Tuesday

March 28th, 2017

The Village Idiot

You've got mail. Two tons of it

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published Dec. 11, 2014

'Tis the season to jam the mailbox with catalogs. The Container Store, Williams-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Chef's Catalogue, Bed Bath and Beyond, L.L. Bean, Lands' End, Crutchfield, Campmor, Cabela's, REI, Barnes and Noble, Omaha Steaks, Restoration Hardware, Musician's Friend, the Metropolitan Museum of Art store, the PBS store, Brookstone, Country Curtains, Northern Tool and Equipment, and a few others -- all in one day.

I get four copies of some of them. One to J. Mullen, one to Jim Mullen, another to James Mullen and a fourth to J. Molehead, whoever he might be.

I've tried to get these companies to stop sending them, but it's like telling the Kardashians to stop seeking publicity. If you call to complain, you risk making things worse. Within a week, they'll send you yet another catalog using yet another variation of your name. An 'i' where an 'e' used to be, a 'y' used in an Olde Englishy sort of way, or an extra number in your zip code.

I haven't bought anything from most of these catalogs for years. As for this year, I bought nothing from a catalog in May. Or June. Or July. Or August. Or September, October and November.

I'm planning on spending a lot more of nothing in December.

This must set off alarm bells at Catalog Central. Why is J. Molehead ignoring his catalogs? Why is he not responding to them? "Obviously," goes their thinking, "we're not sending Mr. Molehead enough catalogs. Let's try again. Quick, send 10 more."

Last week, I got one company's "Spring Clothing" catalog. This week, I got their "Spring Footwear" catalog and a "Spring Furniture" catalog. What's coming next week? Their "Spring Sheet and Towel" catalog? Their "Spring Kitchen Collection"? "The Spring Tire Collection"?

I am so ashamed; we are still using our summer furniture. Oh yeah: It's our only furniture. Our towels are from the spring -- spring of 1979, I think. I'm sure we're using hopelessly out-of-fashion sheets, too. Our kitchen is unspeakable. It is so un-spring. Compared to what I see in the catalogs, my kitchen is one step above the pioneers'. If only the noon stage would drop off last month's newspapers so we can see what kitchens in Milan look like this year.

Some of our pots and pans came from our wedding. They are dented, and a few of the lids are missing entirely. Nothing matches. But maybe our hopelessly old-fashioned kitchen will come back into style the way bell-bottom pants did. And might again.

We get a lot of catalogs for gourmet food: cheese from France, sausage from Italy, spices from Spain; organic wine, free-range beef and fair-wage coffee from all over. Coffee and coffeemakers are huge catalog items now. They sell machines that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars so you can make lattes at home without the bother of having to say "Good morning" to anyone. You can have wonderful coffee in the seculsion of your own home without any human interaction at all -- just you and an espresso machine. Life doesn't get any better than that, does it? Unless, say, you're human.

We have somehow gotten on a mailing list for some very specific products. Like a company that only sells different types of olive oil. And one that sells hundreds of brands of hot sauce. Another sells hundreds of kinds of salt.

I wonder if it wouldn't be cheaper if the catalog companies would all just sent me four duplicate postcards that said, "Visit our online store to see more!" Amazon doesn't even do that, and they seem to be selling more stuff than anybody. Something tells me the company that is sending me four catalogs today will blame the high cost of postage, not the CEO, when it goes bankrupt.

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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

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