Seven gifts no one needs

The atmosphere in the Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks over Thanksgiving  weekend was fun and festive. I was at the mall to do some walking, not consuming. I had nothing but my car keys with me but that didn’t stop me from window shopping.

I browsed The Pottery Barn, wishing for a world in which ivory sofas are practical, dashed into Macy’s to see what designers are doing with the same old fabrics this year, and then took a gander at the Brookstone store.

Brookstone offers many gifts designed to take the stress out of life. They have massagers for head to toe, cuddly blankets, some with sleeves to wear or toss over you, and many kinds of memory foam pillows. Basically Brookstone is a store for insomniacs.

But while browsing the relaxing gifts I came upon one that stopped me in my tracks. It was so silly, unnecessary, and such a monument to the laziness of mankind, I froze and stared.

Automatic Watch Winder- It comes in a single watch model for $99.95, a double watch model for $149.95 to wind two watches at all times, and, hold onto your hats, a quad model to wind four watches simultaneously. The quad costs $199.95 but if you own four watches and find winding them yourself too daunting a task, the quad is a good value – only $50 per watch.

Granted, there may be a few  people who legitimately need a machine to wind their watches. A stroke survivor who lost the use of his hand dexterity might appreciate this machine. So would someone who lost one or both hands in an accident.

But wouldn’t it be simpler and less expensive in those unique situations to ask a friend or family member to wind your watches for you?

The Automatic Watch Winder inspired me to look for other gifts no one really needs, but it is No. 1.

USB Pet Rock- This is the modern version of the original Pet Rock from the 1970s. Like its founding geological father, the USB Pet Rock comes in a handy cardboard carrying case complete with bedding material. But nowadays the Pet Rock is also a lovable laptop companion. It comes with a USB cable ready to plug into your computer while you’re creating projects or looking for Pet Rock Social Networking Groups online. It sells for about $10.

Potty Putter Toilet Time Golf Game- The picture on the front of the box says it all. It shows a man sitting on the toilet with his pants dangling around his ankles while he practices his putt.

This game for the bathroom (game for the bathroom?) contains a small plastic putting green, a club, hole marker and two practice golf balls. So disturbing on many levels.

Digital Photo Mug- The idea of flashing photos on the exterior of your morning coffee mug might sound fun, but wait a minute. This is a travel mug. Most people take those in the car with them as they drive. Don’t people have enough distractions as they drive already? The cellphone rings, the baby in the backseat is crying, the driver ahead of you is color blind to traffic signals, you’re forced to take a detour thanks to Cal Trans, and now you’re going to add gazing lovingly at photos on your mug to this chaos?

No one needs pictures on their travel mug.

Gold Pills- These are three capsules filled with 24 carat gold leaf that you swallow like vitamins. They cost $450.

Your body digests the gold, it comes out in the toilet like all other waste, and then you flush your $450 worth of gold down the toilet.

This gift no one needs was the brainchild of designer Tobias Wong.

Steak Branding Iron- Do you remember when you were very young and your parents had to write your name in your jacket so it wouldn’t get mixed up with all the other kids’ jackets? If you had a tragic jacket loss experience as a child you might find the Steak Branding Iron comforting. The rest of us would rather spend $50 on a self-help book or a good meal at a steak house.

Tumbleweed- You don’t have to scour the hills of Los Angeles searching for that prickly weed you’ve been dreaming of. A family in Kansas has done that for you. The Prairie Tumbleweed Farm found your perfect holiday tumbleweed in Garden City, Kansas. It is allegedly the Tumbleweed Capital of the World. The weeds range in price from $15 to $25 and come in small, medium and large. But does anyone really need one?

America is consumer society. Gifts like these are evidence, or an indictment, of our conspicuously consumptive habits. But let’s be fair—anyone in the world can buy them thanks to the Internet, not just Americans.