News

Drowning in Restoration Hardware catalogs

Local residents bring nearly 2,000 pounds of catalogs to Palo Alto store

By Barbara Wood | Special to the Almanac

Nancy Reyering and six other volunteers from Woodside and Portola Valley made a delivery to the Restoration Hardware store in Palo Alto on Wednesday that they hope might send a message to the home furnishings store's corporate headquarters.

They brought nearly 2,000 pounds of catalogs the company recently shipped to local residents, who say they are upset about the waste the unwanted catalogs represent. Each resident had received a huge bundle of as many as 13 large catalogs, wrapped in plastic and weighing up to 17 pounds.

With the catalogs Ms. Reyering included a letter asking the corporation to "consider taking a stand as the first truly 'green' retailer by eliminating the printing and mailing of any catalogs."

Ms. Reyering who in 2013 was named an "Environmental Champion" by Woodside's Sustainability and Conservation Committee, wrote that "the most environmentally friendly approach, by far, is not to create and ship these unnecessary, unwanted, and wasteful catalogs."

She also has sent the company a spread sheet with the names of 12o people who want to be taken off Restoration Hardware's mailing list.

After the volunteers began bringing stacks of catalogs through the store's front entrance on hand trucks, store employees quickly asked the volunteers to drop the rest of their delivery at the store's back door. At least four employees with handcarts quickly hustled the stacks of catalogs out of sight.

Employees handed out fliers with what appears to be the company's pre-printed response to complaints about the environmental effect of the catalog deliveries.

"Heavier load = lighter carbon footprint," the fliers say. "Our 13 source books now come to you just once a year, all together in one package. Combined with our carbon-neutral shipping practices and our responsibly sourced paper, that adds up to a significantly reduced impact on the environment."

Ms. Reyering and the other volunteers, who included Peter Marsden, Lauren Mang, Erin Broderick and Seldy Nelson from Woodside and Brad Peyton and Laura Stec from Portola Valley, were not buying the explanation.

"They're counting on people having really busy lives and not really thinking about it," said Ms. Reyering, who is on the town's Architectural and Site Review Board and the Open Space Committee.

"I think this is crazy," said Ms. Broderick, a high school student. "Grocery stores aren't allowed to give us paper bags!"

Ms. Broderick said that her neighborhood appears to be just receiving the Restoration Hardware deliveries and she will volunteer to return them to the store for her neighbors.

"What if every business did the same type of marketing?" asked Ms. Stec.

Restoration Hardware store employees said they were not allowed to comment to the press, and had no phone number for public affairs at corporate headquarters. When contacted via email, a company representative simply emailed the same flier and a link to the company's website and ignored questions about the delivery.

After receiving a 15-pound delivery of catalogs at the end of May, Ms. Reyering posted on a community website that she would collect unwanted catalogs and return them to the store.

The response was a bit intimidating, as local residents brought to Ms. Reyering's home nearly 2,000 pounds of catalogs, with 120 of them in unopened packages and others as loose catalogs. Scores of others contacted Ms. Reyering and told her they had already recycled the catalogs or returned them to the store on their own.

"Having to take the time away from (a new baby) to get rid of that stupid catalog was really annoying," one person wrote to her. "I am not sure RH realizes how much they have wasted people's time in addition to wasting the Earth's resources."

Others refused the delivery and had the package of catalogs returned to the store.

Ms. Reyering said people continued to bring her more catalogs each day. She said her UPS deliveryman told her he had made 85 deliveries of the catalog packages in one day and that several residents had refused the deliveries. Ms. Reyering said 20 people volunteered to help deliver the catalogs back to the local Restoration Hardware store.

One explanation for the chain's sending out so many catalogs may be that it pays off in sales. An article on the Motley Fool website, which writes about investments, says: "As the catalog shipments from Restoration Hardware have grown larger over the years, the retailer's revenue has risen dramatically as well."

The article says that Restoration Hardware has received complaints in the past about the size and number of its catalogs, but the deliveries "did succeed in getting the retailer the attention and the customers it wanted." Last year the company's revenues increased by 33 percent, the website says.

Here is a link to a Restoration Hardware page where you can cancel delivery of the catalogs, which the company calls "source books."

Hints on how to reduce unwanted mailings, and more.

Comments

Posted by Catherine, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Bravo! I was horrified by the 17 pounds of catalog left at my door, as were my young kids who struggled to understand the extreme waste of natural resources. It seems as though Restoration Hardware thought they would get positive attention for delivering a huge pile (...) to people's doorsteps.


Posted by Manlo Punk, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

Okay, so that answers it! I could not for the life of me figure out why I received this pile of waste! Some nice stuff, but straight in the recycle bin.

Talk about a bad (wasted) investment! RS, take all the money you spent on those catalogs, and supply a school with books or other supplies in an area that needs it!


Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 19, 2014 at 10:22 am

Now if they could only do this to any sender of junk mail ...


Posted by Katie, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 10:46 am

I actually live in Montana and received quite the stack of catalogs.. Very interesting!


Posted by Austen in Ladera, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

My thanks to this local "Action Team" that made all this happen. A true "Leader", with a lot of supporters!

And thanks to Barbara Wood, for making it newsworthy: I hope the National News picks it up. (I've done my Facebook posting of the article, but started sending it to friends outside the area now.)

Yes: I've removed myself from their mailing list, and my wife and I have agreed to not shop there again.


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:24 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Kudos to everyone who returned the RH catalogs.

And,now,

BOYCOTT Restoration Hardware!!!


Posted by Dupi, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Bravo! Luckily, I didn't have to cart the mega-mailing up my driveway. My sweet neighbor had her recycling cans out and I just walked over and dumped them in. I was appalled at the size of that paper-catalog delivery when every retail store makes us pay for bags. Sadly, since it is almost July, we all can expect a flood of retail catalogs in our mail as the Christmas Consumption season starts. Bah-Shopping Humbug!


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm

pearl is a registered user.

When I receive catalogs in the mail, I tear off the address label and return it to the company, telling them I only order via online; that I no longer shop from paper catalogs. And, to remove my name/address from their mailing list. It works more often than not. It usually takes a month or two for them to remove your name from their mailing list. You can also email them, asking that they not send you any more catalogs, but then they have your email address! Lol...


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Maybe Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping will weigh in.


Posted by MD, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Imagine the size of the stack Pottery Barn's catalogs would create. I have spent precious time on the phone with PB, and many other catalog companies, asking them to please take me off of their mailing list. They have agreed to, but I am still receiving catalogs! How can this wasteful practice be stopped?? We don't want these catalogs and so we recycle them. Throwing this stuff away just turns my stomach.

Thank you Nancy Reyering for spearheading this! I sure hope that if RH goes green, others will follow.

My unwrapped stack of RH are going back as soon as I can find the time to drive into PA. The only thing I've ever purchased from them were stocking stuffers.

Not sure if correct, but this is from "Green@Work"...

* ...one ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36); and one ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for news magazines and most catalogs) uses nearly eight trees (7.68).






Posted by CW, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:24 pm

The app "PaperKarma" has been very helpful for me in unsubscribing to catalogs -- you take a picture and they unsubscribe on your behalf. It doesn't work for every vendor, but 4 out of 5, I never seem again. Damn you, Bonobos!!

That said, I too don't understand how this can be a default advertising tactic in this day & age. So wasteful...


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I totally agree! BRAVO!

I was mortified when the excessive, back straining bundle of marketing landed on my doorstep.

The CEO should be completely ashamed of his grotesque tactics. And a Bay Area company at that! Come on RH. You know better.


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:28 pm

pearl is a registered user.

TO "MD" ~

If I am still receiving a company's catalogs one or two months after I have asked them to remove my name from their mailing list, then I sit down and type them a 36-point bolded font note laced with sarcasm and expletive-deletives, telling them in no uncertain terms to remove me from their mailing list.

That usually does it. Of course, if you have a post office box, as I do, you can just sort your mail right there in the post office lobby, tossing catalogs and junk mail in the post office trash can! ; )


Posted by misha, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 19, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I recycled my pile right away then unsubscribed on the RH website and also sent them an email expressing my outrage at their marketing & informing them I would not shop at their stores. Actually I never have shopped there, but they were just blanketing wealthier zip codes. Recently my neigborhood has suffered new phone books in plastic sacks tossed by the driveways of each home. Many people just leave them where they land - I guess as a protest, but the delivery companies won't come back to retrieve them so we are left with all this unsightly & unwanted phone book litter. catalogchoice.org has worked for me to stop unwanted catalog mail. The problem is every time you buy something online you get put on another mailing list unless you manage to uncheck the box to opt out.


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm

pearl is a registered user.

"...they were just blanketing wealthier zip codes." Well, no WONDER I've never received an RH catalog! I guess that's the upside of living at the poverty level on Social Security, thereby having the "wrong" Zip Code! Lol... ; )


Posted by FYI-INCENSED, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I called UPS to find out about their refusal/return policy for unsolicited items. ANY unsolicited package can be refused at time of delivery or returned within 5 business days. The package must be "unopened and identical" condition as received. In the case where it is not refused immediately, you can call the main UPS number (1-800-742-5877) and speak to customer service (to get past the regular automated telephone labyrinth, press 0 rather than other options). UPS will arrange to pick up the package. 



NORMALLY, a refused package is shipped back to the sender at the SENDER'S expense, but I was told that, in this particular case, Restoration Hardware has a special, unusual agreement in their contract to NOT have the shipments returned to them but they will still be CHARGED for the return. Also they assured me that the package will be recycled, rather than trashed. In my case, although it is beyond 5 business days since delivery, UPS has arranged to pick it up tomorrow. Perhaps they will do the same for others who call. 

This way, at least RH will suffer some financial penalty for their irresponsible action.


Posted by Katherine Arthurs, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jun 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm

The only thing that will stop them is less revenue. As long as they are seeing 33% annual increases they will not stop.


Posted by Mary, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm

BRAVO! We did some coordinated returning last Saturday but nothing near the 2,000 lb mark. The store employees do seem to be on the front lines of this campaign and I do not envy them. However, as the last user stated ~ people continuing to shop there means the cataLOGS will continue to appear. The CEO does not seem apologetic in any of the quotes I've seen so far. The company is expected to roll out a number of new stores in the future and that will be a critical time. Please join the conversation on Facebook as well ~ Web Link

~ Los Angeles


Posted by hr, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm

My thing is that they invested over $5 million into publishing these. I like to think of all the people who got a piece of that. Even the fuel used to return them, the dolly to haul them, the news talking about it, etc. all helped those who are making a living. I still miss my Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs. Do these people really think that forests are being destroyed? Or, are they just angry because they did not ask for this catalog? How hard is it to just throw in the blue tub and be done? No matter how much I despise junk mail, I still know it is creating and maintaining jobs. If RH wants to do that, more power to them and the people making a living from them. Beats not working at all and becoming dependent on others for support.


Posted by Carole, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Thanks Nancy and other south bay volunteers for doing this! There is outrage around the SF area about the RH cataLOGS and Direct Mail waste. Thanks to the donors of 60+ RH catalogs in the East Bay, a small group of us returned 90,000 lbs of waste to the SF store last Saturday. As with Nancy's group, the RH staff was ready and waiting, with a white panel van standing by. As we tried to stack our catalogs on the sidewalk for a photo op, the RH staff whisked them away into the waiting van, to minimize the photo op. Video and pictures are posted on Twitter under @Carole_Parker and #DeforestationHardware. Also -- my 11 year old's video of our event is posted here: Web Link. Also, an artist in Marin is making a tree sculpture out of the cataLOGs. Claire Morris, a Tamalpais Valley artist, recently put out a call for RH cataLOGS that she plans to turn into a sculpture. If you want to contribute your cataLOGS, you can e-mail her at clairemorrisdesign@gmail.com. If you can't return or reuse your cataLOG, then recycle it. And here's a few more things you can do: 1) Opt out of receiving new cataLOGS at the RH site (Web Link) or by signing up with catalogchoice.org (Web Link) 2) petition RH to stop the cataLOGS here: Web Link... and 3) vote with your pocketbook by not shopping at RH!


Posted by Marie, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jun 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm

My catalogs went straight into recycling. I also called RH and told it to take me off its list. Should I, in some strange way, be flattered that RH deemed me worthy of receiving their catalogs? LOL


Posted by URGENT! NBC News Story on the catalogs, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Hello neighbors: I'm with NBC Bay Area news and we're doing a story on these huge catalogs for TONIGHT's 11pm newscast. We'd love to interview you today if you received the catalog or participated in yesterday's return of the catalog to the Palo Alto store. The story will air tonight on NBC Bay Area. Please give me a call on my cell if you can participate in our story regarding these catalogs (and from the forum discussion here, I can see that people have strong opinions!) My cell is: 408-726-3165. Thank you - Peggy Bunker, Anchor/Reporter, NBC Bay Area News


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:00 pm

pearl is a registered user.

TO PEGGY BUNKER: SEE ALSO NUMEROUS COMMENTS IN THE PALO ALTO ONLINE NEWSPAPER HERE: Web Link

YOU MIGHT WANT TO POST YOUR ANNOUNCEMENT THERE, ALSO, IN ORDER TO REACH MORE PEOPLE. AND, THERE ARE MANY ADDITIONAL VIEWS THAT HAVE BEEN POSTED THERE, TOO, THAT ARE NOT POSTED HERE.


Posted by Davis, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Good work, but what about the constant stream of yellow page phone books that are literally thrown onto every Woodside driveway. What can we do about?


Posted by Jim A, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Now going to the extra effort to drive around, collect then transport these back to the store is not exactly environmentally friendly - it's selfish advocacy, or just plain bitchy. I expect your local trash service already provides recycling services, which your community could use and not waste fuel and traffic load for your message. (even if you have a hybrid, cute, but it gets electrons from someplace...) Oh I know, you're bored and need a sense of purpose, and a regular dose of 15-seconds of fame... maybe you could drive to Sacramento and protest political/familial corruption, but then you probably don't care about taking and wasting OUR tax dollars to popularly voted crooks, rail against free enterprise instead... drive more business out of California... that works.


Posted by Rick, a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Jun 19, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Thanks, Nancy et al. Great job. (And sorry, Jim A: I'm afraid you missed the point.)


Posted by pv reader, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jun 20, 2014 at 6:59 am

R H sends all this paper, yet the grocery stores must charge 10 cents for a bag to put groceries in AND we can reuse these bags !! Something is not quite right ?


Posted by Carole, a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:51 am

Peggy, see also this FB page for news about what other communities are doing -- especially in LA and East Bay: Web Link

And yes Jim A, you miss the point: it is to encourage RH and other Direct Mailers to figure out more environmentally-friendly -- and business-friendly -- ways of doing business by limiting number/size of DM, practicing good hygiene with mailing lists, and honoring opt in or opt out requests.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thank you for sharing this status with your local networks. This problem isn't just local, and it isn't just about Restoration Hardware, but we have momentum and need to keep the pressure on the story. Our message is important: LET'S END JUNK MAIL. We are asking that retailers adopt a strict Opt-IN only strategy, rather than mass-target every mailbox with their marketing.

Thank you for your support and advocacy!

Web Link


Posted by Karen, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:08 am

I was furious when I received this 17 pound bunch of junk in the mail. I thought of returning them to the store but did not want to waste my time- bravo to those who did. I did recycle the catalogue and immediately called RH to cancel future deliveries. According to the CEO of RH who was on Jim Cramer's show yesterday, they did not receive too many complaints- well, your action contradicts that statement. Again, BRAVO!!!!!


Posted by Mike, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:49 am

Perhaps they should change their name to "Deforestation Hardware"?


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:02 am

Please go to Catalog Choice

It's FREE

You simply register your name and then all the catalogs you receive in the mail and they will stop them from coming to your home


Posted by Carole, a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Yes, it is a national issue -- even international; the cataLOGS were delivered in Canada too. And the campaign is already having an impact. This is quote from CNBC interview with RH CEO Gary Friedman today:

"Friedman also agreed that the concept of the such huge catalogues and sending them to people all around was not a very good idea and he said they are looking into such issues and trying to better them."

Here's link to story: Web Link


Posted by Norman, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 21, 2014 at 11:49 am

It wouldn't be so bad if their products weren't so boring. I guess the catalog deluge works, though.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Bloomberg article that completely debunks Restoration Hatdware's environmental statement:

Web Link


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 21, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Jim A. - The solution to this is not to simply give business what it wants. It is to encourage business people to use their imaginations.

Business education and training may not place a premium on imagination -- advertising being the exception -- but it is no longer acceptable for a major corporation to be given a pass if they make an effort that the corporate world considers to be in good faith.

The corporate world is not the world. It is completely justifiable to be outraged at the practice -- and the tortured logic! -- at work in this case. The bottom line IS NOT AND CANNOT BE the end all and be all of running a business.

If a corporation wants to be given the benefit of the doubt, it needs to act in good faith as good faith is widely understood, not some twisted logic that ignores the important interests of the community.


Posted by Spunkie, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 21, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I was there when the UPS truck came and I tried to refuse delivery face to face. The driver said they could not return it and had to deliver it. Maybe UPS wasn't going to send it back to RH but I'll make sure our local driver knows he can't impose this stuff on us.

My husband recycled it before I could join the PV protest.

Jim A: remember, lots of PV residents have EVs and meet at the shopping center anyway. Collecting the catalogs was another thing that helps maintain the web of community that makes this town so wonderful! Net benefit for us: it wasn't bored and snarky, it was fun.


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