If you’ve been on a domestic flight in the last 20 years and not picked up a SkyMall catalog out of the seat pocket to take a quick skim, let me tell you, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest guilty pleasures. You’re also missing out on the opportunity to purchase your very own Darth Vader Apron, $1,000 Easter Island Monolith Statue, or a Slanket (in camo, of course).
I peruse the pages of SkyMall every time I set foot on an airplane. I’m a terribly jittery flier, and SkyMall provides some comfort. I can’t elaborate on exactly what kind of comfort that openly gawking at the Hypnotic Jellyfish Aquarium brings me, but it does calm me down. It’s a ritual, a distraction, a way to forget that I’m hurling six miles above the earth in an aluminum tube.
Sometimes when I travel with friends, we like to kick off a flight playing the “Pick out your five favorite items from the SkyMall catalog” game. Without fail, someone can’t settle on just five picks and throws in, let’s say, the Mademoiselle Floor Lamp as number six. (That someone is usually me.) Another favorite SkyMall activity? Hunting for totally inappropriate SkyMall graffiti.
A fantastic 2009 New York Times article that examines how SkyMall with its many dispensable delights (all culled from other catalogs like Sharper Image and Hammacher Schlemmer) is faring amidst a recession, concludes: “With fewer people flying or spending money, the economic downturn may have tilted the catalog’s sales slightly more toward utilitarian items — the No. 1 best seller this year is a 10-by-22-foot square of polyvinyl floor covering for the garage ($359), and the first truly frivolous item, the Giant Cupcake Pan, comes in at No. 17.”
This got me thinking: if SkyMall indeed serves as a reflection of consumer culture as the New York Times suggests, where does merchandise that helps consumers live a lower-impact life fit into the picture? Does eco-friendliness, along with recession-friendliness, have a place among this inherently un-green consumerist kitsch-fest?
Well, kind of. Ridiculousness still prevails at SkyMall, but amidst the faux security cameras, kitty litter robots and popcorn trolleys, I was able to find a few home improvement items that however gadget-y, are meant to help consumers save energy, conserve water and cut back on household waste.
Let’s take a look at a few, shall we?