Filled with the Christmas spirit, I arrive at Hallmark.com. My mission: find the ideal card to send to my coworkers and other business folk who’ve made my work a delightful experience this year. My objective: a card that 1) conveys a warm and joyful, yet not overtly religious theme, 2) allows me to personalize the message so that it’s uniquely mine, and 3) is somehow related to coffee.

I’m delighted to report that I did find the perfect card. Unfortunately, I cannot link to it here… Hallmark.com employs a baffling system of web session management making it impossible to bookmark the site’s contents. I wonder, is this to annoy those who might try to merely link to a card rather than buy one?

Having found my ideal card, I was very pleased to find that, not only could I personalize its message, but I could also enter mailing addresses, and have the cards mailed directly to my recipients. Joy! No muss, no fuss, and no stamps! Mind you, there was a bit of a premium involved… $1.25 per card — plus postage. [A postage stamp is 37 cents now? Who knew?!] I press on…

Choose a message. Check.

Enter a signature. Check.

Add recipients. Now, it would have been nice to be able to upload a list of recipients. Nice, but not absolutely necessary. So I type in 14 names and postal addresses, click continue, and discover that there is a minimum order of 20 cards. 20? At a buck and a quarter a pop? [grumble] Check.

Choose stamps. Check.

Select a mailing date. Shit. Today is the 20th of December. The “first available” mailing date is December 25th. So now you tell me? I’ve chosen a card, and a message. I’ve entered 14 names and addresses! These are Christmas cards, and the soonest you can process the order is five days from now… Christmas Day?

Withholding critical information from your consumers is not a polite — or even a sensible — course of action. If I’d known up-front that it was too late to send my cards via Hallmark.com, I’d have chalked the experience up to my own procrastination. Instead, I was required to spend a fair amount of time and effort, only to learn too late that my efforts were futile. It’s no longer my issue… it’s Hallmark’s.

There’s a postscript to this story. This evening I found some delightfully tacky Christmas cards in my neighborhood drugstore. On sale. Between the cards and a felt-tip pen, I saved 25 bucks. Who to spend it on…?

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