Restoration Hardware's Wasteful Spending Is Now My New Coffee Table Book

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One day last week when I emptied my mailbox, I got an interesting surprise: the fall 2011 catalog for retailer Restoration Hardware.

One day last week when I emptied my mailbox, I got an interesting surprise: the fall 2011 catalog for retailer Restoration Hardware.

I was surprised for two reasons: 1) I've never shopped there (I've only peered in through the windows with envy), and 2) the catalog is thicker than the September issue of Vogue.

For someone who has never spent a dime at the home furnishings retailer, I found it odd that the company would spend the money to send me such a high-quality direct mailing. I'm sure it wasn't cheap. But this is a company that offered $100 coupons in support of the bank bailout a couple years ago.

Later that evening, as I thumbed through the 616-page glossy "Source Book" that carries its own tagline: "There are pieces that furnish a home. And those that define it," I was transported to another world--one that includes days spent picking out French fabrics, lunching with other socialites, and lots of disposable income.

I found myself wanting so many items: a reproduction of a 19th Century British marine light, a solid wood, hand-carved Baroque chandelier, the grand baluster solid oak dining table.... Is Restoration Hardware trying to torture me?

Probably not, but the company, like many organizations today, must not have a handle on its customer and prospect data.

Growing more curious about this book, I conducted some quick research online and saw a statement from CEO Gary Friedman, who said that the book is the first-of-its-kind publication and the company's largest to date. He also said the company would be mailing another one next spring! A book like that should only be sent to the company's most valuable customers. I'm not one of them.

Maybe someday I can afford to splurge on a St. James sleigh bed or a Toulouse chaise lounge, but until then, the Fall Source Book will adorn my $200 Bob's Store coffee table.

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EXPERT OPINION