Attack of the Twelve-Pound Catalog

"Here's your hernia, ma'am."

“Here’s your hernia, ma’am.”

Anyone who has proclaimed print media “dead” must not be on the Restoration Hardware mailing list. If that’s the case, thank you. You’ve done your part for preserving both trees AND the overworked spines of UPS drivers across the country.

In May, at Vellum’s offices, we received a plastic-wrapped bundle of Restoration Hardware catalogs weighing seventeen pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. Next month, at our homes, we received another bundle, but this one was a slimmed-down, eleven-to-twelve-pound, “fun size” version (you know, for households).

A local UPS driver, while catching his breath, told us that each driver, on average, delivers two hundred of these catalogs; and, while it can lead to some tasty overtime, it has put a temporary strain on his family life. According to this particular employee, UPS will have delivered 4.2 million of these catalogs by the time they’re finished.

While these catalog bundles (or “source books,” as Restoration Hardware calls them) make for great step stools and bludgeons, many consider them to be a space-hogging nuisance that, despite being made of some recycled paper, is also an unprecedented waste of resources. At Vellum, we frequently receive several redundant copies of catalogs (Crate & Barrel, I’m looking at you). But, unlike catalogs from Restoration Hardware, their combined weight coudn’t flatten a typical house pet.

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

The target audience for these RH catalogs seems to be “anyone who has ever ordered anything from us—or current resident.” I, for example, haven’t ordered anything from Restoration Hardware for at least three years, and I believe it was a few pencil holders when I did. Surely, the profit that RH garnered from said pencil holders pales in comparison to the production, and delivery, costs of their new source books.

Media outlets such as CBS This Morning and The Boston Globe have called attention to the behemoth books and the ensuing consumer woes, but these are solitary voices that were quickly lost in the crowded media landscape. In a brilliant public relations move, Restoration Hardware has long ago stopped using its Twitter feed, and it lacks an official Facebook page altogether; therefore, there is no central location at which consumers can meet to complain in unison. This could be one of the reasons that there hasn’t been a more centralized backlash.

According to fool.com, Restoration Hardware’s strategy started in 2011 when they sent out a large, three-pound catalog, which was met with consumer outcry…and then extremely high sales numbers. In 2013, the catalog weight doubled to six pounds, which again irked many consumers—yet, again, increased sales figures for the retailer. If the 2014 bundle leads to further increased sales, expect a delivery in 2015 weighing somewhere around two hundred and eleven pounds, give or take. Find a good chiropractor now. In fact, maybe your UPS driver can recommend one.

 

 

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