Restoration Hardware (NYSE: RH) has a big problem on their hands.
Actually, the big problem is now in our hands and soon headed to the recycling bin. UPS delivered what my wife thought was a mistake: a towering, plastic wrapped, set of unsolicited catalogs from Restoration Hardware.
"No mistake," the UPS guy told us, "I'm delivering them everywhere."
Here's the story: Over the past couple weeks Restoration Hardware began mailing 13 unsolicited bundled "Source Books," a collection of "4 Lifestyle Books," and "9 Category Books," which they tout as "Over 3,300 Pages of Curated & Inspired Design." Further, as part of the immense mailing, Restoration Hardware includes a separate printed sheet titled, "Our Source Book Sustainability Initiative," which informs "1. Our Collection of Source Books is Mailed Once a Year. 2. Our Paper is Forest Certified, 3. We Are The Founding Sponsor of The Verso Forest Certification Grant Program," and "4. Our Shipping Is Carbon Neutral."
What RH says is vastly different than their actions, and consumers aren't buying it. Although not new to controversy, and as far back as 2011, Restoration Hardware has defended themselves for sending out onerous catalogs, but this time it appears they may have gone too far.
A social media search makes it clear that recipients of this dense bundle are angry. Tweets include, "How many trees were killed to make this massive catalogs that no one will use?" Or, "15 lbs of catalogs is going straight to the recycling bin. Note to self: Don't shop there." Facebook posts share the same overall, negative sentiment, including one post, "I received this as well at my door. I couldn't even give them away. Horrible waste and markup. I will no longer purchase from them."
This could become one big PR fail. Or, if Restoration Hardware so chooses, an opportunity to grow the brand, regain public respect, and publicly admit that although well intentioned, the mass mailing model, especially a group of catalogs that weighs similar to a standard bowling ball, is outdated and no longer fits with a company dedicated to customer satisfaction and sustainability.
It's always better to place hard earned resources against creating diehard fans that can't wait to buy and brag about your products, rather than creating a controversial, wasteful campaign that fuels extensive anti-brand sentiment.