Opinion and Response

Feb 01, 2004 10:30 PM  By

Another Reality Check

What is it about catalog models and reality TV? Last spring we reported that a star of the first Joe Millionaire dating show, Evan Marriott, once modeled some racy underwear for men’s apparel cataloger/Website California Muscle. Now we have found out that the latest star of The Bachelorette, Meredith Phillips, has also posed for catalogers, including Early Winters, Lands’ End, and Nordstrom. Phillips, who got the boot from Bob last fall on ABC’s The Bachelor series, is looking for love on the airwaves once again, but this time she’s handing out red roses to handsome hopefuls. And since she’s one of the industry’s own (sort of), we wish her lots of luck.

Stoner Does Good

Congratulations to Stoner, winner of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in the small business category. Founded 60 years ago by Paul Stoner, an orphan during the Depression who went on to earn a degree in chemistry, the Quarryville, PA-based manufacturer/cataloger today markets a line of 300 cleaners and lubricants. With just 48 employees, Stoner is the smallest business ever to receive a Baldridge Award. Who says stoners never accomplish anything?

Sundance Spider Scare

In early December, Sundance Catalog Co.’s warehouse workers got more than they bargained for when receiving several hundred handmade baskets from Tanzania: The shipment also included a host of brown recluse spiders. The Salt Lake City-based cataloger had to evacuate 120 employees from its West Valley City, UT, distribution center while the uninvited arachnids were exterminated. Happily, nobody was bitten by the brown recluses — although basket orders from the infested shipment had already gone out to eight customers. Sundance contacted the customers to explain the situation and reports that they were “very understanding.” Considering that it’s been noted that a bite from one of the dime-size spiders can be fatal or at the least result in ulcerous sores and volcano lesions, we’d say that those customers were very understanding indeed.

Asian Call Centers Inspire Bollywood Romance

In the October 2003 issue (“Marketers Hear Overseas Call”), we reported on the trend of U.S. catalogers outsourcing call-center functions to third-party providers in overseas locales such as India and the Philippines. Now it seems the concept has gone Hollywood. British director Roger Christian is shooting a film in New Delhi and New York about a young Indian call-center operator who gets involved with one of her transatlantic customers. The film’s title, American Daylight, refers to the fact that India-based operators work through the night to take calls from U.S. customers as India is roughly 12 hours ahead of U.S. time. Even if the film’s not a splashy “Bollywood” musical, we’re looking forward to seeing it when it opens later this year. There aren’t nearly enough movies about call-center romances.

Secret Shopper: The Holiday Stocking

Plenty of catalogs boasted about accepting Christmas orders as late as Dec. 23. But while they may have had the capability to do so, many mailers didn’t have the merchandise in stock.

Catalog Age’s Secret Shopper called 15 consumer catalogs on Dec. 22 and 23 to request 41 products for Christmas delivery. Only 23 of the requested items, or 56%, were available.

Apparel catalogers The Territory Ahead and Victoria’s Secret fared the worst, with none of the requested products in stock. Home decor cataloger/retailer Pottery Barn and jewelry and gifts marketer Ross-Simons were the only companies contacted to have all three of the items requested available. What’s more, Ross-Simons said it would assume the express delivery charge for Christmas delivery.

Speaking of surcharges for rush delivery, home decor cataloger Sturbridge Yankee Workshop, which had two of the three requested items in stock, charged the most — $62. But apparel cataloger/retailer Talbots, like Ross-Simons, charged only its usual shipping rate. Talbots also provided arguably the best customer service: When one of the three items requested was found to be out of stock, the service rep recommended a similar, less expensive item and offered a 10% discount on it since the first choice was unavailable.

CATALOG # ITEMS REQUESTED/# ITEMS IN STOCK DATE CALLED CHRISTMAS DELIVERY STILL POSSIBLE?
Cooking.com 3/1 12/22 Yes, for $24.95 express shipping charge
Eddie Bauer 3/2 12/22 Yes, for an additional $12
Hearthsong 3/2 12/22 “Probably, but we’re not guaranteeing it anymore”
J.C. Penney 2/1 12/23 Yes, with a $20 surcharge
J. Jill 3/2 12/22 Yes, for an additional $15
Lillian Vernon 3/2 12/23 Yes — if placed by noon that day (10 a.m. for personalized items — for an additional $27)
Pottery Barn* 3/3 12/22 Yes, with a $15 surcharge
Orvis 3/2 12/23 Yes, if placed by 4 p.m. that day, for an additional $16
RedEnvelope** n/a 12/22 N/A
Ross-Simons 3/3 12/22 Yes, with cataloger assuming the express charges
Sturbridge Yankee Workshop 3/2 12/22 Yes, for $62 express shipping charge
Talbots*** 3/2 12/22 Yes, no extra charge
Taylor Gifts 3/1 12/22 Yes, with a $28 surcharge
The Territory Ahead 3/0 12/22 N/A
Victoria’s Secret 3/0 12/22 N/A
* As Secret Shipper was fumbling for SKU numbers, CSR said kindly but firmly: “Come on, we wastin’ time if you want me to get this to you by Christmas.”
** No answer, despite three efforts — during the second of which Secret Shopper was on hold for two minutes and 20 seconds before being disconnected. No wonder the phone message prompted callers to order online!
*** The rep recommended a similar, less expensive item than one requested that no longer in stock in the catalog and took an additional 10% off since the first choice was not available.

CONTACT US … or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

Email mweinstein@primediabusiness.com Phone 203-358-9900 Fax 203-358-5823 Letter 11 River Bend Drive South, Stamford, CT 06907