Taryn Singer spends a lot of time feeling thankful.
It’s her job, in fact, to write thank you notes — dozens at a time — to complete strangers.
Even in an age when it seems like any sentiment can be expressed by a text, e-mail, emoji or GIF, there are a few times when etiquette still demands a handwritten thank you.
If you’re too busy (read: lazy) to put pen to paper to thank Aunt Judy for throwing you a baby shower or cousin Phil for your wedding present, you can now outsource that onerous chore to another human — or even a robot.
Singer’s one-woman company, WithThanks, will write compose, address, stamp and mail handwritten letters of gratitude to friends and families for $4 to $5 per letter, depending on order volume, plus postage and stationery costs.
(For younger readers: A letter is a message written on a piece of paper tucked into a sort of paper pocket called an envelope. A special rectangular sticker, called a stamp, has the power to magically transport the letter to any address in the world.)
Singer, 36, of New York City, started her thank you note service about a year ago after deciding that her previous life working as a corporate attorney wasn’t for her.
Although she’s diligent about writing her own thank you notes, she realized that a lot of people dread the task. (Her own husband confessed that he never sent out thank you notes after his bar mitzvah.)
Plus she has really good handwriting
“A lot of people don’t like their handwriting, and they want someone with nice handwriting to do it,” Singer said.
Singer provides clients with a spreadsheet where they can fill out the names and addresses of the recipients and what they are being thanked for.
Then she ghostwrites four or five lines of appreciation for that pasta maker that your sister sent you, or the graduation money from Aunt Janice.
After you approve the content, Singer gets it down on paper using a Pilot Juice 0.7mm gel ink pen in neat print or cursive, your choice. She typically signs “With love, [your name].”
The result is that increasingly rare expression of personalized gratitude captured in ink and dead trees.
“An actual handwritten note shows you took the time and you care,” Singer said.
Except you didn’t take the time. You just hired someone else to do it.
“I know,” Singer said. “That is the one rub with this.”
Fortunately, in an era of text messages and digital signatures, most people will have no idea it wasn’t you. They may even compliment you on your neat handwriting.
“In this day and age, people don’t know your handwriting,” Singer said. “They just register, ‘Oh, I got their thank you note. That person did the right thing.’ ”
You can even arrange to have the notes mailed from your own city so it has a local postmark.
Elissa Emden of New York City used Singer to thank people who helped celebrate her son’s 4th birthday and her daughter’s 1st birthday.
“She composed the most well written and personalized thank you notes, really as if you were writing it yourself. I wish she was around when I got married,” said Emden, who admits that she didn’t get all of her notes written to thank the 250 guests at her 2011 wedding.
The lost art of gratitude
Singer isn’t the only option to outsource a handwritten thank you. There’s also That’s Gratitude, which says it can provide handwritten thank you notes for every occasion ranging from funerals to job interviews.
You can also get a robot to do it for you.
But should we be outsourcing a task that’s supposed to have such a personal touch?
Reaction from local etiquette experts ranged from shock to “It’s the thought that counts.”
St. Paul etiquette expert Juliet Mitchell said paying someone else to do the thankless task shows that at least you cared to get it done. “It’s the intent,” she said. “You are taking the time to thank people.”
Etiquette adviser Bethany Friske thinks outsourced thank you notes are in poor taste. “It takes out the personal touch,” said Friske, who added that hiring a thank you note writer would be acceptable “if you have a hand malady and can’t write.”
Still, even she conceded that getting an outsourced note is better than no note at all. Friske said she went to five weddings last year, and has received only one thank you note.
“To some extent, I think it’s sad,” she said. “It’s just the lost art of showing gratefulness.”