Paper Towel Holder $79.99

David Ogilvy would love SkyMall so I do too. It’s easy to make fun of the garden yeti, the spying devices, all the travel pillows and shapewear, but if frequent fliers weren’t buying these items, the Mall Where No One Walks (or where, as the saying used to go, Your Fingers Do the Walking) would drop them faster than an evacuation slide.*

I only wish I’d known about the fake birdhouse that makes your neighbor’s dog stop barking when I needed it.

Today, let’s set aside the notion that SkyMall is for Bob and Eleanor Heartlander seated across the aisle and learn how to get $79.99 (plus shipping and applicable sales and use taxes) for a paper towel holder.

The challenges are obvious:
1. Most of us already have a perfectly good paper towel holder and it was there when we moved in.
2. As elegant as Brushed Nickel sounds, TowlHub is not especially attractive.
3. $79.99 is nearly seven times as much as Wayfair is asking at the moment for a classy White Marble version from Creative Home.

True, as far as I can tell, the marble holder is two inches shorter and lacks “a friction ring for single sheet pulls and a raised edge so the roll will not unravel.” But are the extra height, added convenience, and marginal chaos protection worth $65 or more? Not for most of us these days.

Here’s the magic: Like the dog-silencing birdhouse, this baby is more high tech than it seems. While supporting SSPs (single sheet pulls) without RORU (risk of roll unravel), TowlHub is actually [cue sudden intake of breath] a four-port charging station. (Not ‘changing station.’ That would be a different benefit.)

The photo shows what appear to be an iPhone and an iPad charging away on a spotless counter with two USB ports to spare. Caption: “No more fighting over outlets to charge your devices!”

But that’s not all: “The interchangeable topper is actually a wine stopper so you can easily replace it to complement any décor or season.”

Without even considering the impact of the “Five must-have Sony devices” on the page before, how quickly the captive reader’s imagination gets busy. I’ve opened a bottle of something white…my date’s drying off from the pool…our devices are charging all snug in their ports…and The Essential Nina Simone has begun to pulse sexily from—get this—my paper towel holder’s Bluetooth speakers.

(Without speakers, TowlHub is just $49.99.)

So for $79.99, the price of six filet mignons from Omaha Steaks (reg. $117), I can get a product that not only helps me wipe up spills and blot bacon, but charges everyone’s devices whenever they need charging (that is, constantly), creates a romantic mood for that special someone, and keeps me company when I’m lonely—as soon as it arrives and for years to come.

Maybe I wouldn’t, maybe you wouldn’t, but significant numbers of the flying un-rich apparently pay $79.99 (plus shipping and applicable sales and use taxes) for a paper towel holder. Why, then, is it so hard to get them to pay $79.99 to attend a non-Broadway play or a non-rock concert?

Those who have not already thrown in the (paper) towel should join me next week for some ways to get the job done.**

* See “SkyMall’s SkyFall,” a June 2013 post on the Priceonomics blog, for more about SkyMall and its mysterious new owners.
** Speaking of owners, did you know that Koch Industries owns Brawny Paper Towels? What’s on your holder?

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