Thursday, 9 June 2011

Your card's marked

Every February, millions of people quietly curse Hallmark. Those of us fortunate enough to be in a relationship resent the fact that we feel obligated to go out for dinner and pay over the odds to sit in a crowded restaurant full of desultory diners. 

We sit there, pushing carrot batons around a plate and making polite conversation with the people we see day-in, day-out, all because a publishing company contrived a clever way of flogging a bunch of extra greetings cards. And if you're not in a relationship? Well, it's another evening at home, wondering how high the pastry on a Fray Bentos pie will rise if you leave it in the oven long enough, all the while lamenting your crippling loneliness.

Our calendars are now littered with 'Hallmark Holidays', those uneventful events that we only acknowledge because someone in Kansas City managed to pair a cute poem with a picture of a rabbit in a plant pot. Inspired by the success of Valentine's Day, card manufacturers developed products to mark Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, Boss' Day and Secretary's Day. Hallmark denies that it's behind the creation of these pointless occasions, arguing "while we're honored that people so closely link the Hallmark name with celebrations and special occasions, we can't take credit for creating holidays."

Instead, they pride themselves in providing "consumers with the products they need to express themselves and enhance their relationships with family, friends and other important people in their lives." As their slogan says, "When you care enough to send the very best", carefully omitting the original pay-off: "...but can't be arsed saying it to their face."

It doesn't matter what you want to say, it seems there's a card that'll do the job for you. There's even a whole category devoted to what Hallmark calls 'Troubled relationships'. If you don't have the balls to say the four words no-one ever wants to hear (besides "Is it in yet?"), these cards will tell your oblivious other-half that "we need to talk".

Only, instead of calmly debating the issues and working towards a resolution, you can just spend a couple of quid and tuck a card that reads "I wish I could go back in time..." between the salt and pepper pots. By the time you get back from the pub, your significant other will either have packed up and left or thrown down a handful of pills. No mess no fuss, and all for the price of scratchcard.

Don't worry, Hallmark understands that modern relationships are complicated. So they've got Suzanne Berry, their senior lead writer, on the case. Her profile on the company's website says that she has a "keen interest in what makes relationships work even in difficult situations."

If she prides herself on authenticity, I look forward to the day when the range expands to include "Well I thought the Dutch oven was funny", "You and your sister look identical from behind" and "If you don't like it, I promise I'll stop". As Suzanne helpfully points out, “The best part of my job is knowing I have a chance to provide the right words at the right time to someone who needs them.” If she could just find a word that rhymes with 'threeway'.

No comments:

Post a Comment