6 things you won’t be ordering from SkyMall

SkyMall is the catalog that’s in the back of airplane seats.

It’s what you read when you forget to bring a book or a magazine or the free USA Today from the hotel and you’ve already thumbed through the in-flight magazine, twice.

What’s interesting is that SkyMall has built a successful business (it’s been around since 1990) selling things no one especially wants (such as a 4-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower for $199.99) in a location where it’s pretty much impossible to buy things on impulse (8 miles above Mississippi).

It’s hard to imagine buying a 28-inch garden sculpture of Bigfoot ($115), for example, if you’ve had a few minutes to think it through.

Of course, not everything in SkyMall is nutty or ironic. I wouldn’t mind having a seat from Yankee Stadium ($799.99) or a boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali ($1999.99).

On the other hand, you have products like these:

  • Head massager ($49.95). The catalog says, “This patented Italian design incorporates Japanese engineering and utilizes acupressure to relax and soothe your problems away.” It also looks like something that’ll wind up as a prop in SyFy channel movie.
  • Toilet-seat adapters for potty-training your cat ($49.99).
  • A 6 foot-by-2 foot photo of the Cincinnati skyline, at least not at these prices ($319 unframed, $499 framed).
  • Shower head studded with color-changing LED lights, to “create a spa-like environment in the comfort of your own shower,” assuming you shower in the dark ($49.99-$59.99).
  • 6-foot replica Easter Island monolith ($995). I can imagine someone buying this as a temporary decoration for a pool party or cookout, but $1,000 is a high price for irony.
  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica ($1,395). We’re talking 32 hardcover books that are so bulky, there’s an extra $40 delivery charge. When I was a kid, my parents paid a small fortune for a set of World Book encyclopedias and annual updates, but this was before the Internet. OK, Wikipedia isn’t as authoritative as the Encyclopeadia Britannica, but it’s awfully useful (and cheaper), and it can point you to better sources online (that are also cheaper). SkyMall seems to understand this. It also sells a set of 3 different versions of the Encyclopeadia Britannica — aimed at elementary students, teens and adults — on DVD-ROM for $39.95.

God bless Record Store Day

Today is Record Store Day.

It’s a marketing gimmick meant to get people to buy music at real stores instead of just downloading it from iTunes — in part by offering special releases on vinyl.

Vinyl is what hipsters call records, and some of them swear that despite the pops and skips and scratches that it sounds a lot better, a lot warmer, than CDs, and don’t get them started on how much better vinyl sounds than MP3s.

Record Store Day, then, isn’t meant for people like me.

I don’t have a record player. My taste in music is all over the board — I like everything from classic country to vintage soul to Sinatra and Thievery Corporation — but I don’t think my tastes are better than yours. I think CDs are better than vinyl, and while I can tell the difference between the sound of a CD and an MP3, I don’t think it matters.

I’m still a sucker for used record stores, but as soon as I get a CD, usually I rip it and treat the CD itself as a backup.

But I still like Record Store Day.

I like the idea of small businesses getting together and doing something to fight back against big chain stores and technology.

Too many people just lap up whatever pap is placed before them, so I like knowing that people still care about something, whether it’s vinyl records or the music that’s embedded on that vinyl.

So, Record Store Day isn’t for people like me. God bless it, anyway.