Neck pillow purchasers are hanging their heads in defeat and discomfort this month. For the second time in four years, Brookstone has filed for bankruptcy.
The retailer’s demise is a major blow for underprepared travelers and bored spouses in malls and airports across America. For years, Brookstone was a reliable source of last-minute sleep masks and rows of massage chairs. While its airport storefronts offered valuable in-flight comforts for travelers, the true strength of Brookstone was in its mall locations, which offered massage chairs to distract bored mall-goers and displayed frivolous but enticing luxurious to broke people.
In other words, it was peak consumer capitalism.
Brookstone dealt in expensive, redundant novelty items that were fun to hold or feel or sit in for a few minutes as you contemplated the ever-so-slight convenience it might bring to your life. Motion-sensing garbage pails. Husband pillows with cup holders. A two-in-one end table/dog crate. To justify extravagant price tags, they marketed their products as smarter and sleeker, even when they were neither.
And in a bit of cruel capitalistic irony, Brookstone was undone by its smarter, sleeker rivals. People no longer require physical stores to find stupid gadgets they don’t need. Malls are dying, offering experiences ahead of products, and Brookstone is another name on the list of chains struggling in the online shopping era. Amazon and other online retailers have filled the gap, exploiting their egregiously abused workforce to capitalize on consumers’ lack of desire to interact with other living, breathing human beings.
Physical interaction with novelty widgets was Brookstone’s primary appeal. Its employees would zip remote controlled helicopters into mall walkways, hovering over you, inviting you in to imagine the possibilities. What greater thrill could a wayward mall shopper experience than sitting in a $700 massage chair, closing their eyes and imagining it in their own living room? And was there ever a feeling so sweet as gripping one of their thousands of microbead pillows, feeling the tiny foam balls press up against smooth nylon in your hands? It’s no wonder Brookstone marketed them as “fun.”
But that IRL consumer spectacle is all over now that Brookstone will close all of its remaining mall stores. Its airport locations will remain open as the company attempts to find a buyer, but will serve as hollow representations of a consumer era gone by. Excuse me as pour one out from my Guzzle Buddy Wine Glass and weep into my Nap Heated Massage Pillow.