opinion & response

Dec 01, 2001 10:30 PM  By

Plane Crazy Publicity Stunt

Some 73 years after Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the U.S., a plucky dentist from Sonoma, CA, re-created the historic flight. Carlene Mendieta left Westchester County Airport in White Plains, NY, on Sept. 5 in a 1927 Avro Avian — the same type of plane Earhart used. Though she was grounded six days later in Hobbs, NM, after the terrorist attacks, Mendieta resumed her flight a week later and arrived back at Westchester on Oct. 2. Why are you reading about this in Catalog Age? Because the plane’s owner, Greg Herrick, financed the journey to promote his Historic Aviation catalog. (Herrick also followed Mendieta in a Cessna during the flight.) The lengths — or should we say heights — that some people will go to promote their catalogs.

A Thumbs-up for Anthropologie

Apparel mailers no doubt hate it when customers order a product in several sizes and return the items that don’t fit, but that’s a reality in the clothing catalog business. Trying to avoid that scenario, a Catalog Age staffer took a gamble on the size when ordering a coat from the Anthropologie catalog. The coat didn’t fit quite right, so the staffer called to order the coat in the next size, keeping the first one to see which fit better. When the customer service rep saw that the caller had already ordered the coat in another size, he asked if she had received that first coat. When told yes and that the new order was to determine the proper size, the rep waived the shipping-and-handling charges on the second coat.

Calling All High Fliers

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks sparked a serious interest in private planes among the gilded class. So luxury gifts cataloger Neiman Marcus was on the money, so to speak, with one of its fantasy gifts this year: a limited-edition 430 helicopter from Bell. This “awe-inspiring” aircraft’s features are too numerous to list here, but highlights include Italian-leather seats and sidewalls, a passenger refreshment center, two computer outlets, and a Blaupunkt cockpit AM/FM/CD entertainment center with cabin speakers and remote control.

Before you get too attached to this first-class copter, which seats seven including two in the cockpit, we should probably mention that it costs a cool $6.7 million. And since its maximum travel range is about 300 miles, with a top flying speed of 164 mph, you wouldn’t be able to get very far very fast. Then again, with such lush accommodations, getting there would indeed be half the fun.

Big Birthday for Banta

Birthdays are always a cause for celebration — especially when it’s a centennial. Printing giant Banta Corp. is proudly celebrating its 100th year in business. The company has come a long way since George Banta Sr. opened a modest printing shop in Menasha, WI, in fall 1901. Today Banta — a public company for three decades — generates $1.5 billion in annual revenue and employs about 8,000 people. The company is a major printer of soft-cover books, special-interest magazines, direct marketing materials, and of course, catalogs. Many happy returns, Banta!

How Ugly Is It?

So you think you have an ugly couch? New York-based slipcover manufacturer/marketer Sure Fit, which mails the Slipcovers by Mail catalog, recently named the winner of the seventh annual Sure Fit Ugly Couch Contest — and it’s a beauty. The orange-and-brown velour sofa, which has “decorative” chains festooning its arms, was one of three semifinalists from more than 850 entries. The unsightly settee was voted the ugliest couch in America on Oct. 4 by the studio audience of the Live with Regis and Kelly TV talk show. Proud owners Renate and Craig Johnston of Hanover, PA, were awarded the $2,000 grand prize. The couch, which now resides at the former frat house of the Johnstons’ son, did not make an acceptance speech.

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