Tim Harford thinks we should Burn the Christmas Card list:
Christmas cards are given and received in a parody of a market - one that involves interpersonal exchange but no prices. That matters because it means our cards are sent out into an informational void. Is it appropriate to send a card to one’s teacher? To one’s boss? To close colleagues? Distant ones? We can look at the cards we receive and try to extrapolate, but this only goes so far. A student does not know what cards a teacher receives because she is not a teacher; but she knows she doesn’t want to be the only student who didn’t bother.
..“Exchange” is not the right word here. “Vendetta” is more accurate. The whole result is so clumsy that a Nobel laureate in economics, Thomas Schelling, once described these symptoms in detail before advocating bankruptcy proceedings in which all Christmas card lists should be burned. Why does the “market” for Christmas cards work so badly? Simply because there is no reason that it should work well. We are only surprised because most markets do work well.