Feature: "You're Fired. Love, Hallmark," May 15
I was fired from Hallmark almost two years ago, but it wasn't until I read Eric Barton's article that I finally understood what really happened. Like others mentioned in the article, I was not given an adequate explanation for why I was fired. I had just had my 10th anniversary celebration where everyone had sung my praises. I was known for my hard work and expertise in my field. I had a good performance review. I knew I had done nothing wrong.
What kind of company would rather let long-standing, good employees think they are somehow to blame for losing their jobs by putting them through make-believe performance tests instead of just telling them the company needs to reduce headcount? That's just cruel. For a company that relies on an image of caring and honoring peoples' feelings, this goes beyond hypocrisy.
Thank you for giving me and many others the dignity of knowing the truth.
Heather Davis, Kansas City, Missouri
If you want to know about Hallmark, interview any employee at the Lawrence plant (except someone in management). Then you will hear the truth about the so-called nonlayoffs, early retirements and justifiable firings. There is a lot more to this story than what is being told. It needs to be out and in print so the world can see what kind of person runs Hallmark. Then interview Don Hall Jr. again to see how he justifies putting long and loyal employees out in the cold in the name of increasing his bank account.
Larry Geiss, Lawrence
I was a production artist at Hallmark. The last comment in Eric Barton's story, made by management, just sickens me. They talk about the benefits of going to the Kearney house, etc., but the truth is that you have to do this with management's approval and do it on your time off. Most classes are given to the favored ones. If management wants to get rid of you, they don't lay you off, they find reasons to get rid of you — performance reviews, coaching plans, etc. You will always get a fake answer from any company representative. It's their job to lie. Another thing they are notorious for is hiring and promoting those who are liked. Favoritism is always given to the young who come from top design schools. If you went to a school that is not recognized for its design discipline, then you are looked at as "less than." Truth is, most designers are given all the benefits, and anybody at a support level is treated like garbage.
Name withheld by request
Your article didn't mention the layoffs of approximately 100 employees in April, when Hallmark shut down its online marketing of flowers and gifts with Hallmark.com. The dot-com business was unprofitable, falling short of sales goals by approximately $7 million last year and lagging behind in 2008 goals as well. They simply couldn't solve some of the structural IT issues that caused the Web site to slow down or crash during each of the high-volume holiday sales periods, or solve problems with product mix and cost and profit margins, or satisfy Hallmark store operators that the dot-com business was not taking away from their sales. Hallmark stores sold different products than were sold online.
I was an editorial director in the creative group working with the dot-com business. I left willingly, knowing that cuts were coming eventually. My last day there, my department was notified of the cuts. From what I know today, only a handful of those people have been absorbed into other parts of the company. Upper management will be absorbed and taken care of, but middle management and below will likely not.
From my own experience, Hallmark is a bit like an alcoholic family. No one wants to admit that anything is wrong; no one wants to criticize, for fear of appearing to be negative or a complainer. It's unfortunate and unhealthy. Hallmark's situation is not so unlike hundreds of other corporations trying to deal with the competitive issues of today's marketplace except they have an image of being sweet and supportive of their employees. They cannot do anything else because it's contrary to the brand, and the brand has taken on a life of its own. Your article sheds a clear light of reality on the situation. Thanks, but there's much more story there — I hope you persevere and dig further. Truth is far more important than image.
Bill Guion, New Orleans
Feature: "The Shawnee Mission East Class of '08 Loves its Gay Homecoming King," May 8
Thank you so much for Jen Chen's recent article about Matthew Pope. So many stories I've read about gay teenagers have centered upon alienation, violence and even suicide. I think good journalism shows us the flip side of things. It's a testament to changing times that Mr. Pope enjoys the acceptance he does.
Matthew J. Gallagher, Washington, D.C.
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