Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, May 30, 2005

No Laughing Matter

So I was in the store buying a birthday card just recently, unconsciously ignoring the 30% or so of all birthday cards which contain age jokes, when the part of my brain which I generally try to keep quiet roused itself and wondered, 'who buys all these age joke birthday cards anyway?1'.

Now I appreciate that there are times when you feel you should get a card but you also feel like you need some humour to keep an appropriate emotional distance, and I also appreciate that birthday card writers don't have much to go on other than the fact that someone is obviously having a birthday, which is a marker for tracking age, but still: Surely the volume of age joke related cards on the shelves is way out of proportion to the number of people who walk into a card store thinking, 'I know, I'll get a card that makes a joke about so and so getting old, it will be witty and I'm sure they'll appreciate it - plus it's so original!'?

I mean, even if the age-joke card had a trendy run once where they were avant-garde or fresh or whatever, surely by now the level of desire people have to receive/give age joke cards must have fallen well below 30% of all birthday cards - or maybe I'm just out of touch. Maybe people like age jokes more than I think. Maybe the alternatives are just so limited that age jokes are the best bet. Or maybe age jokes are just the kind of humour that never gets old.

1 And for those of you thinking, 'Just give it a few years buddy and you'll find out first hand who buys those age joke cards', I say a) ha ha and b) I'm not so sure; Even as I get old, I don't expect to receive many age joke cards from either friends or family. Therein lies the mystery. Either the greeting card companies are suffering a severe failure of market understanding or (more likely) some poor saps get huge numbers of these cards.

Afterthought: I wonder how much analysis greeting card companies do to determine what cards to put on the shelves. I assume they track each card individually, but what about categories of cards? Are there big bar graphs in some corner office somewhere showing the steady march of age-jokes to occupy a full third of the birthday card pie-chart? What are the sales trends of sympathetic vs. mocking cards over the last few decades I wonder. Are we getting more sarcastic/critical/honest as a society over time?

After-Afterthought: It may not be a total fluke that I ended up in a job analyzing data for a living.

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  • I only send humerous cards (not necessarily age related)because everything else is so schmaltzy my stomach wants to lose its contents on the spot :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:29 PM  

  • Whose birthday was it?

    By Blogger Spearin, at 6:56 PM  

  • doug - I feel your pain (or should I say, I smell your vomit). I find if I look hard enough I can sometimes find a decent sentiment which isn't over the top schmaltz - but it's never easy.

    spearin - 'Will it be' not 'was' - Let's just say its one where I couldn't get away with an age joke card even if I wanted to.

    By Blogger Declan, at 10:41 PM  

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