Friday, December 12, 2008

What Happened to the Good Old-Fashioned Wish Books?

What has happened to the good old-fashioned wish book, the catalog that you could pour over for hours and spin dreams and fantasies. It was a known fact that if you couldn’t find it in the store the catalog had it. Almost always the catalog price was cheaper. Long gone are the days when it was perceived purely for the rural individual because he/she lived so far away from town. Of course, “those” catalogs weighed a ton, were three inches thick and it took hours and hours to get through looking, let alone deciding what to buy. They were called “wish books” because you and/or your children could look and wish, making your Christmas lists from those pages, knowing full well most of the time it was “just a wish.”

Many of you may be contemplating a last minute rush of trying to beat deadlines. If you are willing to pay a little more all of your gift giving can be special ordered from those slick, colorful pages. Well …. First finish reading this, then go back to the catalog.

Whatever the case may be it’s time to take a revised look at the world of catalogs as it exists today. There are currently 6000 to 7000 catalogs published, with more coming. The average household receives about 40 catalogs a year. Many come unsolicited because of a specific target market for a specific firm, or your name is on a test market list. It will be permanently on all kinds of lists if you succumb and buy.

Part of the psychology behind catalogs is that you can be persuaded to buy in the soft security of your home. You may select anything from food items, right up to a $117 million dollar private jet, in the color of your choice. The catalog will be looked at again and again, sometimes wielding its persuasive power weeks after it arrived on your doorstep. Grocery shopping and food catalogs are on the increase as well, especially during this time of year. Mail order selling is BIG business.

Reassess your attitude about “wish books”. Catalog prices are not always the best or lower than those in retail outlets! Dream – but don’t impulse buy. Shop around, check out the items, whether it be food or furniture, in other catalogs … and even the old standby, the store. Take a second look at the cost of that cheese and crackers purchased by mail, with shipping and handling costs added. Compare products you are considering with similar products available locally. In fact, many of the specialty, gourmet, and holiday food items cost a lot more from the catalogs than the similar items in the store.

Some of the current propaganda from the invisible and silent salesmen lurking in the pages is that, “it’s so convenient to shop from your home, you don’t have to go out. Or, you can leisurely browse without having to put up with the crush and crowds in the malls. And so on …” Of course if the intent and purpose of purchasing a gift pack of specialty foods is that it is shipped for you, you may be willing to pay those additional costs.

Or have you been convinced and converted so that you are planning next year to avoid all the clamor and push of the stores by doing all of your shopping from the comfort of your couch?

Whatever you do, retain your comparison-shopping skills, even from the couch, before you send off your order with the check enclosed. One of the most difficult things about buying from a catalog is finding the time, effort and determination to return an unwanted item. One more way in which those silent sales people have won. Just a thought.

Return to the Neighborhood


Melanie said...

Hi Barbara,

I've thumbed through many a catalog in my childhood. The old JCPenny was a favortie. Now I've found online shoppping to be a beautiful thing. Using codes found online I can usually get some kind of deal. It beats driving around to compare prices.

Did you get my email? I'm excited to get your response.