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Christmas Gift Guide
Internet

Valentine's wishes sit in Web traffic

People who waited until the last minute to send electronic Valentine's Day cards may be out of luck--especially those looking for a bargain.

People who waited until the last minute to send electronic Valentine's Day cards may be out of luck--especially those looking for a bargain.

At least one site offering free e-greetings experienced some traffic problems Thursday. Other sites have stopped providing free Valentine's services altogether.

Kathi Mishek, a spokeswoman for Hallmark Cards, said the company's site has had delays in delivering free e-cards.

"We're an e-commerce site first and foremost, and our goal also was focused on getting through orders for Valentine's Day to our paying customers. Period," she said. People can order paper cards, gift certificates and other items through Hallmark's site.

After that, the company is focusing on handling the preordered free greetings, which were not experiencing any problems. "The vast majority (of preordered e-cards) have already been taken care of," she added.

Dave Poplar, a spokesman for American Greetings, which also owns the eGreetings Network and Blue Mountain Arts, said some of the company's Web sites "have been a little slow at times, but we've got engineers making real-time adjustments to optimize performance."

American Greetings no longer offers free holiday-themed cards, a policy that went into effect in December. Instead, the company offers subscriptions that start at $11.95 a year and allow customers to send unlimited cards.

The fee prompted some Web surfers to stop using the service, a move Poplar said the company had anticipated.

The company did not release specific figures, but according to a report released Thursday by Jupiter Media Metrix, the number of unique visitors at American Greetings' sites dropped 10 percent from November to December, down to 22.9 million unique visitors.

During that same period, traffic to Hallmark.com rose 74 percent to 8.2 million unique visitors, while Yahoo Greetings saw a 70 percent increase to 9.1 million visitors.

Hallmark's Mishek said traffic has been roughly four times greater than a year ago, although she didn't give specific numbers. Yahoo would not release traffic figures either, but Lisa Pollock, director of messaging products for Yahoo, said the company had seen a "big uptick in traffic" since American Greetings launched its subscription policy.

Valentine's Day is traditionally the biggest day of the year for Yahoo, Pollock said, but she added that the company was not having any problems with traffic.

"We anticipate today to go extremely smoothly, as did our Christmas season," she said.