Nothing says 'thank you' like someone else

July 17, 2005|By Susan Reimer

A COUPLE OF CLEVER stay-at-home mothers have found a tiny spot in the great, big world of free enterprise just big enough for them -- a thank-you-note-writing service.

Before you lament the decline of etiquette in the 21st century, consider the plight of the poor bride with a 250-person guest list, a job to return to after her honeymoon and an Aunt Sarah who is going to start hinting that neither she nor her friends received a thank-you as soon as the newlyweds get off the plane from Cancun.

That's where That's Gratitude comes in.

Company founders Chris Hagan of Perry Hall and Laura Kozak of Bel Air, friends from their previous lives in the world of health care marketing and communications, have four pre-schoolers between them and a residual itch to work.

"I was just sitting around with Chris and she said, 'How great would it be if you could hire someone to write all your thank-you notes,' " said Kozak, who worked on hers during her honeymoon.

"We knew we had a good idea. We decided to run with it."

The key to the service is its personal touches. Brides fill out brief forms that ask for information, such as, is it Grandma or Mr. & Mrs. Smith; did they drive far or not attend; did you love the gift or did you request it.

These details allow That's Gratitude's employees (with excellent penmanship) to produce a hand-written note that says something like:

"Dear Aunt Lu,

"Wow! What a thoughtful gift. We will treasure the quilt you made us and will think of you every time we use it. We are sorry that you weren't able to travel for our wedding. It was everything we dreamed it would be, but are eager now that it is over to settle into married life.

"Yours truly,

"Jen and John"

All 250 of these personalized notes are returned to the newlyweds in stamped and addressed envelopes, complete with return address, to be mailed from the couple's home zip code.

The cards are not sealed so the couple can proofread them before they go out.

"The only thing you have to do is lick the envelope," said Kozak.

Each card will cost about $5 -- more if you want That's Gratitude to design a special thank-you note for you or add a four-color picture of the bride and groom.

"We'll also handle your invitations, keep your RSVP lists, handle your showers," said Lauren. "Full service."

That's Gratitude will also handle the Christmas cards for the new couple, too, making sure that the same employee who wrote the thank-you notes does the cards, so the penmanship matches.

That's Gratitude has a business division, too, handling mailings and thank-yous for corporations and nonprofits with hundreds of clients.

"Every single person I've spoken to had the same reaction," said Hagan. "'Wow, what a great idea! Why didn't I think of it?'"

Everybody, that is, except the etiquette police. The partners know they are walking a fine line.

"Some of the experts say your friends and family can help you get your thank-yous done in a timely fashion," said Kozak.

"Consider us your friends."

But Elizabeth Howell, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, is having none of it.

"It is not OK," she said. "A gift requires a handwritten thank-you note from the intended recipient. If we want the gifts, we have to write the thank-yous."

A rare exception was made for the families of the victims of 9 / 11. Some received so many condolence notes that it would have been impossible for the bereaved to acknowledge them all.

"We encouraged them to get help from family and friends," said Howell.

But she doesn't have much sympathy for the bride with 500 people on her guest list.

"If they took the time to purchase the gift and wrap it and send it, the bride -- and the groom -- need to write those notes.

"And try to get them done within three months of the wedding."

"Our goal is the same," said Hagan. "A handwritten thank-you in a timely fashion.

"But with a few efficiencies."

This idea may send a few of the old Aunties to the fainting couch, but I found it inspiring.

I am thinking about starting a service for all those people who can't seem to get it together to respond to an invitation.

I am going to call my service "RSVPs 'R' Us."

For more information about That's Gratitude, visit www.thatsgratitude.com or call 443-921-8237.

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