backword

May 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Georgia on their minds For certain, it’s getting harder and harder to find new catalog products. Now it seems mailers can’t even count on local heroes to become unique product heroes. Case in point: a replica of the “Savannah Bird Girl” statue, which appears on the spring catalog covers of both home decor mailer Ballard Designs and gifts cataloger Charles Keath. Each of the Georgia-based catalogs-Ballard in Atlanta and Charles Keath in Norcross-probably thought it had hit a product home run with the bird girl. But it’s hardly a unique item-heck, even an out-of-state cataloger, St. Paul, MN-based Signals, features the statue on its spring cover.

P.S. Good luck trying to buy the bird girl from Ballard Designs. Though the cover claims that the item is sold on the order form and on page 10 of the catalog, it isn’t. For shame!

Saffron diplomacy? Dealing with merchandise suppliers in third-world countries can be precarious, but most catalogers don’t share their importing horror stories with their customers if they don’t have to. Penzeys Spice catalog, however, lays its cards on the table. In the president’s letter of the spring edition, William Penzey tells readers that the $45,000 the company wired to suppliers in Kashmir to buy saffron “seems to have disappeared into the fabled black hole of India.” Penzey writes that he is not sure if the money disappeared, if the saffron disappeared, or if the shipment is just incredibly late, but he vows that “one way or the other we will resolve this, but it will require diplomacy, and it is hard to predict how long it will take.” It’s possible that the saffron situation has been resolved by now, but if not, the letter specifies that Penzeys customers seeking the Kashmir Mogra Cream red saffron ($8.45 per gram) will instead receive the Spanish saffron ($6.49 per gram) and a refund for the difference.

Setting out to become the Amazon.com of the pharmacy industry isn’t easy, but it certainly helps to have the actual Amazon.com on your side. Drugstore.com-an online pharmacy startup of which Amazon owns 40%-turned to the book marketing behemoth for help in several online areas, such as the best way to catalog a database of 16,000 drugstore products ranging from aspirin to Zantac. Amazon management suggested that the fledgling cyber-pharmacist enlist Electronic Scriptorium Ltd., a company that hires monks and nuns to create databases. Only one problem: The nuns balked at inputting data regarding a shipment of condoms. Secular employees now handle the keying in of such items.

Bean there In its 25th anniversary issue in March, People magazine spoofs venerable outdoor gear and apparel cataloger L.L. Bean with its “L.L. Been There” catalog of once-hot products. Among the items featured in this “guide to fads that went pfffft! and habits that became history” are press-on nails, Cabbage Patch Kids, Baby on Board signs, leg warmers, and pet rocks.

What a great idea-a catalog of products nobody wants! Let’s call it J. Peterman (ouch)!

Correction In the New Lists section of the March 15 issue, we failed to source Media Marketplace’s “Jet Set” list of 657,839 buyers and inquirers of airline reservations and travel-related services for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, and Canada. The list is from McCord Consumer Direct, a travel management company.