Life

The 2019 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog

It's the most wonderful time of the year

by Drew Magary
Dec 19 2019, 4:16pm

Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz

Oh, hello there! Welcome! Come on in! Come on in! Dust your boots off in the breezeway. I have a special mat you can use for it that’s woven from human hair sourced from the tribes of the South Pacific. Best snow-wiping hair ever designed, by God. Once you’ve cleaned up, I have a splendid repast of beggar’s purses and dolloped lobster turnovers awaiting you in the dining room. You may begin eating these haute goodies at 7:45 pm and no sooner. Please do not touch ANY of the decorations in the hallway as you proceed toward the food. My decorations are for admiring only. If you mar them in any way, I will grate off your genitals using a microplane. I am the Joneses. You cannot ever keep up with me.

I got that microplane from the Williams-Sonoma catalog, by the way. True, I COULD have bought a microplane at your local Pathmark. They have a rack of them hanging above the Pop-Tart shelf for some reason. But why buy one there when I can support my local (international) mom-and-pop (publicly traded) store (merchandising oligarchy) instead? I’m no fool. I know what’s best for America, and what’s best for America is ignoring every horrible thing going on and, instead, assigning two entire months on the calendar to spoiling myself, cutting down precious wildlife, and indulging in retail spending practices so irresponsible that every accountant on the planet cries their eyes out at night just thinking about it all.

I am hardly alone in such rituals. Try as you might, Christmas fiends, you cannot kill Williams-Sonoma. I know because I’ve been shitting on this company’s catalog every Christmas for YEARS, as a matter of both tradition and moral principle. But all of my efforts to drown this yuppie trinket hive in the toilet have seemingly been in vain. In fact, last year, I myself nearly died before this company did. And I’m a sturdy fellow. I work out an elliptical trainer five times a week and occasionally eat fruit. I am strong. I am invincible. I AM MAN. Alas, I am no match for a company wily enough to sell Star Wars Le Creuset roasting pans for $450 (HOLY LIVING FUCK) and somehow make it work. How does W-S do it year after year?

Well, according to an article I just Googled, the company is strong in something called “omnichannel retailing,” a term I will look no further into because I don’t hate myself. Also, millennials apparently LOVE West Elm, which W-S also owns. West Elm is IKEA for people who don’t want to say they bought their furniture at an IKEA, so that all tracks. I have West Elm furniture in my house. It’s alarmingly small furniture. Really, only my dog can fit on the chair we got. He weighs 15 pounds.

Also, the company has shuttered a lot of brick-and-mortar Williams-Sonoma locations in favor of selling designer chicken coops directly to hotels, banks, and other industrial concerns. OH WOW DID I JUST SEE THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT METER ON SANTA’S SLEIGH SPIKE INTO THE RED? You know I did. According to every Christmas movie I’ve ever watched, Christmas spirit is in great peril every year. That’s why we need overpriced fondue pots more than ever.

And that, in turn, is why Williams-Sonoma will never die. You and I shall one day. We’ll burn to death in some great, wrath-of-God ash storm. But the robots will live on after that, and they’re gonna need to impress each other with unwieldy layer cakes that spontaneously detonate, sending sprinkles and M&M shrapnel to all corners of the cyberparlor:

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The Williams-Sonoma catalog; screenshots via Williams-Sonoma

That’s the cover of this year’s catalog. What a goddamn mess. Oh well, my butler Jansen can clean all that shit up.

(claps twice)

JANSEN! THE FLOOR SPRINKLES!

Don’t worry, I have six more unexploded cakes where that came from for you and me to enjoy tonight. Oh, but that’s only a sneak preview of all the tastefully needless shit I ordered for Christmas. Join me, won’t you, in exploring the many other precious wares in this year’s Williams-Sonoma catalog. Let’s sit together on this West Elm divan and flip through its hallowed pages, one by one. This is all the stuff you get your wife AFTER you’ve unveiled the new Peloton you got her.

ITEM #37-6183430 – KITCHENAID ARTISAN WHITE MIXER WITH HOBNAIL BOWL

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Price: $499.95

COPY: “New & Exclusive. Come together to bake and make some memories.”

Drew says: Two pages in and we’ve already crossed off the ARTISAN square on this catalog’s Bingo card. And HOBNAIL, too! That was NOT on my card, but I’m delighted to see it all the same. Because, you see, ANY upper middle upper class homemaker can plunk down $500 for a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and then never use it. But it takes a real Barbara to get one that’s also a STATEMENT, one that says, “I want this mixing bowl to look like fine china, so that people are really dazzled when rogue gingerbread batter comes flying out of this bitch.”

ITEM #37-4294166 – WILLIAMS-SONOMA HOT CHOCOLATE SAMPLER

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Price: $32.95

COPY: “The Williams-Sonoma difference. Our European-style hot chocolate is made with a custom blend of Guittard chocolate shavings that melt luxury into hot milk.”

Drew says: Love to watch that luxury melt, do you not? It is, itself, a great luxury … so long as you whisk the cocoa shavings into that heady milk froth with the centrifugal force of a fucking particle accelerator. Otherwise, all that melted chocolate stubble floats to the surface and you’re left with a cup of hot milk that has a chocolate gravy skin floating on top. The sampler package also comes with a salted caramel variety. FANCY THAT.

We, as a culture, killed salted caramel roughly five years ago. We killed it at the exact same time we killed red velvet. The rule of thumb is that if Starbucks offers a particular flavor, that flavor already died and went to boomer heaven.

ITEM #37-3491297 – ORIGINAL PEPPERMINT BARK

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Price: $29.95 (or you can get four peppermint bark bites for just $16.95!)

COPY: “A chance to win with every tin. We’ve hidden 1,200 winning tickets inside our signature Peppermint Bark tins!”

Drew says: The catalog doesn’t actually tell you WHAT you win if you happen to luck upon the golden peppermint bark. Ah, but I can guess. You, dirt-poor Charlie Bucket, and your grandfather will get to take a tour of Willy Sonoma’s Bark Factory! It’s every child’s dream come true! Look over there! It’s a hobnail press! And over there! Why it’s a 10-story burr grinder operated by an army of dwarf Ina Gartens! If Mr. Sonoma takes a shine to our man Charlie, he might even show him where they freeze the Beef Wellington! Oh, but he better be a good little boy. If he’s spoiled like Veronica Featherington (from Potomac), or a fat little glutton like Augustus Newyorktimes (from Greenwich), or a loud little shit like Maylen Myerlen (from whatever the nicest suburb of Salt Lake City is), Mr. Sonoma could drown him in the salted caramel river flowing through the premises! He’s a generous man, but also terribly vindictive.

ITEM #37-8144013 – ALMOND BARK

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Price: $29.95 (or you can get four peppermint bark bites for just $16.95!)

COPY: “New & Exclusive.”

Drew says: Hey, this bark doesn’t have any peppermint in it. What the fuck. Why don’t I just eat dead beetles while I’m at it?

ITEM #37-1597389 – VITAMIX A3500 ASCENT SERIES BLENDER

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Price: $599.95 (Suggested retail price $700)

COPY: “Powerful Vitamix gifts. With an innovative Vitamix machine, their favorite treat is ready at the push of a button…. Brushed stainless, white (EXCLUSIVE) or candy apple red (EXCLUSIVE).”

Drew says: That’s $600 for a fucking blender. Not just any blender, mind you, but the blender responsible for the advent (so Christmassy!) of the American infomercial, an art form conceived by Vitamix founder Papa Bernard back in 1949. Fuck you, Papa John. Papa Bernard is the OG papa, and always will be.

Anyway, Papa’s blender has become a must-have countertop appliance for smoothie-Americans who want to eat healthy without having to physically chew food. The Vitamix is useful in this regard because it can pulverize anything in its whirring hellblades: ice, nuts, strawberry seeds, human toes, etc. If you’re wealthy AND you were born without teeth, Papa has you covered. Don’t trust Papas Hamilton and Beach with your morning spinach chia blast.

Lemme just take this moment now to revisit Chris Heath’s old Simon Cowell profile in GQ, because the world’s foremost living v-neck collar is also its foremost smoothie evangelist:

After that, breakfast appears. It is the same each day. Hot water with lemon. Then papaya juice with lime. ("Tastes delicious, looks great," he rhapsodizes. "It looks fantastic when it’s brought in in the morning. It’s just the best-looking thing in the world.") Then oatmeal. Then tea. Then three different smoothies—a spinach smoothie, an antioxidant smoothie, and a super smoothie with seven fruits. "I love to wake up in a good mood and look forward to what’s coming," he says. "As soon as that tray is put in front of me, I can’t wait to have it. I like looking forward to things.”

Oh, are your smoothies and juices not PRESENTED to you on a sterling silver tray in the morning by some unnamed servant, hopefully ALSO named Jansen? Well then, you are not keeping an optimal health regimen, the way this living example of why British people should actually KEEP their bad teeth does:

ITEM #37-2205325 – INSTANT POT DUO EVO PLUS SIX-QUART PRESSURE COOKER

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Price: $119.95

COPY: “You asked and Instant Pot listened.”

Drew says: (sits on Instant Pot’s lap) Instant Pot, I am the kind of braindead consumer whose only purpose in life is to slavishly praise huge conglomerates whenever they indulge in obscenely profitable acts of fan service. And so I want you to LISTEN to me, Instant Pot, when I tell you that I want a pressure cooker. I want it to have a lot of buttons, and I want it make shitty carnitas even FASTER, because I want the convenience of microwaving food without actually looking like I microwaved food. Oh, and I want a truffle mac & cheese packet for an extra $25. Will you do that for me, so that I might fork over even more of my not-terribly-hard-earned money directly to you? OMG YASSSSSSSSS KING YOU ARE EVERYTHING.

ITEM #37-6719219 – OXO SILICONE PRESSURE COOKER LIFTER

ITEM #37-3894744 – INSTANT POT STARTER SAUCES

ITEM #37-4739458 – INSTANT POT TRUFFLE MAC & CHEESE

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Prices: $14.95, $11.95-$16.95, $24.95

COPY: “Complete the experience. Help them whip up flavorful meals fast with premium starters designed in our test Kitchen. Pair with a convenient Instant Pot insert to help them make the most of these functional machines.”

Drew says: I’m dying at the word “pair” in there. Like pairing up Christmas ale braising sauce with a fucking insertable egg rack is on par with scouting out just the right bottle of Barolo to compliment a bistecca alla fiorentina. Everything about this catalog makes sense if you think about it as a listing of all the appliances and accessories you need to make your house look and smell like a Panera. Please do not tell my daughter this, as she believes that Panera is the single greatest dining experience ever devised by the hospitality industry. Really, she just likes the WiFi.

Let’s take a brief pause from the catalog proper for a moment to look into this year’s line of Star Wars-branded W-S merch, including the fabled R2D2 Instant Pot, and also this …

ITEM #TSTE-SRW-STO – STORM TROOPER TOASTER

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Price: $49.95

COPY: “As young Padawans prepare to conquer another day, arm them with bread toasted by a Galactic Stormtrooper. Select light to dark toasting, then watch it pop up emblazoned with a crisp Imperial Crest!”

Drew says: I don’t think the world at large requires more glaring evidence that my generation is forcing its nostalgia into every available crevice of society than the existence of a fucking $50 Imperial toaster. There is nothing you kids can enjoy today that we cannot immediately claim was our own first. Like a Storm Trooper, this toaster probably breaks down the second it encounters a stiff draft from a nearby open window.

I’d buy the carbonite roasting pan they have on that page, though. That looked cool.

ITEM #37-3983806 – MOLCAJETE

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Price: $49.95

COPY: “A tool for every task. Help them grind, stir, and prep more with our expertly curated array of kitchen essentials—the perfect gift for any home cook.”

Drew says: It’s killing me that they call these utensils “expertly curated.” There’s, like, a peeler in this spread. Saying this shit is expertly curated is like saying your local Bed Bath & Beyond is a branch of the Smithsonian. There’s also something called a “garlic rocker” in here, because when it comes to garlic, I wanna ROCK DAT ASS.

And then there is the molcajete. The reason this happens to be in the catalog is because some W-W exec paid $18 for guacamole at Rosa Mexicano, watched them make it tableside in a fancy mortar and pestle, and thought to himself, “Holy shit that is AUTHENTIC.” Hence, you now have the opportunity to buy that mortar and pestle and grind up your own guacs and nut butters right at your kitchen counter, as your trusty Vitamix whips up a pomegranate margarita alongside you. Just as the Aztecs did centuries and centuries ago.

ITEM #37-3040605 – FIGURAL (???) PORCELAIN DIFFUSER

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Price: $69.95

COPY: “From woodsy, invigorating Winter Forest to our new calming Lavender Cedarwood, our limited edition scents make your home festive for the holidays.”

Drew says: Again, we have a series of products that are really just overpriced versions of shit you could buy at a CVS. The diffuser here (“delicately diffuses scent”) is basically the same thing as the old Renuzit air fresheners my mom used to have sitting on top of our toilet tank at home. You twisted it and the space-age pine gel inside would diffuse its scent throughout the shitter, and NOT delicately. This was an odor designed specifically to make hungover people feel even worse. Perhaps this $70 Lavender Cedarwood scent jar is a bit more forgiving.

Also, figural does not mean what these people think it means.

ITEM #37-2462083 – CANDLES AND ROOM FRAGRANCE

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Price: $19.95

COPY: “Scents that spark joy.”

Drew says: There is a holy trinity of thoughtless yuppie gifts, and they are all mildly scented: candles, hand soaps, and body lotions. These usually come all together, in some kind of English hamper. That way, you can grab it off a show table at your local mall’s requisite Bath & Body Works location at the last minute and then, on Christmas morning, say to your wife: “Look! It’s a cornucopia of cherry vanilla toiletries! YOUR FAVORITE! Now get Pelotoning!”

These are auto-regifts. You should have just gotten your old lady a gift card to TJ Maxx instead. This is the same kind of shit they sell in the back of that store anyway.

ITEM #37-5988662 – ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS CHAMPAGNE BUCKET

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Price: $129.95

COPY: “Our iconic ‘Twas designs. Our beloved vintage-style ‘Twas tableware was inspired by America’s favorite Christmas Eve poem and hand-painted in-house by our artists (READ: low wage factory laborers). Add our latest Wreath design to your collection today.”

Drew says: Ah yes, the world famous TWAS bucket. Every time I walk into someone else’s house at Christmastime, I point at the charger plates laid out at every place setting and I cry OH SHIT ARE THOSE REAL TWASES? If they aren’t, I storm right back out and leave a fresh turd on the welcome mat. Anyway, what we’ve got here is a delicate porcelain bucket for you to fill with ice and then jam heavy sparkling wine bottles into. While you’re loaded. What could POSSIBLY go wrong, I ask you?

I broke a lot of things as a child. This will not surprise you, given that I grew up to be a Professional Asshole To People Online. My parents will tell you that I am to blame for all of the things I broke, and they’re correct. To a point. But is it really MY fault that they had so much breakable shit? YOU SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT A STURDIER RECORD PLAYER, DAD. Anyway, this bucket is the kind of thing I would have broken in six seconds. They design these items to break so that you have to buy them all over again. That’s the scam. I’m onto it. ‘Tis the night I reveal all of BIG CHINAWARE’S filthy secrets, it is!

ITEM #37-2622475 – WOODLAND BERRY DINNERWARE AND SERVEWARE

ITEM #37-5729801 – TARTAN BORDER LINENS

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Prices: $9.95 each; starting at $69.95

COPY: “For a timeless holiday look, our Woodland Berry dinnerware pairs [NOTE: There’s that word again] beautifully with red etched glassware and timeless tartan linens.”

Drew says: Every Christmas, Williams-Sonoma assumes you’re horny for tartan. Like you put on a kilt and affect a Scottish brogue and scream AYE YA WEE LADS AND LASSES! WITHOOT BOREDARE LINNUNS, THIS HULLIDAY IS SHITE!!! There must be tartan, and there must also be decorative berries that are poisonous if spotted out in the wild. That’s Christmas, baby. I like to play bagpipes in the nude and then decorate my walls with thorny brambles for unsuspecting guests to accidentally brush against. Pairs well with my contempt for society in general.

ITEM #37-5504966 – HONEYCOMB MARBLE COLLECTION CHEESE BOARD

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Price: $59.95

COPY: “Bubbly & Bites! All you need is Champagne, a few easy appetizers and our elegant Marble & Brass entertaining pieces to host a fabulous holiday get-together.”

Drew says: Hang on a minute. Let’s check out these “easy appetizers,” shall we?

“1. Crème fraiche with salmon roe and Cape gooseberries on rounds of seeded wheat bread”

Where the fuck am I gonna find Cape gooseberries? Do you sell them in the back of this catalog for $5.99 each? “Make your Christmas party a BREEZE by milling your own caraway seed, baking melba toasts from scratch, and then topping your creation off with a dash of Madgascar toucan bill and locally sourced uni sperm!”

ITEM #37-6552035 – WILLIAMS-SONOMA SCHOTT ZWEIBEL STEMWARE

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Price: $12.00 each

COPY: “Williams-Sonoma & Schott Zweibel. From Schott Zweibel’s Sensa and Pure designs to our Vine collection, patented Tritan™ technology creates titanium-enhanced stemware that resists breaking, chipping, and scratching for years of sprakling clarity and dishwasher-safe use.”

Drew says: Schott Zweibel. That name supposed to impress me? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We have the technology in our hands to clean the atmosphere, cure cancer, and build robots that shovel snow. But instead of using that technology to achieve such goals, our brightest minds are currently deploying it to cook elaborate pea foams, help Nazis find each other online, and manufacture wine glasses that will survive Aunt Petunia drunkenly walking from the kitchen to the foyer. What a goddamn waste. I bet the patent design for Tritan is 500 pages longer than the one for an effective measles vaccine.

ITEM #37-8054589 – STAR WARS BB8 ICE MOLDS

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Price: $21.95

COPY: “Set of two.”

Drew says: You thought the Star Wars cookware was the end of it. You were wrong. That’s only the beginning, amigo. What do you think happens when an entire generation is raised exclusively on Marvel and Star Wars movies, and then ages into boomerdom? THIS. This is what happens. Half a century from now, you’ll walk into a Christmas party at a 6,500 sq, ft. mansion hosted by some McKinsey executive, and the whole joint will be decorated with elaborate Baby Yoda tapestries and ceramic Tony Starks hand-crafted by skilled artisans in Lombardy. You’ll never escape it. When you die, you’ll be interred in an even BIGGER Han Solo Le Creuset. In tartan.

ITEM #37-2349565 – JURA Z8 FULLY AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINE

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Price: $4,399.95

COPY: “The perfect cup. Whether you’re an everyday espresso lover or coffee connoisseur, we have a machine that’s right for you.”

Drew says: JESUS H. FUCK THAT MISTER COFFEE THEY GOT COSTS THE SAME AS A DOWN PAYMENT ON A MASERATI. Every day, some affluent suburbanite out there makes a Starbucks run and thinks to himself, “Man, I really wish there was a way for my daily cappuccino to cost even MORE than this.” Well, good sir, the Pillivuyt 12000 X-C Re-Percolatron has answered your incredibly shallow prayers. Papa Bernard smiles upon us all from heaven.

Please note that I have seen real people out in the ether sing the praises of machines like this. They’re like, “I bought a $25,000 latte single drip press and it CHANGED my life. Regular coffee tastes like untreated sewage to me now.” There’s a strain of Americans now whose only purpose in life is indulging in and refining their coffee snobbery. Turns out that’s a pricier habit than crack addiction. Can’t I just ask Instant Pot to handle all this?

ITEM #37-7273326 – WILLIAMS-SONOMA SIGNATURE CAPSULE COFFEE MAKER

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Price: $149.95

COPY: “Now you can enjoy our fully recyclable Fair Trade-Certified™ Williams-Sonoma Coffee Capsules in exclusive new holiday flavors.”

Drew says: One of the flavors here is called “Cremoso” which sounds like some kind of villain you have to defeat in a hardcore porn-themed first-person shooter. DON’T LET HIM NEAR THE TWAS BUCKET!

This is a more responsible Keurig machine. And it retails for over $4,000 less than the Javamatic VentiBlaster Q. Your average coffee hound will blend it in a VitaMix with their own saliva to register their disgust.

ITEM #37-9571800 – SHUN 8” WESTERN CHEF’S KNIFE

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Price: $149.95

COPY: “Handcrafted in Japan, these knives draw on a tradition of Samurai sword-making.”

Drew says: And when those ancient Samurai were honing their finest blades, they thought to themselves, “Boy, I really hope this gets used one day to cut up some almond bark.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!!!!!! Except to Jansen, who has to stay here to clean my master toilet. Talk about an Instant Pot!