Getting Out Those Last-Minute Holiday Cards

You laggards who haven't yet sent your holiday cards, take heart. You can still get those cards in the mail before it's too late.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

Let me get this out of the way. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Ned and Ray, my brother, both sisters, and to you, mom. Madeleine, I haven't yet quite managed to get the cards out.

BRAND: Me neither. I'm thinking e-mail.

CHADWICK: Hmm. Well, that might work. Or you could listen to this next report from Karen Grigsby Bates.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: You've done it again, haven't you? Meant to send those holiday cards out right after Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and now, ooh, it's mid-December and look at you, cardless. Well, you're not alone. It always happens, even though holiday cards have been a tradition in America for more than 150 years.

Peter Hopkins is a historian at Crane, one of America's oldest stationery companies. Crane caters to the carriage trade, the well-to-do and socially prominent, the kind of people who have their holiday lists in mind well before, say, December 15th.

Mr. PETER HOPKINS (Crane and Company Stationery): Some people come as early as August with their orders for personalization, but being the type of people that we are, we tend to procrastinate, so the orders tend to pile up in December.

Mr. PAUL REYNOLDS (Consumer Reports): People really do seem to wait. Somehow it seems to be something that the season has to kick in and hit you and maybe you need to get that first card from somebody else to realize, oh yeah, yeah, I'm late; I've got to get these things done and get them out.

BATES: That's Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports magazine. Reynolds says cards featuring digital photos are the affordable answer for procrastinators, and they can be easily ordered from online Web sites.

Mr. REYNOLDS: We rated a number of them earlier this year, including Kodak Easyshare gallery, Shutterfly, Target photo center, and Yahoo photos, were among the top-rated and recommended sites for us.

BATES: You go to the Web site, upload your digital photo and follow instructions to make a one-sided greeting card with your family photo and a seasonal message. If you don't have a computer or you're not comfortable using one, Reynolds says, there's another option, often as close as the corner drugstore.

Mr. REYNOLDS: If you bring it into a store, generally speaking people will walk you through the process or they'll simply take your memory card that has the image on it and walk you through the process.

BATES: When you get these high-tech cards, forget the computerized labels, even if your handwriting is less than ideal. Crane's Peter Hopkins.

Mr. HOPKINS: Penmanship is really not an excuse not to write anything. This is a very special, personal time of the year.

BATES: So bite the bullet and hand-address those last-minute cards. And, Paul Reynolds warns, be prepared to pay a premium when your rush orders are shipped to you.

Mr. REYNOLDS: It'll start to escalate very quickly. You can easily pay 12, 15, $20 to get those same cards sent to you overnight.

BATES: Reynolds might have to pay extra himself this year.

Mr. REYNOLDS: My cards are not out. My wife and I have a drawing of winter that our oldest daughter did that we are making photocopies of and pasting onto cards. It's a very labor intensive process. It's probably crazy, but we were just so charmed with the picture that we did it. So as usual, we're going to be a little late.

BATES: Peter Hopkins did get his cards out, thanks to television and his wife's ingenuity.

Mr. HOPKINS: She said, Peter, you're going to write one holiday card for every time they turn on a flashlight in "CSI: Miami" tonight.

BATES: Huh. Works for cards and vodka shots? Who knew?

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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