John Snyder stands tall, carefully surveying the field. He looks left, looks right. He glances down. Ah! This one has potential. Snyder, clad casually in shorts, crouches and peers at the prospect through his glasses.
For Snyder, and the many men who’ll come before and after him, this is the greeting card Super Bowl. It’s nearly Mother’s Day, and on this long rack of cards at Wegmans in Blasdell, he has to find the one with exactly the right message. But the clock is nearing zero. It’s Saturday. The time is 2:49 p.m. Mother’s Day is only hours away.
Time is ticking out.
But Snyder isn’t deterred. Nor are the many guys in his situation. While men barely buy greeting cards throughout the year, they’re a significant part of the customer base for Mother’s Day. But judging from the crowd at the Wegmans card rack and at drug stores, stationery retailers and grocers all over, many of them – maybe most – don’t mind waiting until the day before.
Minutes earlier, Lewis Spada of Blasdell stepped away from his wife, Marlene, who was grocery shopping, to find her a card. He thought about getting her one that said “I can’t hide my love for you!” and depicted a cartoon of a husband disrobing himself. Then he thought better.
“My wife doesn’t have that kind of sense of humor,” he said, chuckling.
He decided on a classic: A pink card with a floral arrangement and the words “To My Beautiful Wife on Mother’s Day” written in calligraphy font.
At the same time, Jared Engle of Eden was searching for a card for his mother. Sunglasses sitting atop his buzzcut and a green-leaved plant balanced in his left palm, he settled on a potty-training card that said, “You still put up with a lot off crap from me.”
Potty cuteness worked for Snyder too; he chose a card with a kid on a toilet and a potty-training thank you that read “I can’t tell you how many times that has come in handy.” It was for his wife from their 5- and 8-year-old kids.
“They’ll get a kick out of this, too,” said Snyder, who lives in Hamburg.
As Snyder and his last-second soulmates shopped, a muscular man with dyed-blond hair, fluorescent green shorts and a sleeveless black T-shirt walked by. He’d shopped two weeks ago.
“I was way ahead of everything,” he said.
But for Snyder, Saturday shopping for Mother’s Day is a yearly tradition.
“Day before is fine for me,” he said.
All of this – day before, month before –is fine to Natasha Rankin, the CEO of the Greeting Card Association in Washington, D.C., which represents U.S. card makers and suppliers in front of legislators and policy makers and is headquartered in an I Street office just two blocks from the White House.
In a text-this-tweet-that culture, Rankin’s job is to show that greeting cards are still relevant.
“We all know that people still send greeting cards,” said Rankin, who has the numbers to prove it.
A 2014 GCA report shows that holiday cards (Christmas, New Year’s, and so on) are the most popular, with 1.6 billion purchased each year. Valentine’s Day cards are a distant second (145 million a year). Mother’s Day, with 133 million cards, is third.
Women send 80 percent of greeting cards overall, according to the GCA. A series of surveys conducted by another Washington-based group, the National Retail Federation, describe the gender differences. According to an April survey, the number of men who planned to buy Mother’s Day cards (79.5 percent) is roughly equal to the number of women (80.5 percent).
That’s different than Valentine’s Day, when 57 percent of women planned to buy cards, as opposed to 46 percent of men. And it’s a stark contrast to Father’s Day. In a survey conducted last year, 72 percent of women planned to buy cards – but only 56 percent of men.
In the GCA rankings, Father’s Day is the fourth most popular greeting card holiday, but at 90 million cards, is 43 million fewer than what moms get.
Which brings up a question: Why are Mother’s Day numbers markedly higher than Father’s Day?
When posed with this question over the phone, Rankin paused for a beat then unfurled a slow, soft laugh.
“That’s a great question. Um …” – she’s hesitant. This is a tough one
“I don’t have an answer for you.”
Which was Rankin’s response when asked if it’s true that men tend to wait till the last moment to buy Mother’s Day cards. She doesn’t know. Not officially, at least. People don’t study that.
So The News did – in an admittedly informal fashion – by posing a simple question to men who are sons, husbands and grandfathers: “How many of you still need to do your Mother’s Day shopping?”
At Performing Arts Dance Academy, a Broadway-themed studio in the Village of Hamburg decorated with sparkly whites and pinks and purples, that inquiry was made Friday night to a group of 18 men participating in annual dad’s dance.
These guys are diverse in age and style, ranging from tattooed twentysomethings to graying, balding entrepreneurs and executives. But they’re bonded by a willingness to toss aside their more masculine stereotypes.
Why else would they agree to meet every Friday for six weeks to practice a five-minute dance to a medley from “The Sound of Music”?
These men will be taking the recital stage in June wearing suspenders and shepherd-boy caps, in all their yodeling glory.
In years past, many of them have worn tutus, discoed, and danced with spinning parasols, usually at the urging of their wives and the begging of their daughters and granddaughters.
If any group of guys would seem likely to stay ahead on their Mother’s Days duties, it’s this one. But when asked how many still need to shop, 16 of the 18 raised their hands.
“Tomorrow I’ll be dropping the kids off and running around like crazy,” said David Mason, a construction project manager.
“It doesn’t matter until 7 o’clock the night before,” said a half-joking Scott Marcin, a financial services rep.
“I buy it, then I don’t have time to give it to her ahead of time,” said Frank Balistreri, who has a sweet excuse: His Balistreri’s Pasteries Plus in West Seneca is overloaded with orders leading up to Mother’s Day. He works 12-16 hours daily. After the holiday, his wife receives the card.
“I give it to her later with flowers,” he said.
Later that night, The News posed the question via email to some well-known men with Western New York ties.
Jack Armstrong, a Lewiston resident who is the Toronto Raptors television analyst and former Niagara University basketball coach, reported that he bought Mother’s Day cards on Tuesday for his wife, Dena, and mother, Mary, who raised him as a single parent after her husband died when Jack was 7.
“Plan ahead,” said Armstrong, 52, who still calls his 88-year-old mother every day at home in Queens. He was organized with a practical reason: Dena was leaving for what Armstrong described as a “girls weekend” to Florida on Wednesday, and Mary’s card had to be mailed.
Armstrong gets a point for staying in front of the holiday, and he’s joined by Luke Russert, the 29-year-old son of the late, legendary, Buffalo-born NBC newsman Tim Russert.
“I always buy early,” said Luke, a correspondent for NBC News.
This year, he bought his mother, the writer Maureen Orth, a pillow with the words “Let me get this straight ... my grandchild is a dog?”
“She takes care of my pug,” Russert said, “so (it’s) only fitting.”
Given his father’s legacy as America’s role model dad (the elder Russert penned two books on fatherhood), it’s also fitting that Luke is a conscientious son.
Blame the genes
But then – to the point made by one of the dancing dads –does it really matter when you buy? The search for the right gift – and especially the perfect card – can be difficult. If you don’t like shopping, it’s not a lot of fun, either. So you might just put it off.
“We procrastinate on things we dislike,” said Piers Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary and procrastination researcher. “Men dislike shopping more than women.”
In a 2007 study, Steel found that men are slightly more prone to procrastinate than women: Fifty-four of 100 procrastinators are male, according to his research. But guys, before you go using that as an excuse for putting things off, also know that some of his fellow procrastination experts disagree with that finding.
“There is no significant sex difference in terms of the tendencies toward procrastination,” said DePaul University Professor Joseph Ferrari, author of “Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting it Done.” “It’s very controversial among those of us who study the field.”
Ferrari says 20 percent to 25 percent of the population procrastinates chronically; for everyone else it shows up intermittently based on what he calls “self reasons.” In 1993, he conducted a study of mall shoppers during the holiday season and learned that reasons for procrastination ranged from being too busy to disliking the task to having difficulty deciding on what to buy.
Marv Levy can relate. The Buffalo Bills’ Hall of Fame former coach, renowned by his players and staff for his planning abilities and attention to detail, didn’t buy Mother’s Day cards for his wife, Fran, and daughter, Kimberly, until Friday.
Levy, who lives in Chicago, has high standards. The 89-year-old writes poetry and has an English history degree from Harvard. After considering a rack full of options, he said, “I finally decided on the ‘Oh, how much I love you’ type, and I hope they enjoy their cards as much as the ‘Go Shopping!’ checks that I also enclosed.”
It was a battle of loving indecisiveness that made football seem easy. This game – the greeting card Super Bowl –is a lot trickier.
“Making a decision as to which card to pick from those many options,” Levy said, “was tougher than trying to decide whether to punt or to go for it on fourth down and one.”