Buying a greeting card used to be a smooth and uncomplicated experience. He thumbed through the shelves and chose between a chocolate box scene, a striking childish design or, the safe choice of the middle class, a miniature reproduction of a famous work of art.
But all that has changed, and not for the better.
Today, the stores have become a minefield of rough designs that wish recipients a happy birthday and much more. Masked as harsh humor, they have turned the search for letters, a small gesture of kindness or respect, into a shame, especially when it comes to children.
Today, the stores have become a minefield of rough designs that wish recipients a happy birthday and much more.
No company works harder to promote these cards than Scribbler, a national chain with stores in some of our most desired cities, such as Bath, Oxford and Edinburgh.
And a brief look at the shelves of Scribbler reveals that the crudest examples, using the ugliest language in the most striking way, are the work of a man, who directs what amounts to a craft industry of vile expletives.
So who is Dean Morris and what the hell do you think he's playing?
In fact, there is nothing remotely rude or jovial about the 44-year-old man when he opens the door of an immaculately preserved Victorian semi in a pleasant tree-lined neighborhood of Wolverhampton. Dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and socks, he seems absolutely imperturbable.
But a brief look at the shelves of the main streets reveals that the crudest examples are the work of one man, Dean Morris
It turns out that the fine arts graduate is a fan of gardening and National Trust properties. And he does not even particularly like the cards he produces.
On the contrary, he says. "I'm a big fan of the types of greeting cards that are the polar opposite of the types of cards I sell.
"My box of cards at home is always filled with beautiful typography and hand-printed designs from some lovely publishers, both here and in the US I think even my detractors would approve of this."
But Mr. Morris is also a man with a great appreciation of the balance. And, according to his own words, whatever his tastes and personal background: "Smut, filth and swear sells cards."
It certainly does, so The Mail on Sunday wanted to ask Mr. Morris about the tide of obscenities that infects many street card stores. Do you think it's right to force that language into the throats of families looking to send a simple thank-you card? And what does he think of the effect on children of such crude sexual terminology?
Mr. Morris is not prepared to answer these and other questions at this time, he says, commenting only that "I would not have a business if my cards were not sold", before saying goodbye with a happy goodbye.
It turns out that the fine arts graduate is a fan of gardening and National Trust properties, and he does not particularly like the cards he produces.
Card design is essentially a cottage industry powered by hundreds of one-man bands. A single design could earn only £ 150 from chains that make a 100 percent surcharge, but it certainly seems to pay well for the prolific Mr. Morris, whose company, Dean Morris Cards Ltd, has a cash pile of £ 236,000. published accounts.
Without a doubt, she can afford to be a regular visitor to New York with her husband, a masseuse, describing him as her favorite city. Not bad to scribble "F ***" and "b ****** s" on a piece of folded cardboard.
A designer since 1999, Mr. Morris established himself in the industry with the help of Prince's Trust.
Two decades later, he spends his days dreaming of cruder and cruder slogans than anything he has ever seen before. In this arms race in bad taste, nothing is out of bounds.
There is no need to bother with anything as laborious as the insinuation or double meanings so dear to the fanatics of Donald McGill's coastal postcards. One way will do.
Morris's commercial action consists in juxtaposing the dirty language with images taken from the 50s and 60s, of elegantly dressed men and smiling and "healthy" housewives with beehive hairstyles. But when his muse escapes him, it is known that he simply fills his letters with expletives, and that is all.
He started in the business with more innocent creations, hand-gluing sequins and ornaments on hand-made good taste cards.
Then he had a twin revelation: the creation of printed card designs was much less laborious than doing them one by one; and that the language of the ditch makes money.
As a nation, we buy a world leading average of 33 cards per person per year, and 85 percent of buyers are women.
The market is huge.
As a nation, we buy a world leading average of 33 cards per person per year, and 85% of buyers are women: mucky cards are far from being a natural reserve.
Although he is shy with this newspaper, Mr. Morris is more available on his blog and the company's website.
"I am very proud of my place in the industry, but I will always feel like the naughty and young child," he says.
Customers, he suggests, have a better sense of humor that many retailers believe. He also says that more than half of his collection, which includes the Keep Calm And Carry On series, is clean.
Morris justifies his work by arguing that a person's offensive greeting card is a token of affection from another person, and adds: "There are times when people want to push the limit a bit with their friends." It is important to remember that … while one card may be offensive to a customer, another ten may want to buy it. "
However, he admits that there are some stores that see their creations so disgusted that "they have small lockable display cabinets with a notice to ask for the key".
Even Scribbler, who has forged his reputation on "adult" cards, has tried to avoid criticism by posting PG (Parent Guide) on some display shelves in his branches.
But they only serve as vine leaves – raw cards are mixed with conventional ones, which means that it is difficult for customers to avoid them as they move through the store.
Scribbler was created by the husband and wife team of John and Jennie Procter in 1981 and employs 220 people. They divide their time between London and a beautiful parish house listed in Grade II, near Lulworth Cove in Dorset.
Speaking in his living room with open fire and black and white portraits of his children, where the windows overlook a well-tended lawn, Mr. Procter does not have a single remorse. "We do not pretend to be free," he says.
Morris believes that customers have a better sense of humor that many of the retailers believe
"We like to think of ourselves as followers of the great tradition of obscene English humor, like the beach postcard.
"We did not receive complaints from anyone, neither young nor old, in any case, we have traced some of the strongest insults.
"I think humor is a great force for good and we could do it with more in this world," he adds, extending the definition of comedy beyond where some can see it. It may seem strange, then, that Scribbler's own website discourages buyers who wish to create their own cards for being too clumsy.
In fact, he seems anxious to protect his clients from themselves.
"We have a duty of care online to make sure that all our customers do not receive unwanted content," says the website.
"Therefore, any letter of a sexual nature … is not allowed."
Scribbler reserves the right to refuse orders if the design contains nudity, drug use, racism, violence or harassment.
It also reserves the right not to print anything else it deems inappropriate, which critics of Scribbler may say covers half of its actions.
A source at a Scribbler branch told this newspaper: "Dirty cards have become increasingly popular, particularly in the last three years, everyone buys, there is no specific age or gender for that. half of what we sell. "
American tourists buy the cards in lots, because there is nothing like them at home.
And Scribbler is now trying to attract younger, more impressionable customers. Scribbler Kids, a new brand, includes dedicated bays in branches that display cards for the junior market.
But given the small size of some stores, these bays must inevitably be located near the "adult" stock.
Back in Wolverhampton, Mr. Morris is busy working on his collection for December 2019 and his predictable star offer: "Merry Christmas."