retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, Kevin Coupe here. This is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

I'm willing to bet that more than a few of you got the same thing in the mail that I did a week or two ago: five "Source Books" from Restoration Hardware.

Seven pounds of everything you could possible want to know about anything that Restoration Hardware sells. Outdoor & Garden. Objects of Curiosity. Tableware. Small Spaces. And Interiors.

Seven pounds of mailing material that I know I didn't ask for, that I know a lot of people didn't ask for, but that we got anyway.

Seven pounds, in my view, of utterly useless, almost totally pretentious crap.

But maybe that's just me.

I called Restoration Hardware, because I was curious, but they didn't want to tell me anything. Not how many of these packages they sent out, not how much it cost, not what the return on investment was.

So I went over to my local post office and asked them, just out of curiosity, how much it would cost to ship just one of these packages, at the cheapest possible rate. Between 10 and 18 dollars, they said, depending on how far it had to go. Yikes.

Now, I'm sure some people find these Source Books useful, though not anybody I know who actually got them. I would have been just as satisfied with an email telling me that they were available online or as an application for my iPad, which, apparently, they are.

I have to give Restoration Hardware a lot of credit - over the years, this is a company that has changed its spots, offering different kinds of products and trying to stay ahead of the zeitgeist.

But there was one thing that the Restoration Hardware person said to me that sticks with me: "This is always how we've done it," she said.

Two things.

First of all, anyone who says "this is always how we've done it" ought to have their mouth rinsed out with soap. That just doesn't cut it in a 21st century competitive climate.

Second, it seems to me that Restoration Hardware is making a classic miscalculation by treating all of its customers the same - which is to say, like people who all are interested in seven pounds of stuff about interiors and tableware and objects of curiosity.

That's the same mistake, in my view, that I accused Ohio Wesleyan University of making last week - sending return address labels to all of its alumni, ignoring the fact that for most recent graduates, those labels are utterly irrelevant to how they live their lives.

So I guess that's my message to Restoration Hardware - I may have bought a few things in your stores over the years, but that doesn't make me the same kind of customer as someone who would be interested in all this nonsense.

You waste your money and my time and goodwill by treating me the same.

Here endeth the lesson.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: