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Catalog Season Begins

by Roberta McReynolds

My husband approached with the mail tucked under one arm and announced, "The Catalog Fairy just hit inside our mailbox." There were eleven catalogs crammed inside our section of the community mail box; a sure sign the winter holidays are only a few months away.

We have an unspoken routine for dealing with this deluge. Mike eliminates anything that doesn’t concern model trains and shoves the surplus in my direction. I sort the remaining catalogs into not-so-neat heaps across the kitchen counter. The first grouping is reserved for craft-related products. This includes yarn, fabric, instruction books, patterns, and paint. I look at these first, folding the corners up on pages that hold promise before setting them aside (only to be rediscovered again sometime in mid-February). The deadline for free shipping has long since expired, so I eagerly await the arrival of the new spring preview catalogs to repeat the process.

I find myself drooling over the many delectable treats in catalogs featuring cheese, sausages, olives, nuts, and fruit. Mike and I will spend the better part of a week pointing out interesting packages and favorite temptations to each other. Then we make a list and head for the deli section in the nearest grocery store. Instant gratification is ours, without shipping and handling!

It’s still early in the season and I am not feeling overwhelmed quite yet. I still show a curiosity in investigating the pile of glossy catalogs from businesses I’ve never heard of before the mail delivery. Give me another few weeks and the novelty of turning hundreds of pages will wear off.

It shouldn’t come as an epiphany that each company sells its coveted mailing list to other interested retailers. I still have to wonder how I ended up with a 96-page booklet of personalized products. Did somebody conduct a survey that indicates folks who enjoy eating sausage have a pronounced tendency to surround themselves with mass-produced imports bearing their name? Then again, perhaps this could be a form of retaliation against us for passing up the handy tear-out order blank in preference to buying locally. I have a mental image of a department dedicated to isolating the addresses of those who never place an order and forwarding the list on in an act of commercialized revenge. My long held suspicion has been that all attempts to be removed from a mailing list will produce the same result.

I honestly don’t think I require my name embroidered on the pocket of red flannel pajamas. Likewise, I automatically remember which side of the bed I sleep on without a personalized pillowcase and I haven’t noticed my husband having any problems either. Our cat can’t read and she has demonstrated no inclination to respect designated sleeping zones anyway.

Did you realize that there are catalogs exclusively devoted to a broad selection of other catalogs? Most of them are yours for the time it takes to place a check mark in the appropriate box, but it amazes me that some companies actually expect consumers to pay a fee for the honor of examining their pages.

I retired from the printing industry, so I like to think I’m doing my part to keep people employed and their families fed. However, every single catalog I’ve scrutinized also has a website. Saving forests and reducing carbon footprints is a big issue. Consequently, we recycle all this paper (some within milliseconds), and hope the next succession of catalogs will be printed on recycled paper with soy inks.

The front covers of some publications warn, "This could be the LAST catalog for the McReynolds family if you don’t order NOW!" Alas, one can only hope.

I just finished glancing through a catalog encouraging me to "Decorate Now!" Wake up, all you customer service reps with hands poised to strike like lightning at the first ring of a phone! You can’t fool me; it’s still 96ºF outside and I have a heat rash. Forgive me for not feeling the holiday spirit just yet. Plastic snowmen (with or without personalization) and poinsettia pinwheel yard stakes aren’t going to make it happen for me.

How about that toilet paper printed with blue snowflakes? I’ll let you pause for a moment to formulate what you might have to say about that, because I don’t dare comment. Fortunately, you can rest easy with the knowledge that should you discover this item lurking in the bathroom of friends or family, it was printed with ‘health-safe, water-based ink.’ Go ahead and don’t give a second thought to the possibility of temporary blue snowflake tattoos all over your … ahem.

Evidently there’s something for everyone, but I’m really not seeing the Yuletide connection behind the green frog ornament wearing reindeer antlers and a bulbous, red nose. If that doesn’t do it for you either, check out the bikini clad starfish with sunglasses (presumably to block out the glaring Christmas lights)

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