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Keep Those Catalogs Comin
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What America needs is a good Productivity Boosting Nap Pod, a device that looks like a dentist chair with a roof. As luck would have it, this 310-pound unit, that “provides optimal ergonomics for napping,” is available from Hammacher Schlemmer for $16,000. Dagwood Bumstead take note.
I don’t recall buying anything from the 165-year-old New York store in over two decades, yet its richly entertaining catalogs have followed me across the country and continue to arrive regularly in my mailbox. Recently, I was intrigued by the Dog Gazebo – a cage for conveniently confining your pooch, while doubling as a moderately attractive garden structure. It gives dogs “a 360-degree view of their surroundings,” and is priced at just $299.95.
Does anyone actually buy this stuff? Even if you’re in the market for a canine gazebo, would you buy it from a catalog? And, would your decision be influenced by the marketing ploy that sets the price five cents under 300 bucks?
Here’s a bargain: for just $89.95 you can get a fake golf club that dispenses drinks through a hidden spout and “won’t draw a second look from even the most astute course officials.”  Or, how about The iPad Commode Caddy, a combination toilet paper and iPad stand for $99.95, “ideal for browsing one’s digital reading materials while indisposed.”
I suppose it’s possible that many people are attracted to the catalog for its descriptions more so than the products themselves. Remember in “Seinfeld,” when Elaine allowed Eddie Sherman to write for the J. Peterman catalog? His best effort: “It’s a hot night. Your mind races. You think about your knife: the only friend who hasn’t betrayed you, the only friend who won’t be dead by sunup. Sleep tight mates, in your quilted chambray night shirts.”
Hammacher Schlemmer doesn’t carry that exact night shirt, but it does offer a Genuine Irish Flannel Grandfather Shirt, “an homage to a hardworking ancestral Irish agrarian spirit,” that “enables freedom of movement while lounging, sleeping, or traveling.”
If you still have vinyl records in your attic, they’re certain to sound best when played on The World’s Only Counterbalanced Turntable, weighing 90 pounds and priced at $28,000. Note, you must provide your own tone arm. A less costly audio alternative is The Mobile Blastmaster, a boom box-type device mounted on what appears to be a kids’ wagon that is good on any terrain, as well as on ice and snow – and goes for just $4,000.
For $499.95 you can obtain a Jeweler’s Gold Authenticator, which avoids the need for “messy gels, staining chemicals, or dangerous acids,” that most of us use to test our gold.  
This is cool. Remember the 1988 movie “Big,” in which Tom Hanks is granted his wish to grow bigger by an arcade machine known as Zoltar? Hammacher Schlemmer sells it! It’s $9,000 and comes with “23 different printed fortunes.” You’ll be pleased to know, “The manufacturer has confirmed that this item meets U.S. Federal toy safety standards for lead.” There is no guarantee, however, that Zoltar will grant your wish to have sex with Elizabeth Perkins.
Just in time for Father’s Day, you can order a Killer Whale Submarine. Dad will be able to hydroplane at up to 50 mph above the water or cruise below the surface at 25 mph, while strapped into this sub disguised as an orca whale. Best of all, “An LCD displays live video from the dorsal fin’s built-in camera.”
The sub costs $100,000 and includes free Personalized Service from a Product Specialist.
As I see it, anyone who suggests that American ingenuity is flagging, or that consumers don’t know good deals when they see them or, for that matter, that the Postal Service no longer provides a valuable service, obviously hasn’t perused the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. It continues to offer fond memories of the way we never really were.