Thursday, December 11, 2008

The true meaning of Christmas: shameless advertising?

Something has been puzzling me the last few days and I've decided to bring it to you, dear readers, to help me sort it out.

A Christmas card came in the mail last week. I opened it and immediately assumed that it was sent by mistake since I had no idea who these people were. I checked the envelope, though, and my name and address were exactly correct. In other words, the card had reached its intended recipient: me.

But there was still the troubling issue of who these people were and why they were sending me their Christmas card. I kept trying to pass it off as a mistake. Maybe there was another person with my name in Tucson, or maybe they had my address for some reason but didn't mean to print a card for me. The more I thought about it, unfortunately, the less these theories made sense. There just isn't anyone else with my name in Tucson, and the second theory would still require that they know me somehow in order to have my address in the first place.

I even asked a friend to double-check and see if she somehow knew these people, in case they were from some wider social circle that I obviously hadn't paid attention to well enough (this family is Mormon but their address is not in our stake/larger congregational boundaries). Still no luck.

So I took a closer look at the message inside the card. And I slowly came to the sickening realization that I hope you can prove wrong: this is an advertisement. The people are real, the information in the card is real, but it is an advertisement veiled as a Christmas card. Take a look (I've removed the several paragraphs about their kids, though if this is an advertisement they don't deserve that consideration from a stranger):

The evidence in support of my theory:
1. Mentioning the husband's job change is one thing. Mentioning his job change, PLUS the name of the new partner, PLUS the name of the business is quite another.
2. Same goes for the wife. It's not just "her business expanded nationally," but "her business expanded nationally and is now known as blah blah blah." Very fishy.
3. Also fishy? The way she mentions celebrating the opening of an online business. I can't quite put my finger on why, but it just doesn't sound genuine to me.

The rest of the letter is about their kids. And that's what bothers me the most. Send out your pseudo-Christmas letter indiscriminately to strangers if you will, but leave your kids out of it.

As you can see, I think I've figured it out. But I wouldn't mind being proved wrong, or offered alternative theories. The question of how they got my address still remains. Jeremy has his own Mormon conspiracy theory, but I'll leave that to him to explain in the comments if he chooses. I refuse to ascribe a sinister motive to anyone without just cause. A stupid or careless motive, maybe, but not sinister.

What I will feel really, really bad about is if I do know these people and have somehow just completely forgotten them and then torn apart their Christmas card on the internet for all to see. I wouldn't put it past my sleep-deprived mind. Oh, how I hope that is not the case.


Lilianne said...

The more pressing question is WHY, oh, why does she have sunglasses on her head?!? Clearly, that is a studio shot with no sun in sight.

Chris said...

Man, that thing is TOTALLY an advertisement. I wish I got one. I would cherish it and turn it into an ornament. That is SO COOL. I tried to read through your considerate blocking, and I eventually found the scrapbooking website. It looks like the woman on the card really IS the co-founder of the company, and it is based in Tucson.
Maybe it is legit and they are just super tacky? I would feel much better if it was actually fake though.
I wonder if they sent it to a bunch of ward members through the roster. Doesn't it say not to do that on the bottom of all the rosters?

Kristen said...

The fact that it is an LDS family and they live in Tucson leads me to assume that they must either know you as an acquaintance, or, desiring to get that web address into as many hands as possible, sent it to any ward lists/school rosters they could get their hands on. If their name is on the card, can you check church stake or region rosters? I guess Miriam isn't enrolled in school yet right, so it wouldn't be that...Hm, this is as intriguing as they come!

Liz Johnson said...

Yeah, that just made me dry-heave. SERIOUSLY.

I agree with Chris/Kristen... they probably sent it out to as many ward lists and rosters as possible. And I love that you made the list of those they "consider dear." As in "Dear Bridget, please buy our crap." Wow.

OK, here's another thing that bugs me (I apologize in advance for inevitably offending somebody with this). Why do people mention their church callings in Christmas letters? That drives me nuts. "John was recently called as the Stake President and I am the Stake Young Women's President. We are very righteous. Please take note." Unless it is affecting some other part of your life, I just don't really see the point.

Bridget said...

Yeah, I thought the sunglasses were a nice touch.

Chris, the blocking of the business names was actually not an act of consideration. It was so that I didn't give them further advertising opportunities. Blast you for circumventing my attempts!

The thing is (for those who speak the lingo), they're not in our stake. They at least one, if not two, stakes over to the east. So unless there is some über-multi-stake list, that can't be where she got the info. Unless they hunted down other stake directories and then used them against the directions Chris mentioned. I don't even want to allow for that possibility, it's too low.

Liz is getting at some of what Jeremy thinks.

JackJen said...


Liz, you now have my permission to mock my impending christmas letter and my mention of my LDS calling. I included solely because I didn't want my life to appear as boring as it really is. =)



Suzanne Bubnash said...

Actually, I like hearing about how people are serving in their ward--and that--serving--is the attitude we should have, right?

We have lived in a number of different places and still keep in touch w/ people we may never see again, so once a year it's nice to catch up on their lives. As long as they don't go over the top on listing their smarts, awards, promotions, fancy vacations, etc. And we have received a few doozies that were full of it.

What struck me the funniest in this one is who is this woman who is "totally excited" about her role as Unit Commissioner?? Ugh.

Liz Johnson said...

Ooh, now I really want to hear Jeremy's theory.

Jeremy Palmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Palmer said...

I am not certain that what I have to say is a theory. It is my hope that these people simply confused Bridget with some other Bridget. I know that this is unlikely, but I feel that we can’t fully understand the situation without hearing about it from the horse’s mouth.

One thing that, in my opinion, is kosher to explore is the photo itself. For me, the sunglasses are puzzling. Perhaps she forgot to remove them for the photo and the photographer thought them to be an accessory. Why no footwear? To me that is weird. “Let’s go get our picture taken with no shoes on!” I suppose that could just be a Jeremy thing. I also disapprove of matching clothes in pictures. This is simply personal taste. I am happy, however, that there is no bale of hay in this shot.

If these people truly used church rosters then I am ashamed of them. The possible subterfuge involving the veiling of their marketing scheme as a Christmas card is very clever, yet unequivocally repulsive. I could say more but I understand that we all make mistakes. Perhaps they will realize their mistake and not do it again. Perhaps it was all a misunderstanding to begin with…though the cards may be stacked against those odds. I sincerely hope that this was all a mistake, in which case I would recant what I have written and apologize.

Bridget said...

Jeremy is too nice in public. The "theory" goes along with what Liz was saying - that the mentioning of the fact that she's Stake Primary President should make us all the more eager to embrace her burgeoning businesses, because she's righteous.

I have mixed feelings about mentioning one's church calling in a Christmas letter. If I know you well and you're mentioning it to honestly update me on the everyday details of your life, go for it. But maybe sometimes it's more appropriate to just say, "my calling is in the Primary." Especially when you're sending your advertisement/Christmas letter to strangers.

justin and jess said...

The very first thing I noticed when I looked at this was her sunglasses. At first I thought "Well it must be headband of some sorts because there is no way she really has sunglasses on her head in a professional photo shoot." But I was wrong. I guess when you are that cool, the sun is always shining (even in portrait session).

Liz Johnson said...

OK, I've been thinking about the whole "calling in the Christmas letter" thing and I've revised my opinion.

It isn't the mention of the calling that bugs me. I understand that, many times, a calling is a big part of a person's life and thus merits mentioning. I guess what bugs me is when people mention them as a form of bragging or using it to claim some weird social status or something. I guess the difference is the tone or context in which it's mentioned. Does that make any sense?

And if you're trying to use it to promote your own "trustworthiness" (like this woman seems to be doing), then I want to kick you in the shins.

JackJen said...

So, in reading the letter again, I think the one thing that jumped out at me THIS time was the first paragraph when they essentially said, "We went through a mental list of all the people we know in our heads, and you actually made the cut to get a Christmas card! Congratulations, you lucky ducky! As a lucky winner of this year's letter, you may now send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope in which we'll send you NEXT year's letter."

JackJen said...

p.s I went back and read our christmas letter and realized that I didn't even talk about MY calling. So that's sortof anticlimactic.

Julie said...

Bridget- funny enough, I also looked up the site and I knew (not well) the founder and cofounder of the company when I was growing up. Who knows if she really was sending the card as an advertisement (it is very possible) but I must say that I remember both girls as being very nice and not at all shamelessly tacky.

I whole-heartedly agree that it would be a poor choice of advertising methods, however.

I don't have any problem with people mentioning their callings, and doubt that anyone really lists their callings to brag. In fact, I think many people (myself included) just have no idea what to write on a Christmas card. I therefore just include what has been important to my life in the last year and for some people that includes a calling that took up substantial time or made a big impact. I think last year I might have mentioned my calling as organist just because I thought it was so much fun!

Amanda said...

I am probably opening up a whole new can of worms here, but...I got the exact same Christmas card! Why it was addressed only to me and not "The Perry Family" or "Keith & Amanda" was my first question, followed quickly by "Who the heck are these people?" I thought when she mentioned her new stake calling, she must be the new Stake Primary President in our stake and just sent it to everyone in Primary, sort of as an introduction. But you crushed that theory. I am really embarrassed for her if it was an advertisement because 1) that is pretty tacky 2) she picked a kooky picture of her husband with his eyes closed (would your spouse ever let that out in public?) and 3) counting complete strangers as those "dear to you" is just plain sad, does she not have any real friends?

Bridget said...

OK, the mystery is solved, in case any of you are still reading. I do not know her, but she is the new stake primary president in my stake. I don't know exactly how that works since I was correct that the address on the card is not in our stake.

I was going to delete this post but really, everything I said still holds true. I just wish she would have put a note at the bottom of the letter telling me who she was so I wouldn't have formed all these negative conclusions. Ah, well.

Kristen said...

Ah, I love the satisfaction of a good story resolved. Thanks.


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