Saturday, August 9, 2014

Still Life With Robin: The Heft of the RH Catalog

by Peggy Robin

The New Yorker has weighed in (weak pun intended) on a matter of some substance I brought up in this column a few weeks back ( the 12-pound assemblage of catalogs that Restoration Hardware has dumped onto the doorsteps and crammed into the mailrooms of millions of non-consenting recipients. Though over a month late to the fray (as the UPS deliveries were carried out in May and June), the New Yorker brings its wry amusement, coupled with understated derision to thoughts I had expressed earlier and in a much kvetchier tone.

An example: The New Yorker charmingly mocks the overpriced faux antiquery of the featured products with this elegant sentence, backed up by a direct catalog quote: “the bed frames are high and imposing; the lamps are reproductions from eras before electricity; the wooden furniture is distressed and baronial. (‘Inspired by a pair of late 17th century Louis XIV doors, the walnut cabinet is emblematic of French Baroque design with a bolection-molded cornice, raised panel frames, and full-length poignée hinges.’ Nine unspecified sizes, starting at $2,495.)” -- the clear implication being that New Yorker readers are not the sort of people who would settle for cabinets “inspired by late 17th century Louis XIV doors” – they would most assuredly want the real thing.

But the high point of the article for me was its account of an inspired consumer defense tactic -- making RH take the damn things back:

Then, customers rebelled. In Palo Alto, seven volunteers returned two thousand pounds of the catalogues to a Restoration Hardware store in one day, on hand trucks. Erin Gates, an interior designer in Boston, rallied her blog readers to remove their names from the mailing list, explaining that the catalogues are useless, because they don’t contain product dimensions. Some who received the books have proposed alternate uses: dog toy, home-fitness equipment. Melanie Johnson, an origami artist in California, is rolling the pages into paper-bead jewelry. A UPS driver suggested the catalogue would make a handy wheel chock in an emergency.


[Here’s the link to the New Yorker article:


NOTE on last week’s column: In my previous column I promised that this week's column would present Part II of my list of The Days of August, covering August 16 – 31, supplying a celebration or commemoration for each of those days (that column can also be found on All Life Is Local, August 2). I decided to bump the follow-up column over to next Saturday,allowing me to post the New Yorker’s coverage on the RH Hardware catalog debacle in the same week that the New Yorker ran it. Perhaps conveniently, that means the August holidays column will appear on August 16, the first date in the Part II list of August holidays.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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