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Confessions of a Junk Mail Junky


[Computer Catalogs]

by John Haley
I'm a junk mail junky. There, I've said it. Now the healing process can begin. They say that when you are combatting an addiction, it is always good to admit it in public, talk about your problem, and than enlist the help of friends and family. So please stay with me while I describe the evil four color demons that lurk within my soul.

It didn't start with my Mac, but since Macintosh is the common denominator of folks reading this I'll start from there. I was a fresh faced kid, kind of naive to the ways of the world. I'd just purchased my PowerBook 520 (when I was young, I walked 40 miles through three feet of snow in bare feet, and paid the initial listed release price.) and was filling out Apple's registration card for my trial subscription to Macworld. Sure, I've heard of mailing lists. Heck, they're a marketing fact of life. A powerful tool guaranteed to boost sales and waste trees. I guess I never thought it could happen to me. It always happens to the other guy.

The trouble started a few weeks after I dropped my Apple registration card into the mail. I received a beautiful catalog from MacWarehouse (still my favorite, the blond with the headset reminds me of a cousin). This was a slick publication. I'd pay good money for something like this.Wait! A color PowerBook 500 series for under $1500. Flip, flip, flip. Oohh. The 150. I see. A little disappointed, but I passed more than a few items of interest while getting to the PowerBook page. Plenty to keep me busy while waiting for a download to finish or for The Ambrosia Times to save.

MacWarehouse was just the first in line. Soon MacConnection, ClubMac, LLB, Image Club and The MacZone showed up and joined the party. PaperDirect is another favorite. Their catalog comes about three times every two months, and I wait by the door for it. They have some pretty creative toys, and all you need is a Mac, Quark, and a laser printer (Total $8,000?) to start playing. Isn't life grand?

I was living in the fast lane. Bright colors, 800 order lines, sample kits. Those were the salad days. I'd come into work and spread them out on my desk and bury my nose in the pile. Nothing like the smell of printers ink in the morning...

Of course it was too good to last. Soon I started hoarding the catalogs. Some folks may not see the logic in keeping six month old catalogs, but it really is important. Sort of like with the stock market, all of the products in Macdom experience price variations. By taking five different catalogs from one time period, and looking up five different products, you can clearly establish which catalog has the lowest average price. Very important if you plan to make a purchase, mildly interesting if you're not -- makes great small talk at MUG meetings. Also, by following the price of one product from issue to issue, you can plot its price curve. You may be able to snatch it up right before it goes out of production. Observe one product in several catalogs and you can literally watch the supply dwindle before it goes out of stock. Has anyone seen Hellcats (the original or Leyte Gulf) in a catalog recently... no. Anyone want to know exactly what month it dropped off of the face of retail channel earth? I know, and knowledge is power.

So what, besides a warped mailbox, am I complaining about? Purchase decision. You know, the thing a car dealer wants you to make ten minutes after he shakes your hand. I'm shot. Done for. I've been meaning to get an extra battery for my 520 for some time now. In the three digits, but not terribly expensive. But where to get it from? Catalogs usually have better prices, but you have to pay shipping. Computer superstores have them in stock, but you have to pay sales tax. Such & such catalog has it on special, but the other guy has something else that I want. Wouldn't it be better to pay for shipping just once for two items, or should I try to save on each individual item.

I do not consider myself cheap, usually not even frugal. I'm just immersed in catalogs that are all shouting out at me "buy here, don't trust that other guy! We've got the best deal in town." I just can no longer bring myself to make the decision. I'm thinking of having money deducted from my paycheck and have the new Office Manager make all my computer related purchases for me. I'm just too "Sell Shocked."


Please note: Ambrosia has just launched its own little missile in this intercontinental junk mail battle. But we're a little different. Our new mailer/brochure is only sent out to folks who ask for it, or who are registering a product. We are not targeting mailboxes across the world, preparing to release a massive salvo of promo material. So if you see one sticking out of your mailbox, don't worry, it's friendly. It is not the vanguard of a four color tidal wave to come.


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