My former employer is on a roll this year producing products that strain the boundaries of their Things No One Really Needs (…Except Maybe If You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands and Lots of Disposable Income) category. They’ve done well filling out that category in the past with their $500 margarita machine and the infamous Electric Vacuum Marinator, both genius ideas that I’m sure will someday achieve the success they deserve in the general marketplace. I’m totally holding my breath for that. I’m a little blue, but I’m hanging in there.
Ever since I saw it, I can hardly imagine a kitchen without one. Why just this morning, a piece of priceless toast was burned to a crisp in my kitchen. Imagine: the tragedy might have been averted had I had the foresight to buy the Magimix Vision Toaster the instant the catalog arrived. Well, that and if someone had been paying attention to the toast in the first place. I think the market here is not really, “People Who Burn Toast,” but, “People Who Still Burn Toast While Standing Over the Toaster Waiting for The Aforementioned Toast,” since you really need to be hanging out right there watching your transparent toaster to avert a sooty conflagration. If you had that kind of loitering time, you probably would’ve been able to avoid burning your breakfast bread in your old toaster too because you could have smelled it going up in smoke, but who’s keeping track of those silly details, right? It’s a glass toaster for Pete’s sake! What’s not to love?
If you needed any other incentive than its obvious excellence and indispensability, the suggested retail on this wonder machine is $350, so you’re actually saving $50 if you buy it from WS instead of, um, well, traveling to Belgium to pick one up from the factory, since no one else in the States seems to carry them. So you’re actually saving, like, $1000 if you factor in the airfare.
I was so ready to just hand over the blue ribbon to Williams-Sonoma not halfway through 2010 but then, lo and behold, WS’s sister company, Pottery Barn, upped the ante in their most recent catalog with the…wait for it… yes, it’s a giant abacus.
retailing for only $249!! Can you believe it? What luck. Just what I’ve always wanted.
If anything, this is catering to an even smaller market than the magic toaster: “People who need to do a lot of math but can’t. And who can’t work a calculator. And are blind.” Well, huzzah, Pottery Barn for finding a tiny need and filling it with a giant solution.
The abacus is an impressive two feet by four feet which means you’re going to have to do some serious rearranging of your Math Room to make it feel at home, but if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And on a bizarrely outsized scale. That’s all I’m saying.
So now the pressure’s on West Elm, the third brand arm of the Williams-Sonoma empire. What’s it going to be, West Elm? A collection of 1000 tiny egg-shaped figurines? A life-size map of Istanbul for your living room? A live elk? Your pals have set a high standard: for the low, low price of $600 I can see my toast and do basic addition and subtraction visible to a sizable audience. The gauntlet is down.
2010 is shaping up to be a big year in retail people. Hang onto your hats.