Should corporate holiday cards be displayed with the others?

At this time of year, we get holiday cards from friends and relatives, though fewer each year since some are now choosing to send electronic versions. We usually place them on a sideboard until the holiday season is over. But there has been an increasing tendency for businesses to send cards to their customers and that poses the question of whether they should be accorded the same status as the others by being placed among them.

These cards have no personalized element at all, in that they are not signed by any particular individual in the company that we might know and have been dealing with and the institution may be an online bank and the only contact we have had is with the website. They are clearly being created from some database of the company’s customers. Since we are basically being greeted by a computer program, I feel that placing these cards with the others cards is somehow wrong and devalues the cards of those with whom one has a personal contact. But throwing them straight into the recycling bin seems ungracious too, so I am torn as to what to do

I should really stop wasting time by overthinking things like this …


  1. cartomancer says

    Option one would be to put the corporate cards at the back, so they’re mostly obscured by the family cards.
    Option two would be to find somewhere else to display them -- somewhere much less exposed to reflect their lower prominence.

  2. lanir says

    If you have a personal interaction with the employees of that business then that’s a bit different but otherwise… You should really just think of it as a particular style of junk mail. Paying attention to it is the reward the company is looking for, just as with any junk mail. You’re not being impolite by throwing them away (which I assume is the basis of the conflicting impulses you describe). That’s really beside the point for them. All they want to do is remind you that they’re there and hope you shop with them again soon. Standard marketing stuff. The presentation is just different because they know people pay more attention to these cards than they do normal mailers.

  3. blf says

    In the past I have returned such cards with an added short preprinted note, asking that in the future, in lieu of the gesture, to please make a donation to MSF (or AI or Greenpeace or SPLC or…). I have no memories of ever getting a reply, and since I didn’t even try to keep track (despite the numbers being quite small), I have no idea what, if any, influence / difference it made.

  4. kestrel says

    They work really well for starting fires. You know, it’s the holiday season blah blah, many people have a fire in the fireplace… Use the envelope, too. Great for starting fires in the fireplace.

    Thanks for spending money and sending them to me, corporations! Please send me more! I like fires, and it’s been really cold lately.

  5. StonedRanger says

    Lets see. You’ve just been addressed as uh,Clem by some computer or person you don’t know and will never probably meet and youre torn as to what to do with the card. Toss it.

  6. says

    I throw away corporate holiday cards; they’re not sent with any intent, and are inauthentic. Cards I get from my (few) friends, I display in my office for a while. If someone takes the time to think about something nice to say to me, that’s meaningful. But if someone hands an office assistant a .XLS full of addresses, and everyone gets a card and a pre-printed wish, I actually feel mildly insulted. It’s like they are saying “I care enough -- just barely -- that I want you to think I care. But not enough to actually go out of my way for you.” I feel the same way about facebook “friends” wishing me happy birthday: they wouldn’t know it was my birthday unless they got a reminder from facebook saying “click here to show Marcus (who you have otherwise completely forgotten) how much you care.” The answer is: it really does show how much they care.

    Here’s another weird way of looking at it: I respect much more cards that I receive at random, not associated with any birthday or holiday -- because they’re more likely to be authentic expressions than rote cultural kowtowing.

  7. John Morales says

    [I’ve deleted a comment about the purpose of these socially obligatory “holiday cards” and the need to display them somewhere, but be assured it was grinchy]

  8. chigau (違う) says

    If they sent a fridge magnet with a 2018 calendar, I’d display it.
    Otherwise, straight to the recycle bin.

  9. seachange says

    I don’t have a specific place on the tree for each ornament, it’s catch as catch can, so the idea of precedence of a decoration is odd to me. If cards are pretty, I treat them as ornamental and I stick them somewhere that would otherwise be ugly, like over the cat box. If they’re ugly, then they’re like any other junk mail.

    I say recycle them instead of trashing them. Some of them burn too hot or too toxic to use as kindling, and others just won’t burn.

  10. jayhawk says

    1) I am more insulted by my actual friends who send combined family photo/holiday cards with a printed message and are either not signed, or at most, signed by the spouse for the “whole” family, but lack anything of personal attention.
    2) I am not happy with my self-employed friend of 40 years who has grouped cards to family and friends with his business customers (#11 -- they are sent with a 2018 frig magnet). In his defense, I do not think he distinguishes people between customers and friends anymore. He sincerely considers all of his clients to be friends.
    3) In pre-internet days, a friend who owned a pizza restaurant sent a signed Christmas card to everyone who had written a check to the store. Customers often thanked him because he did not use it as an excuse to include coupons or advertising, only the signed card personally thanking them for their business and wishing them the best.

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