Restoration Hardware, purveyor of $80 shower caddies and the finest papier-mache sharks that money can buy, has decided to break the mould when it comes to mail order shopping in a decision that’s left many flummoxed customers reaching for the ibuprofen instead of perusing crystal-knobbed finials.

In lieu of sending out already substantial catalogs periodically throughout the year as is custom, the upmarket home furnishings retailer has opted to distribute 13 separate “source books” — four “lifestyle" books and nine “category” books — all at once resulting in a hulking, shrink-wrapped beast totaling well over 3,000 pages. Just think of it as being the unwieldy lovechild of a phone book, a Sears holiday catalog circa 1988, and a beautifully produced interior design coffee table tome.

And while coming home to a 17-pound bundle of Restoration Hardware goodness sitting on the front porch (and a UPS guy collapsed in the driveway) has been a welcome sight for many dedicated RH shoppers (Hooray! Now I know what to occupy myself with for the next four weeks!), it’s also rubbed others the wrong way.

Social media outlets have been overflowing as of late with vexed Restoration Hardware catalog-receivers sharing photos and venting about the girth, weight, wastefulness, and overall ridiculousness of the retailer’s latest mailing. (Pity those who appear on the retailer’s mailing list twice.) Apparently, there’s even a Tumblr blog dedicated to the epically proportioned mailing dubbed Deforestation Hardware.

A few choice words and phrases plucked from across Twitter in reaction to the catalogs: "Criminal marketing," "PR fail," "cumbersome," "irresponsible," "furious," "overwhelmed," "assault," "appalled," "small human," "horrendous waste," "...lifts with my trainer this morning."

Restoration Hardware, a company that’s also been accused of egregious super-sizing outside of the mail order department, claims that in terms of environmental impact, the move is actually a sustainable one.

On a page on the Restoration Hardware website dedicated to the “Source Book Sustainability Initiative,” the company outlines, in detail, why a 17-pound multi-volume mailing is more environmentally sustainable than sending out separate catalogs throughout the year. The page also notes that the source books were sent out as part of a carbon neutral partnership with UPS and that the paper used in the catalogs are FSC-certified. Also detailed is the company’s involvement with the Verso Forest Certification Grant Program.

Our 13 source books are published just once a year and shipped in a single package. These books serve as a design library for customers to reference for inspiration throughout the year.
Not listed on the Restoration Hardware website are the ways in which one can creatively reuse a weighty stack of 13 glossy catalogs. Doorstop? Footstool? Prop for a wobbly table? Vehicle lift? Cockroach killer?

I get that the transportation-related carbon footprint tied into a single large mailing may be less intensive than the carbon footprint associated with sending out smaller monthly or quarterly mailings. From a business standpoint, it makes sense. But 17 pounds of catalog at once? Although UPS didn’t deliver the 2014 Restoration Hardware encyclopedia set to my home, the whole thing strikes me as being aggressive, over-the-top, comical, and rather obscene.

I can understand why people are upset.

Restoration Hardware honcho Gary Friedman, who recently provided Apartment Therapy with additional insight into the mega-mailing and the company’s overall direction, doesn’t seem all that concerned. The Corte Madera, California-headquartered retailer recently demonstrated remarkable financial health and Friedman claims that sales have actually jumped in the weeks since the source books were unleashed despite there being a higher number of catalog opt-outs compared to this time last year — “you’d expect that because the book is twice as big.”

Did you receive the Restoration Hardware 2014 source book bonanza? And what was your initial reaction? Did you immediately click here to cancel future, and possibly even more gargantuan, mailings? 

Via [Chicago Tribune]

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