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Small Talk: Catalog industry has my number

I fight a special battle this time of year. I have a love-hate relationship with catalogs. I always succumb and order something, so by November, my mailbox begins to runneth over.

Stacks of them begin to pile up around the house. It’s a habit I apparently picked up from my mother, who never threw away a catalog until she had time to scour it thoroughly.

I do love to curl up with my assortment, ranging from the Washington National Gallery of Art to Oriental Trader with its bags of chatchkes. You just never know when you might stumble across the perfect gift.

The downside is I always find too many things I’d like for myself. It takes true self-discipline to resist ordering them all and filling my own stocking.

Somehow, the vendors have learned that before New Year’s Eve, I have a daughter’s birthday, three stockings to fill and trinkets to find for St. Nicholas Day shoes. With that semi-frantic look in my eyes, I am their target audience.

Trouble is, everything always looks adorable in the catalog. That leather-handled tote bag is so handsome, but doesn’t your mom already have 10 reusable grocery bags?

And do you know you can get Van Gogh’s “Starry, Starry Night” on an umbrella? I have to remind myself that when you are racing around in the rain, the poignancy of the artwork is pretty much lost.

Another catalog has the cutest holiday decorations. How do I know they are the cutest? Because as soon as my daughter sees them, they tend to wander off to her house. (Then I need to order more.)

And I try to order promptly, but sometimes find the catalogs smushed under a pile of laundry. Nothing adds to holiday stress like finding they only have one item left, in magenta, in a size 2. 

I promise local merchants that I will make at least one on-foot shopping trip, but it is tough to say no to those catalog favorites, like collegiate mascot neck pillows, or those ill-fitting holiday muumuus and faux fur-lined, polyester pseudo-suede boots.

Sure, there are a host of items I have no trouble flipping past. But for every 50 cheesy items, there are always one or two things I can’t resist. Hopefully they will arrive before Dec. 31.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who wanted to be ready for Christmas by Nov. 1. Contact her at [email protected]