The Cybercritic Ties One On

For some, the holidays bring to mind mistletoe, eggnog, and families gathering by the fire. For The Cybercritic, they mean novelty neckties. So in search of a tie adorned with a garish Santa or glow-in-the-dark reindeer, I headed to Neckties.com, an online-only emporium.

Talk about garish! The home page included an ad for a car audio Website on the top right; links for checking e-mail (?) and order status, and for customer service, wholesale, returns, a wish list, and live help just below; offers to receive e-mail newsletters and “earn $$ to shop here” — and that’s just the top quarter of the page!

Below was a navigation bar with a half-dozen product categories and, below that, links to information about cleaning, restoring, and tying neckties, and about the history of neckwear, among other miscellany. Then there were product directories by designer, by “inspirational,” and by “novelty.” Plus a Retro Style Shop, with its own multi-font graphic, and links to “specialty shops” selling cufflinks and other accessories. Plus information about registering. All this on one screen.

I pulled down the “novelty brand” menu on the home page, but that listed only specific brands, such as The Andy Griffith Show and M&Ms. Below that menu, though, was the “theme/category” menu, and “Christmas” was among its dozens of choices.

Seven Christmas-theme ties were available, but none of them were outrageous or gaudy. In fact, the Bah-Humbug tie, with an illustrated Scrooge, was rather sleek. And the site gave me the option of ordering an extra-long, for an additional $15 and with the caveat that fulfillment would take extra time.

Checking out was relatively simple, once I realized that the “next” button on the order page was the equivalent of the “continue checking out” button on most other sites. Standard delivery was free in the U.S. and Canada — the one thing that Neckties.com should have promoted on its home page, and didn’t.

Next stop: The Lighter Side (www.lighterside.com). The Cybercritic’s household receives the novelties catalog regularly, so I was sure that amid the camouflage baby rompers emblazoned with “Pee All You Can Pee” and the holiday dog attire there’d be a tacky tie or two.

Alas, no. Thanks to the pull-down menus that let me search by occasion, by recipient, or by brand, I saw in a jiffy that the site didn’t sell what I needed. I also quickly noted that the home page had a lack of focus and identity, so that it seemed more the site of a new-ish online marketer than that of a long-established cataloger.

If anyone would have a Santa tie, surely it would be Lee Allison, a manufacturer/marketer of sumptuous silk ties. Its home page spoke volumes about the brand: It featured a photo of a ’50s-era salesman-type guy, huge grin on his bespectacled face, and his tie colored a brilliant magenta. The six icons linking to the site’s content weren’t immediately clear, but a quick roll over of the mouse produced explanatory text. Plus at the top right corner were two pull-down menus, “tie categories” and “individual ties.”

I found “holiday” among the myriad choices, and was then shown four swatches. One tie was in a discreet bubble pattern; another displayed snowflakes, a third ornaments. The product pages let you zoom in to better see the pattern and to view the additional colors, when applicable. The resulting pop-up screen included a link to “wardrobe consultant.” Unfortunately, selecting the link brought up a message about how the consultant, Maurice, quit to tour with Madonna — cute, perhaps, but why not disable the link until a new “consultant” is hired?

The fourth holiday tie sported small “L”s within the universal “no” sign of a circle with a diagonal line across it. No L…Noel. It was tempting, but for $95 do I really want to spend half of my time at holiday parties explaining the joke — or worse, have no one even get that the tie is a joke? Subtlety has its price, but The Cybercritic’s budget runs more to cheap humor.

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