Stroll into Alligator Soup at 9350 W. Sahara Ave. and don’t be surprised if one of the owners correctly identifies the part of the country from which you hail — based on the notecards you have in hand.
“If it’s on Crane, Sharon and I can guess that you must be from the East Coast, Chicago, San Francisco or the South,” says Helen Edell. She and Sharon Carelli have co-owned the full-service stationery and gift boutique for 31 years.
This past Christmas, according to Edell, the store did more business than in all prior years, with customers ordering holiday cards or bringing them in for addressing, stuffing and mailing. But even after the holiday rush of torn wrapping paper and thoughtful sentiments, there’s another reason to return to the store for tutoring in the art of paper: postholiday thank-you notes.
According to Peter Post, managing director at The Emily Post Institute and author of “Essential Manners for Men,” the first line of action is determining whether a thank-you note is needed. Those who thank someone personally when they open the gift in his or her presence — expressing their sincere gratitude — have technically done their duty, he says.
But, he adds, the thank-you note is a “well-appreciated” way of letting someone know that you really did like the gift. It’s also necessary if you haven’t thanked the person in person.
Nevertheless, view the thank-you note as an opportunity, rather than an obligation, he says.
“It’s an opportunity to reach out and touch somebody, and let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you,” he says. “And now it’s become something that’s OK and fun to do. The whole attitude changes. And that’s a good attitude adjustment.”
Then there’s the question of paper versus e-note. According to Post, emailing beats out doing nothing at all. But, “if you want to do the very best, I think handwriting is the way to go.”
“It becomes more of a gift in itself,” Edell says of the handwritten thank-you. “You really took the time to buy the stationery, to pick the pen you’re going to write with. But whatever you write on or write with, the main thing is, you write.”
“We have notes from years gone by, from our mothers who are now deceased,” Carelli says. “From my husband from years gone by, while I was dating him. Those notes become very precious. Email lacks that intimacy of receiving something in the mail just for you. Opening it up, just for you. And reading those words from someone’s heart to your heart.”
The paper versus e-note question may still light up generation gaps, says Edell, who cites all those grandparents frequenting the store, frustrated because their grandchildren don’t write thank-you notes. They buy stationery for the grandkids, she says, because they want to be acknowledged.
Post recommends sitting down a day or two after the holiday to write those notes. Optimum timing: Acknowledge holiday gifts before New Year’s Day, according to The Emily Post Institute website.
“It gets really easy to get to the 15th of January and the end of January, and then you’re starting to wonder, do I even dare send one now?” Post cautions.
While the task of sitting down and thinking of what to say can seem formidable, says Edell, key phrases and words can jump-start a note. The rest will flow, even if it’s brief. The Institute’s website recommendations also include writing to people as if you’re speaking to them; keeping the note brief and positive; and personalizing it with the gift and giver.
“Just write to people,” Edell urges. “Just pick up a pen and a piece of paper. Just once. They will never forget you.”