30 January 2018


Post festive thanks for gifts and good hosts are best given in person or in writing according to survey

Fourteen days is the politeness threshold for thanks, poll finds

Fewer than 10% now ask their children to write any kind of thank you notes

According to a survey on behalf of national occasions retailer Clintons, almost half of us (42%) would rather receive no thanks at all than a digital thank you this January.

Aside from the method, the timing of a thank you is also important – fourteen days marks the maximum timeframe for polite thanks, after which the value of thank you diminishes rapidly.  More than 70% specified 14 days or less.

One respondent said: “Call me a traditionalist, but an emoticon thumb from my nephew doesn’t spell thanks to me.  I don’t expect gratitude for gifts at all, but I’d rather not be thanked that be sent a thumbs up via text.”

Respondents were divided on the best expression of thanks.  Thirty-four percent said that they were most happy with a call or thanks in person whilst 41% preferred a short letter or card.  The remaining 25% said that they’d be happy with an email or text.

A 2017 study of UK adults revealed that online messages such as Tweets and Facebook posts are viewed as the least exciting medium to receive, closely followed by email correspondence [2].  By contrast, receipt of a handwritten letter or note provokes at least double the level of excitement when compared to other forms of text based communication such as emails, mobile and online messages.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, few children today write traditional thank you notes.  Fewer than 10% actively ask their own children to write something by hand.

Tim Fairs, a director at Clintons, said: “I think we’ll see a resurgence of the traditional Thank You note.  For many people, the time and effort reflected in the Thank You itself is very important.  In other words, for anything more than a quick favour, omg thx so mch, is unlikely to cut it.”

He adds: “There is a direct correlation between the ease of sending a message and the impact it has.  Texts and Tweets are a button press away yet they are commonplace.  Whilst most inboxes and mobile devices are brimming with unread messages, a physical handwritten note will often leave a significant impression.”

Messages of fortune and goodwill on slips of papyrus were the first known greetings exchanged in Chinese and Egyptian culture. In the 1400s, Europeans practiced exchanging notes as a new way of social expression, writing on paper and hand delivering greeting cards locally.  In 1856, Pouis Prang, a German immigrant, brought greeting cards and notes to America.

According to Dr Philip Seargeant, a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics in the Centre for Language and Communication at The Open University, the phrase thank you derives from the word ‘think’.
“In Old English, the primary sense of the noun ‘thank’ was ‘a thought’. From there, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning moved to ‘favourable thought or feeling, good will’, and by the Middle Ages it had come to refer to ‘kindly thought or feeling entertained towards any one for favour or services received’ – i.e. much the meaning it has today. We could therefore paraphrase its meaning as: ‘for what you have done for me, I think on you favourably’.”

Clintons sells a diverse range of Thank You cards, from ‘merci beaucoup’ and ‘thanks a bunch’ to ‘thank you so much for pet-sitting’.  December through January is peak Thank You season with 150,000 Thank You cards sold and up to 40% of the year’s volume in a two week period.

[1] Data from online poll of UK adults (w/c 02-Jan-2018)
[2] Data from Bilendi omnibus poll of 2,001 UK adults (w/c 08-May-2017)

Clintons was founded in 1968 and is a leading retailer of greeting cards, gifts and wrap in the United Kingdom. There are currently hundreds of stores all over the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as a fully transactional website. Every year, over 30 million people visit our stores.
We require all our suppliers to comply with applicable law, including the EU timber regulations.  FSC, or Forest Stewardship Council, is widely respected as having one of the most robust and stringent forest certification programs in place to ensure ethical sourcing of paper products.  We continue to strive to ensure the ethical sourcing of our timber products.


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