One Man’s Loss is Hallmark’s Gain


One man's loss is Hallmark's gain

A Hallmark job loss sympathy card. Inside it reads: “Think of it as a time-out between stupid bosses.” Photo: Hallmark


Picture this: a gray “unemployment office” sign looms above a line of farm animals dressed in suits, waiting to get in. A frowning piglet looks away from a barren brown skyline, down at his tiny feet,  “It’s hard to know what to say at a sensitive time like this,” reads a caption beneath the piglet.  “How about, I’m buying!” reads the line inside the card in bold black letters. This is a sample of what Hallmark refers to as “humorous” job loss cards, although few seem to find consolation amongst the farm animals.

Two years ago, Hallmark Cards launched a series of online and in-store sympathy greeting cards for the more than 14 million unemployed Americans across the country.

“There are six greeting cards which speak to job loss in Hallmark’s encouragement and humor lines,” says Hallmark representative Jaclyn M. Twidwell.  “The idea came from Hallmark shoppers who were asking for these cards to offer support to their friends or family going through a difficult time.”  The cards are part of the “Encouragement” and “Humor” lines and can generally be purchased at Hallmark Gold Crown Stores, although “they are taken off the shelves at this time of the year to make way for seasonal cards,” said Twidwell. “They are available online at; you can even personalize the messages. We then stamp and mail them directly to the recipient for you, not an e-card, but an actual paper card.”

As a private company, Hallmark exercises its right to refuse to supply financial information, and representatives would not comment on the sales figures for job loss cards.

“Hallmark cards are a picture of our current times,” reads the Hallmark website. But many feel that certain times are better left un-depicted.

Avis Brown, who works at Macy’s, leafed through a number of cards in the “sympathy” section of the Duane Reade Store at Penn Station on 34th Street. “I don’t find these cards appropriate,” she said of the job loss cards. “I have friends looking for jobs now, but I would not buy them a card like this. I don’t think they would be offended, because this is what the situation is, but I would never send them this.”


Inside: "How about, "I'm buying!" Photo: Hallmark

The unsympathetic bleached white walls, bright tungsten lights and staff of four that greets job seekers at the Millennium Personnel Corporation employment office located nearby, on 224 W. 30th St., certainly seem like a reflection of Hallmark’s unemployment office card, but for 24-year-old Justin Taylor sitting in the back of the room, there is very little humor in an unemployment office.

Justin is accompanying his brother Gregory, 27, unemployed actor and part-time worker, to the employment center. “If my brother gave me this card I would be upset,” he said. “I would laugh at first but then I would think, ‘wait a minute, I have no job,’ and then I’d be mad. Why give me a card? Give me money instead!”

Gregory, who has been unemployed for over two months, believes that his younger brother is taking “things too seriously.”

“If he gave it to me I would laugh and shrug it off,” Gregory said, “These Hallmark cards are for when people need motivation.”

“I am interning right now at a theatre company but trying to find work,” Gregory explained before admitting that his paid internship helped ease his feelings about being unemployed, “I have some money coming in but I can see how someone who isn’t would be mad by receiving this card,” he said.

Across town, sitting at the Occupy Wall Street protest, 28-year-old Sean Allingham had a very different opinion. “I haven’t really had a real job for a long time,” he explains. “I taught English in East Asia for many years but ever since I came back a couple of years ago, I have been living simply and taking odd jobs now and then. I worked as a landscaper during the summer and then at an apple orchard.”

In January of 2012, Allingham plans to move back to his hometown in Canada to begin a master’s degree at the University of Toronto and weather out what some economists predict will be a double-dip recession.

“I think they [job loss cards] are very tasteless, I send and receive a lot of cards but I hope the people I associate with will never send me these cards,” he said. “I wouldn’t be embarrassed of being unemployed, but I don’t like this…If I received a card like this I would throw it away regardless of who sent it.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Allingham belongs to the one million underemployed – also described by the BLS as the U6, or Discouraged Workers – who, given the inability to find full-time employment, have settled for part-time jobs and other revenue gathering activities. For this demographic group, the U.S. census bureau continues to predict a rise in unemployment. Until that happens, Allingham would prefer a “stupid boss,” and no greeting card, to no boss at all.