As a typical Bainbridge Islander with a fully functioning mailbox, I get mail almost every day, sometimes some of which is not a catalog. In the case of many of the catalogs I get — L.L. Bean, Land’s End, The Territory Ahead, Famous Cigars — I know how I got on their mailing list.
The reason I get some of the other catalogs I regularly receive is more of a mystery, but it’s pretty clear that actually buying an item from a catalog is not a precondition to continuing to receive it.
For example, I get several office supply catalogs, a couple of soccer catalogs, an assortment of landscaping, home improvement and gardening catalogs, catalogs about books, maps and children’s toys, and, once, a catalog about other catalogs.
Being a patriotic American who thinks we ought to show a little respect for anything brought to our house by a uniformed employee of the federal government (and also knowing that, based on news reports and old jokes, it is statistically more likely than not that the average postal worker is both disgruntled and packing heat), I make it a point to at least glance through every catalog that arrives in our mailbox.
After quickly perusing each catalog and congratulating myself on not being tempted to order anything from them, I immediately toss them in the recycling bin in the hope that the woman who is my wife will not see those same catalogs and be tempted to order something from one or more of them. Alas, my clever catalog purging plan has had a remarkably low success rate.
For some unknown reason for which I am nevertheless still very grateful, for a while I was receiving a Victoria’s Secret catalog two or three times a week. I admit it took me a little longer than usual to peruse those particular catalogs, and their journey to the recycling bin generally took a bit longer than say, the Brookstone or Pottery Barn catalog. At about the same time, I was receiving a monthly Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, which I always thought of as a low-rent Victoria’s Secret knock-off for the more theatrical and attention-starved breed of tramp, a catalog that always reminded me of what Dolly Parton once said about herself: “You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap.”
I never did like the Lillian Vernon catalog. Lillian (assuming that’s her real name) seemed to have cornered the market on inexpensive, poorly made items no one needed or really wanted in their home. I suspect that Lillian has lost business to e-bay, where your more sophisticated breed of undiscerning pack-rat can conveniently purchase other people’s junk at bargain prices.
One of the more recent additions to our catalog collection is one we get from Robert Redford touting his personal “Sundance” line of upscale furniture, jewelry, western knick-knacks and women’s clothing (if you happen to be between a size 1 and 2).
I had my eye on a nice leather chair in one issue of the catalog that went for about $2,000, not including shipping. For that price, I sort of figured Redford could afford to deliver the thing personally. I don’t know if they even bother to put one out anymore, but I no longer receive a Starbucks catalog. So if I want to buy any Starbuck coffee ware, I have to stop in at one of the dozen or so Starbucks retail outlets I pass on the three-block walk to my office each morning.
Around the holiday we get the usual assortment of Christmas catalogs from museums, art galleries and large department stores, many of which are larger and more attractive than the actual holiday gifts I give to my extended family. I particularly enjoy the holiday catalog I get each year that features semi-erotic photographs of glistening fruits and provocatively posed nuts and cheese put out by two characters who have evidently been able to parlay their unhealthy attachment to produce into a profitable mail-order business.
I have to go now. I think I just heard the mailbox door slam.
Tom Tyner writes a monthly humor column for this newspaper.