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.