Some see Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to wear
Some see Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Others choose to wear nothing at all, and many companies turn bedroom antics into big cash at this time of year. But if you’re planning to spice up 14 February with a bespoke risque card to your significant other, or others, spare a thought for the staff at Moonpig who have to make the thing.
Guernsey is the home of Moonpig’s printing and delivery HQ, which doubles as the frontline for the company’s photo upload greeting card service. It allows customers to personalise their cards with (almost) any image imaginable.
Family portraits or evidence of drunken embarrassments are the standard fare for Moonpig workers, but around Valentine’s Day there’s an influx of nudes and amateur erotica that would make even the most open-minded blush. “Nudity is not prohibited, it’s more actions and contraptions that are monitored. Penetration is when things have gone too far,” says Mick Perry, Moonpig production manager. Take that how you will.
Perry heads the team who spend their nine-to-fives wading through the thousands of images that land in their inboxes each week. “Most of our customers are well behaved, but the odd one does try to push the boundaries,” Perry says. “We have people who are particularly adept at spotting racy images.” In 2018, 368 orders were cancelled by the company.
As algorithms and face recognition technology grow more sophisticated, Moonpig’s system is unique. Software such as Microsoft’s PhotoDNA, used by Facebook, marks images with digital thumbprints to fight the spread of terrorist propaganda and revenge porn. Instagram’s nipple policy, which blocks images showing female (but not male) nipples, uses algorithms. At Moonpig, ensuring images adhere to company guidelines is a 100% human process. Real people make decisions on the photographs that are submitted.
“We do see all sorts,” says Perry. “I’m not going to be specific – these are people’s memories – but let’s say there are things I wouldn’t want my wife or mum to see.”
Today, your intimate moments are not entirely intimate. “Life is short. Have an affair,” declares the infidelity dating site Ashley Madison which, in 2015, was hacked – with the details of its 32 million purportedly married or partnered members leaked.
At Moonpig, all images are kept in secure cloud storage and deleted after 30 days, regardless of whether they relate to completed or cancelled orders.
Handing the staff at Clintons or Paperchase a nude photo to turn into a greetings card would, in all likelihood, trigger considerable embarrassment, but our attitudes toward “faceless” online companies are different. “I think some people believe their greeting cards are manufactured without human intervention,” says Perry.
This doesn’t mean romance is dead, but maybe you should cover up slightly. “But,” says Perry, “if it makes you and your loved one happy, it can’t be that bad, can it?”