Do you dread holiday shopping--chasing specials, battling fellow shoppers, waiting in lines, scrounging for a parking space?
Well, there's a time-honored alternative, one chosen by millions of Americans who would rather do their gift buying while lounging in their easy chairs. Of course, it's mail order, which started out as the farmer's friend more than a century ago.
Mail-order goods don't have to be ho-hum. If you have the right catalogues, the merchandise may be unusual, exciting, perhaps bargain-priced, and the selection may be broader than that of retail shops you normally visit.
Perhaps the ultimate catalogues are those that feature nothing but catalogues and brochures. Names of firms publishing these often can be found in the classified ads at the backs of magazines. These companies can supply you with listings of catalogues that can be obtained either free or for a small fee. A few of the many catalogues available this way: gags and humorous gifts, grandfather clocks, low-cost house designs, Judaic stitchery, free samples, free books, cigars, collectibles.
Be advised that when you request any catalogue, your name may go onto a mailing list that may be sold or rented to other companies. To have your name removed from a mailing list, you must write to the sending company. If pornographic material is involved, there is a U.S. Postal Service form you can fill out. You can have any material returned to the sender by crossing out your address and writing "Refused" across the envelope.
Here's a sampler of 10 interesting holiday catalogues, plucked from the thousands that are available. Many may be new to you because they are little--under 80 pages--and the issuing organizations or businesses may have relatively small mailing lists. In general, each specializes in a type of merchandise or at least emphasizes a particular kind of goods. (All hours are Pacific Standard Time.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 255 Gracie Station, New York, N.Y. 10028. Credit card orders, (312) 673-6006, 24 hours a day. Order information, (718) 326-7050, 6 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Thumbing through this catalogue is like a stroll among the art treasures of civilization. The offerings include a torso of Aphrodite; a bronze head of a Roman youth; a pottery cup fashioned after an Etruscan vessel, circa 500 BC; a silver-plated ladle modeled after one from China's T'ang dynasty (AD 618-906); chrysanthemum-print scarfs based on a woodblock by a 19th-Century Japanese artist; terra-cotta angels based on originals made in 18th-Century Naples; a head of the Virgin from Michelangelo's "Pieta"; an elaborate letter opener and magnifying glass modeled on a 17th-Century German hunting knife.
Other items: Tiffany-stained glass windows with nature scenes; an elegant perfume bottle; a wide selection of cards, calendars, posters, prints, jewelry, needlework and books.
The San Francisco Music Box Co., Mail Order Department, P.O. Box 26433, San Francisco, Calif. 94126-6433. Order information, toll-free, (800) 426-1823, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Credit card orders, (800) 227-2190, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. "The Best Christmas Ever," a catalogue of home and tree trimmings, is also available.
The range offered here will appeal to music box lovers of all ages. There are musical tree ornaments; a miniature cable car that plays "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"; "prairie lass" dolls that play "Thank Heaven for Little Girls"; musical picture frames, lockets and carrousels. For big plungers: a 19-Century-style metal-disc player at $2,495.
The young at heart might go for musical teddy bears, reindeer or Rocko, the cotton dinosaur.
Smith & Hawken catalogue for gardeners, 25 Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Calif. 94941. Telephone (415) 383-6292; credit card orders, (415) 383-4050; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekends. Phone orders from California are sent via United Parcel Service the same day.
For the romantically inclined gardener on your list, a "courting swing" might be the right holiday gift. For the more practical-minded, there are garden tools, small equipment, seeds, bulbs, evergreens, vases, bowls, trays, dried flowers. Or perhaps Italianate terra-cotta pots or Victorian-style edging tiles.
The green-thumb reader will enjoy the books, and bird lovers will like the thatched birdhouse and shell birdbath.
Denise Silver of Smith & Hawken adds, "We are the largest supplier of (outdoor) teak furniture in the country."
Another reason to like the Smith & Hawken catalogue is its beautiful photos of plant life.
U.S. Committee for UNICEF catalogue of cards, 1 Children's Blvd., Ridgely, Md. 21685. Credit card orders and information, toll-free, (800) 553-1200, 24 hours a day. Customer service, (301) 634-1004, 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Here we have an impressive array of holiday and note cards to convey your greetings or perhaps to serve as gifts themselves.