Looking for a nice gift? Don’t start here


Arriving in my mailbox today was the mid-spring edition of the Hammacher Schlemmer gift catalog, packed with previously advertised items they still can’t unload (which I have probably made fun of in past columns), along with some brand new items I am about to skewer.

On the cover is what HS calls a Hypnotic Jellyfish Aquarium. It contains two synthetic jellyfish that provide “mesmerizing ambience.” Really? Jellyfish use their tentacles to capture prey, emitting deadly toxins in a very painful sting. Maybe “mesmerizing ambience” was leftover copy from last year’s flop, The Teddy Bear Aquarium.

Inside the cover is the customary introductory letter from the current chairman, John McArthur, welcoming you to his world of unique and unusual products. In the past, I chided him for opening remarks that were poorly expressed.

Although Mr. McArthur does not have a gift for writing, he makes up for it with about 200 gifts in other areas, like inside the catalog. In his letter, Mr. McArthur reveals his favorite items: The Mosquito Zapping Light Bulb (Page 10) and the Flameless Candle Lighter (Page 55), but those nifty products are not on those pages.

If HS can’t get their stuff on the right page, how, in two weeks, can they deliver your stuff on the right doorstep?

Speaking of the Mosquito Zapping Light Bulb, what really bugs me is Hammacher’s obsession with these insects. In this latest catalog, there are seven items specifically for the purpose of avoiding mosquito bites (an understandable concern), but do we really need the Natural Attractant Mosquito Trap ($195.95); the Hooded Zip Up Mosquito Jacket ($39.95); the Solar Mosquito Zapper ($99.95); the Mosquito Decimator $299.95); the Mosquito Zapping Light Bulb ($29.95) and finally, the Mosquito Defeating Sports Chair ($79.95)?

That last one portrays an attractive couple sitting next to each other in their respective chairs, enclosed head to toe in netting. HS apparently got this sexy marketing idea from Cialis commercials.

It’s not nearly as romantic as side-by-side outdoor bathtubs, but it does make a lot more sense than two outdoor bathtubs. On a positive note, wearing protection always sets a good example.

Ants are also a concern for the folks at HS. For the dog that has everything, they offer the Anti Ant Moated Bowl, which was designed to stop invasions of “kibble-craving ants.” The bowl has a moat surrounding the food. Just add water. Since ants can’t swim, they will instead head for the sugar bowl or the Fruit Loops.

Exactly what you were hoping for, right? Of course, at $59.95, it is a huge waste of money. From the time you put your dog’s food in the bowl until he’s inhaled the last morsel is usually less than 60 seconds. Even if ants had cellphones, they couldn’t spread the word that fast.

Also offered in this season’s lineup is the Suction-Powered Sinus Decongestor. “It removes congestion by pulling a saline rinse from its upper tank in through one nostril, then out the other.” It’s the perfect gift for a person with breathing problems. It could also be used to drown ants.

Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this syndicated column.