The Sharper Image “Holiday 2005” catalog arrived in the mail a few days ago. I was shocked at how little of the stuff I actually wanted. And how cheesy so much of it as become. Especially the stuff the company designs itself.There was a time, 20 years ago, when Sharper Image sold name-brand devices that were hard to find at retail. There was Panasonic, and Sony, and a fair number of things–like radios and sound equipment–that I really wanted. Or at least that’s how I remember it. This catalog, however, is filled with cheap-looking silver and off-white plastic (thanks Apple!) and includes a painful amount of “Invented Here” products that, as a group, strike me as being garbage.
Lately, Sharper Image has built some sort of reputation–I hope it’s not a good one–selling “Invented Here” electrostatic air filters/purifiers. They cost as much as $550 and Consumer Reports regularly gives them mediocre reviews. Hint: If you want to filter the air in your house, but a whole house air filter. It does a lot more for not a lot more money. Or just check Consumer Reports at the library and get one of their recommended filters. Even a 3M replacement furnace filter does more than the Sharper Image products.Also in the expensive-but-doesn’t-review-well category is the $549 Dyson vacuum cleaner.
And there is a bewildering array of tacky iPod gadgets in the catalog, based around a universal connector system for power and sound. Nothing too special there.Did I mention the $59.95 battery-operated nose hair trimmer and the $49.95 power tail clipper and file? How about the $39.95 liquid soap dispenser “with no-drip technology and a muscial chime that’s fun for kids.” Gee, I sure with I’d invented these.As an aside, a vendor was in for a meeting last week and showed me a product–all silver plastic–that will be in Sharper Image stores before Christmas. The vendor admitted that some people might find the silver plastic a tad repulsive but that it did match what the stores were selling. My wife, meanwhile, looked at the Sharper Image catalog and wondered aloud if any of the store’s customers actually had girlfriends, since so many of the products had a “bachelor pad” look to them. My bet is women stay well away from this stuff. And the men who buy it.If, per chance, you’re in the market for this stuff, let me offer a word of advice to you: Brookstone, which I think is a much more interesting catalog.