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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Adventures in Holiday Card Shopping

It's that time of year again, and again, nothing like waiting until almost the last minute to think about buying holiday cards, right? Well, it's not quite the last minute, but apparently many other people were leaps ahead of me as you'll find out in my story.

Last year, I started buying holiday cards with my name printed in them. It solved a dilemma I had--do I sign my full name or just Patti when I send cards to NYC? It seems kind of stupid to sign my full name. Why send cards to someone who doesn't know who Patti is? On the other hand, I like to send a card to people at my publisher who I might not have a lot of contact with throughout the year to thank them for their work on my book's behalf. If I knew the envelope was going to make it with the card to the person I was sending it to, they could check my return address label, but I can't be certain of that. So it seemed like a brilliant idea to get the cards preprinted with Patti O'Shea and then just sign Patti. Personal and yet it's clear who the card is from. :-)

Last year, I just went to the place I normally get my card/stationery stuff from and picked out a card and all was well. The problem, though, is that they have an extremely limited amount of cards to choose from and last year's choice was pretty much the only one I liked. There were no new styles added this year.

I did a quick search on the web, turned up sites that were charging $300-$2500 and more for cards--clearly targeted at big corporations--but I didn't take any time to delve further.

Then, last week, when I was over at my parents' house, my mom showed me a catalog she'd gotten from some wildlife charity. Not only were they selling card that could be printed, but the prices were less than $20 and there was a sale that made the cards I liked about $15. As soon as I got home, I went online and found more cards than were in the catalog and I liked a lot of them--which was a good thing because my first three choices were sold out. See why I say I was late ordering cards? My fourth choice, however, was available and I ordered. My confirmation note arrived and all was well.

Until three days later when I received the second email telling me my order was canceled because the cards I'd ordered were no longer available!

Last night, I decided I better get it in gear and find some darn cards since next week is Thanksgiving already. Again, I turned up the really expensive card sites geared toward big business, but I persisted and did find some places with moderately priced cards. There was one site with the best selection and prices that were about $8-10 lower than the other places I found. So after looking through 56 pages worth of cards, I made my choice and ordered.

Oh, if only it was that easy. I put in all my information, go through the process, and press the button to finalize my order. I get an error window--a pop-up--asking me to dial an 800 number because my order didn't go through although my credit card was charged.

Hmm. I immediately became suspicious. (I like to think of it as being internet savvy rather than having an overactive writer's imagination.) But after checking things out, I decided the odds were good it was legitimate. I dragged the phone over to the computer, pulled the caller ID box onto the floor (sigh), and dialed the number. It rang for a long time before it was picked up and I couldn't really understand what the guy said when he answered. He didn't sound like a professional phone order processor. My antenna were waving wildly as I tried to decide if this was some hacker scam. (And I was beginning to wonder if my holiday cards were cursed this year.)

We ran through what I wanted to order, what saying on the inside of the card, and the printing I wanted, then came the moment of truth--passing out my personal information including my credit card number. The guy had sounded nice and he had sounded professional as he took the information--wouldn't a scammer say something like they had what I was ordering from the incomplete web transaction and just go for the credit card info? I decided to risk it.

When I received the email from the guy I'd talked to in order to verify what I wanted, it turned out that I'd been talking to the owner of the company or maybe one of his sons. :-) What he was doing answering phones at 8:30 central time on a Friday night, I don't know, but I'd been right to trust this guy. (And it was a huge relief because I was sitting there, wondering if I'd been stupid when the email arrived.)

With a little luck, my holiday card curse has been broken and I won't be charged three times (I hit finalize order twice, plus my phone order) for a box of 25 cards. Keep your fingers crossed for me!