My Hallmark Moment

The number of Americans filing for jobless aid rose to an eight-month high last week and productivity growth slowed in the first quarter, clouding the outlook for an economy that is struggling to gain speed.  May 5, 2011, Reuters

The number of unemployed persons, at 13.7 million, changed little in
April. The unemployment rate edged up from 8.8 to 9.0 percent…
May 6, 2011, BLS

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I arrived home from Walgreen’s a few nights ago with three Hallmark Mother’s Day cards. One for my mother, another for my mother-in-law, and one for my daughter (who became a mom for the first time two weeks ago). It had been a hectic day; it was late. I needed to get the cards in the mail asap. I was about to sign, stamp and address them when I remembered an email I’d gotten a few weeks ago from reader Carolyn:

The US government has done little or nothing to bring back jobs to American workers. It will be up to the citizens to vote with our dollars and buy products made in the USA. We can do this on Mothers’ day by only buying Mothers’ day cards made in the USA…Hallmark cards are now made in China. Today I emailed Hallmark to tell them I would buy their cards again when they are made in the USA again.

I’d responded to Carolyn, reassuring her that there were still quite a few USA-Made Hallmark cards out there. We consumers just needed to check the back of the cards before purchasing. Simple, right?

But we get busy: with jobs, with family, with life, and our best intentions are forgotten. So there I was at Walgreen’s at 10 PM, choosing my cards, not even looking at the back sides of them. Even after nearly five months of this project, I get tripped up by the simplest things (did you know that some Jell-O is made in Canada, and that Crest toothpaste is not made in the USA?). When I checked the backs of my purchased cards, all three said “Made in China.” No way.  I just wanted to throw in the towel and shuffle off to bed.  Then I thought of Carolyn and other readers, who’ve been at this much longer than I have. I thought of reader Kelly Bauer of Bauer Family Farms in Snelling, California. Kelly’s raising eight kids. She refuses to buy anything that’s not made in the USA. With Carolyn and Kelly and dozens of other readers in mind, I shoved the cards back into their little plastic bag. Off I went to Walgreen’s.

It didn’t take that long. I did find three other Hallmark cards. I’ll admit they weren’t my favorites. The ones made in China seemed to have more bells and whistles–ribbons, pop-outs, and even music. But they also tended to be more expensive. I brought my three new choices to the register. The young clerk–maybe college-aged–smiled. “You’re back already?” I hesitated at first, then decided to take the plunge. No one was waiting in line. I told her about my project. “Wait, Hallmark cards aren’t made here?” she said. “Really?” Then she looked on back of the cards I was returning. “That’s, like, amazing.” She returned the three, scanned the new three. “I owe you four dollars. You came out ahead. It pays not to buy Made in China!” We both laughed.

Increasingly, I’m letting sales clerks and fellow shoppers in on my Buy USA project. It’s good to get people discussing this. And I’ve never yet heard anything negative. One local gift store owner sighed and said “I wish there were more USA-made products to choose from. It’s so frustrating. What’s happening to us here in America?”

It’s sad to see that all of Hallmark’s ribbons, gift bags, and Christmas ornaments are now made in China. How many American jobs have been lost?

On May 15, 2008, pitch.com published Eric Barton’s Hallmark Cares Enough to Send the Very Best…Jobs to China. Through research and interviews with Hallmark employees, Barton traced the company’s gradual use of offshore manufacturing:

Hallmark has been outsourcing its workforce overseas for the past decade. A company that once was synonymous with Kansas City now has a shrinking local staff. Still owned by the Hall family, the private company doesn’t have to report layoffs. But according to a company spokeswoman, Hallmark has lost a quarter of its workforce since 1999.

Outsourcing and job cuts may seem normal for corporate America, but Hallmark founder Joyce Hall created his company with the idea of valuing his employees over all else. Hall protected every employee during hard times — even through the Great Depression — until he retired in 1966. The company mantra, still printed on cards and posters given to employees over the years, promises ‘That the people of Hallmark are our Company’s most valuable resource.’

All four of the employees at the table say they firmly believe that the Hall family would never deliberately cut jobs simply to drive up profits. It’s a common refrain at Hallmark, where the generous benefits program and the value on creativity have fashioned a largely loyal, if shrinking, workforce.

‘The Halls are the most genuine and trustworthy people,’ [one employee] says. She places her hand over her heart as she speaks. ‘I do not believe they would cut employees for profits.’

Fast forward April 14, 2009. Mark Fagan (LJWorld.com) writes:

Hallmark Cards announced Tuesday that it would be eliminating jobs at its production plants in Lawrence, Topeka and Leavenworth, part of an overall plan that could cut up to 750 jobs from the Kansas City, Mo.-based company… Hallmark plans to reduce the size of its U.S.-based work force, excluding subsidiaries, during the next six months by 6 percent to 8 percent — translating to 550 to 750 jobs out of the 9,200 full-time employees who work in Hallmark’s personal expressions business.

On March 10, 2011, kansascity.com reported:

Hallmark Cards Inc. reported Thursday that its consolidated net revenue rose 3 percent in 2010, to $4.1 billion, reflecting a turnaround from 2009.

All four of the company’s operating businesses had earnings growth over the prior year, the Kansas City-based company said today. Hallmark president Donald J. Hall Jr. said cost-cutting actions taken in 2009, coupled with new product introduction, sparked the revenue gains in the company’s 100th year of operation.

But has the privately held company lost its original purpose? This from hallmark.com:

“Though J.C. Hall became a wealthy man, profit was never foremost in his thoughts. In his autobiography, When You Care Enough, Hall wrote: ‘If a man goes into business with only the idea of making a lot of money, chances are he won’t. But if he puts service and quality first, the money will take care of itself. Producing a first-class product that is a real need is a much stronger motivation for success than getting rich.’”

Of course businesses are profit-driven. I get that. But what happens when profits are made in China instead of here? What happens when jobs are created over there, instead of over here? In his words above, Hallmark’s founder (who died in 1982) refused to put profits over “service.” In Barton’s piece, it’s clear that the senior Mr. Hall, a deeply ethical businessman, cared about his employees as well as the consumers who purchased his products. I believe he included them in the “service” category. That he, as an employer, wanted to serve his employees well. They, in turn, were devoted to the company.

But Hallmark has changed. I shouldn’t have to turn over cards and desperately search for Made in the USA. I’m having a Hallmark moment, and it’s not warm and fuzzy. Seems to me it’s time to switch to a corporation that’s committed to manufacturing here in the United States of America. Reader Carolyn–always helpful!–informs me that Cleveland, Ohio-based American Greetings still makes its cards in the USA. I’ll check into it. Hope so. Otherwise, it could be time to pull out the construction paper and scissors and make my own cards.

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6 Responses to My Hallmark Moment

  1. Bill says:

    Make sure to check the location of manufacture of the paper and the scissors

  2. Fran says:

    Thank you for your very interesting post. We too have felt frustration at not being able to find American-made goods, but have been encouraged by websites such as http://madeinamericastuff.com/. We have a business, http://www.aquinasandmore.com, which is 100% committed to not buying from China. That means that we can’t sell the “hallmark-y” type of merchandise which so many people want, like porcelain figures and many decorative items. From the beginning we have been committed to supporting small businesses, American if possible, and are always looking for others which produce quality religious products which are of interest to our clientele. We do buy some statuary from South America, South Korea and Italy, and we haven’t found any that is American-made. The other day we were in a store and saw the manager removing “made in China” stickers from the figures he was selling. It was an attempt to hide the fact that the junk comes from China. We spoke with him at length and suggested he start looking for other sources of merchandise. People are slowly getting the message, and people like you are helping to get the word out.

  3. Amy Arnaz says:

    Tina~
    If American Greeting Cards are not Made in America they should change their name to China Greeting Cards. I will look at the back of their cards next time I see a card stand. I hope my investigation puts a smile on my face. I’ll report back. ~ Amy Arnaz

  4. Amy Arnaz says:

    Tina~
    Just came back from our local Albertson’s grocery store where there are hundreds of American Greeting cards available. There were lots of Father’s Day and Graduation cards. Cards that are “Music & Sound Cards” from American (ha!) Greetings are all Made in China as well as any cards that are fancy (jeweled, glittered, etc.) The PLAIN cards by American Greetings, of which there were many, are mostly Made in America. But even some of the plain cards were Made in China. This made sad. We certainly have the technology in America to make Music & Sound Cards. After all, didn’t we send men to the Moon? Another heartbreak came when I returned home and looked at the back of a sparkly, pink, fancy shmancy card from Papyrus that I bought at Whole Foods Market. You guessed it… Made in China. I paid $5 for that card! I may be joining you in digging out my construction paper, pinking shears and rubber cement. ~ Amy Arnaz

  5. Carolyn says:

    I am still checking the backs of greeting cards. Amy is right about American Greeting cards making some of their products in China. I emailed American Greetings and they assured me that “Overall, 90% of our greeting cards are produced within the USA.” They need to hear from consumers about our preference for greeting cards and boxed Christmas cards made in the U.S.A. I may also be making my own cards.

  6. Carolyn says:

    Hi Tina: This week I stopped by my local Hallmark store to look at boxed Christmas cards. The vast majority of the 2011 Hallmark boxed Christmas cards are marked Made in China. The Hallmark UNICEF cards are still made in the USA. So it looks like I will be searching for Made in USA Christmas cards again this year. But this year I will start my search much earlier and report what I find to chinaatemy jeans.