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COMMUNITY VOICE

Over-the-top catalogs offer expensive, more-is-better fantasy ideas for gifts

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 12:01 am

It’s time to round up the usual suspects — Neiman Marcus, Hammacher Schlemmer, MindWare, Williams-Sonoma, Signals, Vermont Country Store and all those other holiday catalogs that have been breeding in the mailboxes since November. It’s time to look at what this year’s wad of wish books offered kids and adults.

Over-the-top fantasy presents always intrigue with Neiman Marcus living up to its reputation once again. This year’s NM ultimate item was a dinner at the gift buyer’s home, prepared by four world-famous chefs and served with personalized bottles of spirits at an attention-getting cost of $250,000.

Of course, that’s for 10 guests, including the host. NM evidently doesn’t believe that too many cooks spoil the soup.

Toys always make up a large part of the merchandising pie during the holidays with some, like the American Girl dolls, having their own individual catalog of clothes and accessories. Lovely though they are, these 10 little fashionistas, each representing a period of American history, have champagne appetites that can quickly max out a parent’s credit card.

There are even “accessories” for the accessories. A $110 stable nicely accessorizes a $75 pony. Also available are a $48 cello with pretend rosin; a $28 allergy-free, pretend lunch with medical bracelet and allergy stickers; and a $20 stuffed pet bunny to nap on a $125 four-poster doll bed. Sleepover accessories for times the dolls have doll friends over include a pretend popcorn bowl and two faux drinks.

No need to imagine. It’s already available, ready for free shipping perhaps.

For those looking for silly stuff this year, there are carlashes. Eight inches long with adhesive backing, carlashes can turn ordinary headlights into sirens of the night. To ramp up the wattage, faux diamond eyeliner is also available for extra sparkle. Can Botox and implants be far behind?

For this year’s travelers, there are options of near mythic proportions. A poncho, made of Tyvek (what houses are wrapped in) and printed with a world map, might come in handy as a backup GPS for those who can’t find Italy.

The ultimate offering, however, has to be an air purifier that, reportedly, filters 875 percent more air pollutants than comparable purifiers and creates a 3-foot sphere of cleaner air around the traveler by emitting a constant stream of negative ions that forces viruses, bacteria, pollen and dust away from the traveler’s face — and right into that of his/her seat mate.

What was new this year was not the merchandise itself. What was new was the amount and intensity of the marketing. No way should Christmas promotions ever follow political election campaigns. Advertisers just kept up the “More is Better” philosophy, apparently having no faith that “A little dab will do you.”

Emails. Fliers. Cards and coupons. Catalogs flooded our homes. They arrived in multiple copies. They arrived with the same insides but with different covers — the way James Patterson has marketed his novels.

Emails seemed to be ads for catalog advertisements. Coming soon. Look for it. It was not unlike the Social Security office that mails you a letter saying they will call you at 11:12 on Friday. And they do.

This was the year the tipping point tipped. It was the deluge that did it, the constant stream of messages, the multiple bands of Web crawlers, the computer pop-ups, the hype, the fast talk, the loud and just plain rude talk, the messages that blast on just as you lift the hose at the gas pump, the ad that starts talking to you as you pass the salsa shelf at the grocery store.

It is clear. We aren’t in the land of a little blue-light special anymore.

Dana Wichern is a resident of Fort Wayne.