hallmark happens to be the face.

    The industry definitely trains people to expect to give and receive cards; your own words are proof of that:

    If the greeting card wasn’t a necessary tool for people who aren’t as ambitious or clever enough to make their own…

    Make their own? Why a greeting card at all? Why not a phone call? Why not a letter? Why not tell them to their face? The industry promotes the idea that not only is it acceptable to express yourself with mediocre, mass-produced, impersonal sentiments, but if you don’t, you’re a lesser person for it.

    Crude as my Elmo may have been, it showed that I understood my audience and cared enough to take the time to craft something unique, made especially for her. And you know what? It received the desired reaction – from both the 2 year old and her mother.

    Your comment about defending “any privately owned American company” just shows how disparate your argument is. I have the ability to see any logical, well-made argument, and I’m not seeing one from you.

  12. Phil

    My favorite card shows the Lone Ranger in old age sitting in a rocking chair reading an Apache – English dictionary. He is muttering to himself, “Kemo Sabe…. Apache term for horse’s ass… What the hey!!” The caption below says, “Late in life, The Lone Ranger receives an unpleasant surprise.” From The Far Side if I remember right.

  13. It is a The Far Side comic. Did you know Gary Larson is from Tacoma?

  14. Chris Martin

    After my AML leukemia diagnosis three years ago, I loved every card I received. I still have them!!! I am so lucky to be alive, and I couldn’t have done it without friends and family. Every so often I go back and read those cards. It just so happens that Relay for Life is tonight. I so look forward to the “survivor walk” that I have yet another year of life and hope for more to come. Take all the cards and greetings you can get, and take the “not so good” words with a grain of salt and enjoy the intention.

  15. The Loan Consultants

    Below is a strange comment that was left on my Cancer Cards and Greeting Cards Are Too Impersonal post the other day. It’s quite clearly spam, but it’s kind of entertaining, so I’ve published it here for you to read…

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