Catalog Fantasies

There’s no question that, after getting magazines in the mail, my favorite activity is shopping. Mail order catalogs combine the best of all worlds.

I got my start on the Sears and Spiegel catalogs; carefully marking up everything I wanted Santa to bring me. And when my mother would tell me there would be a budget for Santa’s offerings, I’d invest even more hours, totaling up prices for my wish list.

I left the Old Country before everything, absolutely everything, was online. Amazon was about as good as it got back in those days. Merchants would send paper catalogs in the mail, and sometimes the day’s harvest would be a foot high. Neiman Marcus.  Horchow.  Sakowitz.  Orvis.  L.L. Bean.  Williams Sonoma.  Chef’s Catalog.  Sur Le Table. Patagonia. Edward R. Hamilton. Jessica’s Biscuit.  Smithsonian.  The museum store catalogs. J. Peterman (I still have the inaugural issue). Bloomingdale’s.  Bonwit Teller. Banana Republic. Zabar’s. Smith & Hawken.  Honeybee.  Chadwicks of Boston.  Sky Mall. Vermont Country Store. Eddie Bauer. Lands’ End. I. Magnin.  Archie McPhee. Design Toscano. Garnet Hill. Gump’s. Ferragamo. Jack Rogers.  Famolare. And that’s not counting the seed catalogs, which are a story for another day.

I never met a catalog I didn’t like – except for those from someplace in Pennsylvania that bought up addresses and sold polyester bed sheets with a thread count of less than 360. Those hit the wastebasket right at the post office.

After dinner, I’d pour over them, sometimes pretend-ordering stuff. By the time fax machines rolled around, ordering was even easier than ringing up that 800 number.  A friendly voice at L.L. Bean was ready to talk, any time of the day or night. One time I called Famolare to place an order and got to talk to Joe Famolare himself.  The gargoyle over my gate came from a catalog.

Before moving to Mexico, right along with sending out change of address cards for everything else, I made sure that catalog merchants got notice of my change of address. I wanted the catalogs to follow me. Some did, and some didn’t. Now the catalogs have dwindled down to just a few, mostly because I’ve gone to the websites and re-upped.

Ordering online just isn’t the same, unless you’re talking about books and electronics. But for everything else, I want to savor the enchanting copy, dog-ear, mark up, and tear out the page, appreciate the paper quality and even file it away. It was the perfect shopping experience, combining the thrill of the hunt with finding the best prices from the comfort of home.

images

And then there’s the catalog that’s a class unto itself: Hammacher Schlemmer. It doesn’t promise fashion or style, but it will make everything right in your life. More than just FAO Schwartz for adults, Hammacher Schlemmer is a mirror of what we are. Back in the day, I’ve ordered an electronic rodent repeller, a stepladder which I still use, a comfy wool blanket, and more gadgets than I can remember. Hammacher Schlemmer is all about “the best,” “the only,” the soft and comfortable, and stuff you not only can’t find anyplace else but didn’t even know existed.

Hammacher Schlemmer is back in my mailbox, in full print glory, reminding me of what today’s customers really, really want. It’s all about aches, pains, and iStuff.

In the iCrap category, you can find:

The iPhone Binoculars
The iPhone Slot Machine
The iPhone Photo Printer
The iPad Pen
The Bose iPhone Sound Dock
The Rolling Bedside iPad Stand
The iPad Charging Floor Stand
The Only Read and Write iPad Flash Drive

Hammacher Schlemmer has always promised relief for aching backs, necks, bottoms and feet, but this year, there seems to be a theme.  Plantar fasciitis must be a plague among its customers, because the Last Minute Gift 2013 catalog offers up:

Plantar Fasciitis Insoles

The Gentleman’s Plantar Fasciitis Orthotic Walking Shoes

The Plantar Fasciitis Relieving Foot Sleeves

The Gentleman’s Indoor-Outdoor Plantar Fasciitis Slippers

The Plantar Fasciitis Orthotic Sandal

The Lady’s Plantar Fasciitis Indoor/Outdoor Slippers

The Lady’s Plantar Fasciitis Athletic Shoes

But wait, there’s more. Those aching feet must’ve affected Hammacher Schlemmer’s customers’ minds as well, because there’s a full selection of the best from the Painter of Light Thomas Kinkade:

Thomas Kinkade Revolving Christmas Tree Topper
Thomas Kinkade Illuminated Crystal Snowman
The Night before Christmas Reciting Santa Designed by Painter of Light Thomas Kinkade
The Thomas Kinkade Animated Christmas Tree
The Thomas Kinkade Glistening Wreath
The Thomas Kinkade Illuminated Musical Sledding Snowman
The Thomas Kinkade Crystal Santa Claus
The Thomas Kinkade Crystal Music Box

I don’t need any more iThings, my feet don’t ache, and I really am not worthy of Thomas Kinkade’s finest, but there are some things you can buy me from Hammacher Schlemmer for this year’s Christmas:

The Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz library, a bargain at $949.95

The Heated Zero Gravity Massage Chair, $3,000

The Authentic Morgan Three-Wheeler, $59,000

Or you could just save yourself time and money by sending me an Amazon.com gift card.