Ho, ho, ho …. It’s catalog time

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around our house.
Oh, we haven’t gotten any decorations out or anything. We usually don’t get around to even thinking about that until about Thanksgiving.

No, what looks like Christmas is the stack of mail-order catalogs accumulating in the recycling pile. The first sign of the approaching holidays is when catalogs start filling up the mailbox.
On Tuesday of last week, we got eight. They tend to arrive in bunches on Tuesdays. I suppose some marketing outfit somewhere thinks Tuesday is the best day to have a catalog arrive in the home. Anyhow, on Tuesdays this time of year, I feel sorry for our mail carrier.
 We don’t really buy a lot of stuff out of catalogs, but we get several magazines and I figure they sell mailing lists to marketers.
But we do buy a few things through catalogs or the internet because our gift giving (other than to each other) is to relatives who live a long way away. It’s easier both on us and them to buy something from a catalog or an internet site that has a branch store near them – just in case they decide to return it.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though. Take last Saturday, for instance. Jenny was trying to help Joe buy a birthday present for his father, who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. His father had suggested he needed a new set of sheets and pillowcases, preferably in slate blue.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? She logged on to the internet for them to look, and soon became bogged down in information overload. There were dozens and dozens of sheet sets. When she found a set that she and Joe liked, she would check the customer reviews. How confusing.
One customer would say the sheets were wonderful, while the next would complain that they split after only a couple of washings. One  catalog retailer’s sheets were described by one customer as “durable, beautiful and comfortable,” while another asked, “How many times do I need to wash them before they get soft?”
At another web site, a national brand of sheets marketed specifically to men got reviews ranging from good quality to “These sheets never get soft. I have tried everything and they still feel like sandpaper. They are horribly wrinkled when they come out of the dryer even after years of washing.”
She finally told Joe they had to pick something and they ordered sheets. The only opinion that will count in the end is Joe’s father’s. But it does point up the problems with reviews online: First, are the reviews honest or concocted either by the retailer or a competitor? And second, different people like different things.
We had a much better shopping experience in downtown New Albany. Jenny saw a sale-priced bird feeder at In Bloom that she thought would make a nice present for her mother, who lives in Kentucky. John Hickey gift-wrapped it in paper and ribbon that looks more expensive than the bird feeder.
Then we strolled up Bankhead to Barbara Tyre, so Jenny could see what she had for fall. After a few trips into the dressing room, Jenny and Barbara had given the merchandise their own reviews, which she concluded was far more valuable than what strangers on the internet might say.
There’s a reason to shop locally – and that’s it.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.