HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER!
August 1, 2018 7:13 AM   Subscribe

 
I have no memory of ever seeing or hearing about this site before. Its not brookstone or archie mcfee... they need to work on advertising.
posted by vincentmeanie at 7:24 AM on August 1


Ah, before peppermint bark was a twinkle in the mind of its creator, the ne plus ultra of autoparodizing konspicuous-konsumer fatuousness had already been conceived and birthed unto the world, in the form of the annual Hammacher Schlemm[ach]er catalog. Good times.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:25 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I only know this company as a recurring punchline from Murphy Brown. I wasn't even sure it actually existed.
posted by Fish Sauce at 7:35 AM on August 1


Dwight Schrute mentions it in an Office episode where he's trying to peddle his idea for burger-on-the-go: a way to obtain 4 burgers (or six sliders!) without slaughtering your cow (or was it horse?). Anyway, Skymall is still considering it... Hammacher Schlemmer is still considering it.... Sears said no.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:40 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


they need to work on advertising.

They're an "old-school" catalog-based company. I recall them from years past, kind of the weirder, aloof* cousin of Sharper Image. Their (website) tagline is "Offering the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected for 170 years." And they're still very much associated with their catalog -- for example, they have a Catalog Quick Order page, where you can enter product numbers from the catalog to order online.

* In that they don't have the hundreds of physical stores, where you can try so many of the Sharper Image things, like the massage chairs and whatnot.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:41 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I bought our Roomba through them, with the full intent of using that purchase to test their lifetime satisfaction warranty to the limit of reasonableness if I wasn't satisfied with said electronic slave. Being that it has performed really well for nigh on half a decade, I don't know if I'll get the opportunity to exercise it in good faith. They were only $50 more than Amazon for the same device which it seems is high but if their warranty really was necessary then it was a steal.

*shrug*
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:46 AM on August 1


I love everything about this article, the company, and the catalog. I especially enjoyed learning that their only brick-and mortar is just ten blocks north of where I work... Can't wait to stop by after work one day!
posted by Grither at 7:50 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I remember going to the Hammacher Schlemmer store in Chicago in the 1980s and being both amused and astonished by the over-the-top gadgets and outlandish items they had. Even though I never bought anything from them, their catalog certainly showed up in the mailbox along with all the other catalog retailers that flourished in the pre-internet days of the early 1990s. I figured they had simply been crushed out of existence by Amazon, like so many other catalog retailers.
posted by briank at 8:02 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I grew up near Niles Illinois and I know exactly where their headquarters are.

That's also the location of the offices of the kitschy Bradford Exchange. And, sure enough, the Bradford Group owns Hammacher Schlemmer (as a 'sister company', whatever that means).

I'm curious why the reporter skipped that detail.

And one more useless detail... that building was previously a Sears Roebuck catalog warehouse and pickup store before that all imploded. Irony!
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:15 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


They typically have a small section in SkyMall.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:17 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


My kids LOVE the HS catalog that comes around Christmas.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:18 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


They typically have a small section in SkyMall.

Back in the era when they were giving people book deals for "Shit My Dad Says" calibre gimmicks from the Internet, I conceieved of a deal where I'd live in an apartment furnished solely from the Skymall catalog, make a blog about it, and then cash in. But I am way too lazy to actually do anything like that, and it also would have involved going into massive debt up front.

I'm tired of your excuses!
posted by thelonius at 8:25 AM on August 1 [6 favorites]


Noooo! I've had my eye on the Santa Claus tree with waist-cinching belt for years and now it's on super sale when I have no space or $ for it. Santa tree's been discontinued :( .
posted by Stonkle at 8:28 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Sentence that jumped out at me: It’s the longest-running catalog in American history.

Hammacher Schlemmer outlasted Montgomery Ward's, and the Whole Earth Catalog, and J. Peterman, and, vogon_poet, I'm afraid I have some bad news about Skymall.

(The bad news is that the brand was purchased out of bankruptcy court, and the new owners plan to re-launch it.)
posted by box at 8:34 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


The only thing I've ever bought from HS is a USB converted super-8 projector that scans each frame of film with a CCD. Odd place to buy such a thing bit here we are. Works really well, too.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 8:53 AM on August 1


filthy light thief > kind of the weirder, aloof* cousin of Sharper Image

Sharper Image is now a brand name I see in Walgreen's. How the mighty have fallen.
posted by egypturnash at 8:54 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


The mister bought me a bathrobe from HS for our second anniversary, in 2002. That thing is a beast, weighs about eleventy billion pounds, and I still it wear it today, although not as often as Kid Ruki, who is angling to make it officially hers.
posted by Ruki at 8:59 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


I have purchased items from the catalog, from as small as their "rug rejuvenator" which works fairly well--I've gotten rid of some cat barf stains that were really stubborn--to an Exercycle that lets you do resistance work with your arms while peddling. I am still using it. I buy from them when the price is not too absurd because I get overwhelmed sometimes with choices on Amazon and am willing to pay a little more to know I am getting something that has been legitimately tested and will be returnable as long as I have it. I'm 58 so I guess I fit their demographic.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:31 AM on August 1


Yeah, we used to get this catalog when I was a kid. I mean, we actually looked forward to it arriving in the mail.
posted by notyou at 9:43 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


They are a running joke in mu family because of the way their blurbs are written. They all start with "this is the..." So we'll say, for example "this is the egg salad sandwich that Ernest Hemingway enjoyed in Key West...".
posted by biscotti at 9:43 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


The store in NYC is amazing! I’ve spent many good hours in there, it even had an old time fortune telling machine you can use.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 9:50 AM on August 1


The article does mention the company is run as an ESOP (Employe Stock Ownership Plan), as is the Bradford Group.
posted by Bron at 9:53 AM on August 1


That's also the location of the offices of the kitschy Bradford Exchange. And, sure enough, the Bradford Group owns Hammacher Schlemmer (as a 'sister company', whatever that means).


"Sister company" sounds better than "companies that sell to people with poor impulse control at varying pricepoints."

(I say this as someone who has poor impulse control and support you buying your World’s Best Prelit Fraser Fir or your collectible plates or what have you.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:01 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


I love how many items in the HS catalogue are "the world's (best/quickest/etc.) ..."
posted by milnews.ca at 10:26 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I always preferred the DAK Catalog (semi-recently reborn at the original domain name / site).
posted by mrbill at 10:34 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


That was a favorite, mrbill. I had one of their mini shortwave radios!
posted by dr_dank at 10:46 AM on August 1


This is fascinating. I'd seen a few catalogues, but has always put them in the same category as Sky Mall and Sharper Image. I have no idea they had physical stores, were more than a hundred years old, were employee owned, or sold anything actually legitimate or potentially useful.

The concept of independently testing things and selling only the best ones is pretty appealing. Working in the testing lab also sounds like a delightful job, at least until you're asked to decide which pain relieving LED lamp is the "best."
It’s Homes’s law, Faraj explains, which relates to the proportional temperature of superconductors.
I'm guessing this is just a case of recreational use of a company white board. . . but I'd love to imagine they're testing a product where Homes's law is useful. (I've been pitching a high-Tc superconducting speaker wire company for decades. The custom glass dewar installation is free if you sign up for our five year liquid nitrogen subscription plan.)
posted by eotvos at 12:28 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]


Hammacher Schlemmer gives me, as a grownup, the same delightful tingle that FAO Schwartz catalogs gave me as a kid. When I was little, I coveted the big, splashy items from FAO Schwartz, and yet I had a sneaking suspicion that the fancy New York kids who got those things were probably pretty terrible. This is true of Hammacher Schlemmer as well, but their items are too laughable to resent.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:41 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


Never heard of them before, but wow! I want every single item in their Home Organization & Storage section!
posted by ipsative at 1:41 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I love that they're still around. I may need to resubscribe to their catalog now. Even though I never bought anything from them, and I can't stop calling them Hammacher Schlemmacher. And I don't think either of those two things will ever change.
posted by Mchelly at 3:24 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I honestly thought they were copy made up by Mad magazine until I saw them referenced somewhere else in US pop culture.

Interesting to read about them.
posted by trialex at 4:29 PM on August 1


HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER!

They missed a trick. Should have called it HAMMACHER SCHLAMMACHER.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:49 PM on August 1


So, what HS product tops your wishlist?

While I’m tempted by the climbing-wall treadmill and the killer whale submarine (not to mention the crazy-audiophile stuff), I think I’d go for the Louis-Quatorze-extravagant Perfect Ice Cube.
posted by box at 5:54 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Or the Morgan Three Wheeler.
posted by box at 5:55 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Didn't they at one point have a working UFO that seated one or two people? I seem to remember coveting that. Maybe I'm confusing their drone with their circular triangle. It doesn't come up when I google it.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:16 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Hammacher Schlemmer outlasted Montgomery Ward's, and the Whole Earth Catalog, and J. Peterman...

Good news, J Peterman is alive and well and the Fall 2018 catalog is out!
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:47 PM on August 1


circular tricycle, I should have said, although if anyone could sell a circular triangle I am sure they would
posted by Countess Elena at 6:55 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Best umbrella I ever bought was a sale item at their Chicago Michigan Ave. store (RIP).
"Genuine London Bobby Umbrella"!
posted by Chitownfats at 7:26 PM on August 1


I need this SO much!

I have been torn between buying either a suit of armor or a bar for my home, so this is a godsend.
posted by amusing_name at 9:36 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


I think I’d go for the Louis-Quatorze-extravagant Perfect Ice Cube.
It took me a surprising number of times reading through the description to figure out that this is a $760 block of aluminum that melts octagonal pillar shaped ice into sphere shaped ice, rather than something that actually turns water into ice.

Anodizing the inside of the sphere mold seems like a very weird choice. But, I guess it works.
posted by eotvos at 4:23 PM on August 2


So, what HS product tops your wishlist?
On a cursory search, the The Cold War Doppelfernrohr looks pretty sweet, as does the life-size Tyrannosaurus model.

I'm going to pass on the $95k turn table and the $22k music box whose creators were too cheap to pay for the rights to Star Wars IP. But, I'll take any vintage-style musical automata you want to buy me. We'll find a place in the apartment. It's a lot more fun than the couch ever was.
posted by eotvos at 4:39 PM on August 2


The photo with the guy standing in a lab coat in the indoor aquatic garden reminds me that I need to go finish playing Prey.

... the kitschy Bradford Exchange. And, sure enough, the Bradford Group owns Hammacher Schlemmer (as a 'sister company', whatever that means). I'm curious why the reporter skipped that detail.

Huh, interesting. The article kind of alludes to it with "merchandiser and collectible-plate magnate J. Roderick MacArthur (of the MacArthur “genius” grant family) bought the company"
posted by exogenous at 9:30 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


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