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Job security? It's in the bag

Page 2 of 3 -- "The analogy we use is that the 5.5 million tons a year in junk mail is enough waste paper to displace all the hot air in the United States Senate and House chambers 631 times."

A recent study by the Postal Service reported that mail emanating from households now accounts for only 22 percent of the overall volume, and that because of the popularity of e-mail, Americans are increasingly relying on the Postal Service only as a vehicle to deliver their bills, taxes, and charitable giving.

"Now that we're plugged into the Internet Age," said the study, "some are tempted to question the relevance of direct mail -- specifically catalogs -- in today's on-line world."

The study said further that 15 percent of people receiving catalogs went to websites to make a purchase, and 13 percent of those who received a flier made an online purchase, too. Only 8 percent of a control group made a purchase without being spurred by a mailing piece.

At the Cannon home -- "I'm not exaggerating," says Bob, "we get an average of 20 catalogs a day" -- he nevertheless enjoys perusing them.

"I do look forward to Wine Enthusiast and Orvis catalogs and the ones with the electronic toys, Sharper Image and Brookstone, but I even like catalogs I never buy anything from. I like to go through them and dream a bit about how I'd like to be there in Upper Minnesota, fishing and wearing a pair of boots like that guy's wearing."

In the weeks before Christmas, catalogs this year have been offering a panoply of such esoterica as the Wine Master Deluxe, a hand-held, electronic sommelier (AA batteries included) that contains 10,000 reviews of wines and a helpful guide to assist you in figuring out which wine goes with what food -- just the thing to pull from your pocket at Locke-Ober before ordering the house white.

According to the Bible, not one of the 12 Apostles ever required a catalog to buy a T-shirt that said "You Bet Your Gnocchi I'm Italian," and how did the Magi make it all the way to Bethlehem without a full-grain-leather dachshund footstool or a Boston Patriots pool cue or cufflinks that tell time or a Barney Fife cookie jar or one of those glow-in-the-dark jigsaw puzzles of the New York skyline or a 6-foot, 16th-century suit of armor that the catalog promises is certain to awe even the most unshakable of your guests.

Whatever happened to deciding what we need and then going out to buy it, as opposed to leafing through catalogs and deciding to buy something we didn't realize we needed until we saw it, like the tepee table lamp or the plastic gangster hat or the frozen bag of low-carb pasta puttanesca or the silver-plated stainless-steel spray canister to ensure we don't dilute our martinis with too much of that darn vermouth?   Continued...

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