Did you hear the one about the advertising executive who was sitting in a bar when a drunk walked up and asked if he had any pets and the adman said, "Yeah, I keep a rock. You don't need a license. You don't have to feed it. It doesn't mess up. It's quiet and there are no offspring to worry about."
If you don't think that is funny, perhaps you will like the follow-up—500,000 people have gone into such stores as Macy's, Neiman-Marcus, Penney's and Sears to pay $4 for a Pet Rock. And the mayor of Cupertino, Calif. has suggested the town invoke a leash law for pet rocks.
Useless items are nothing new to the U.S. consumer and no one embraces a fad like an American, but $4 for a rock? Well, think about it. They are quiet and no landlord ever evicted a tenant for keeping one. As the 32-page training manual which accompanies a Pet Rock states, "Your rock will mature into a faithful, obedient, loving pet with but one purpose in life—to be at your side when you want it and to go lie down when you don't." Whatever else one might accuse Rock Bottom Productions of, one cannot claim false advertising. Nowhere does it say that a Pet Rock will speak or jump through a hoop. But it can (and will) play dead, roll over and attack—if it is properly trained.
"These rocks are gathering green dollars instead of moss," says Marguerite Dahl, vice president of Rock Bottom in San Jose, Calif. President of the four-month-old corporation is the aforementioned adman, Marguerite's husband Gary. The Dahls are as amazed as anyone that Gary's efforts to ward off a drunk have erupted into a lucrative business, but they are delighted. "People enjoy fantasy, a lighthearted escape in a problem-ridden world," Gary says. "Besides, this is better than canned fog or chattering teeth." More fun, too, especially if the Pet Rock owner maintains the deadpan demeanor the training manual assumes.
Imported from Rosarita Beach, Mexico, Pet Rocks come in their own ventilated carrying cases. Directions sternly warn that Pet Rocks are sensitive and should be left in their boxes for three days until they "acclimate themselves to their new surroundings." Then the training program can begin. One trick to teach is Roll Over. "The best place to teach your Pet Rock to Roll Over is on the side of a hill. Place your rock on the ground at the top of a hill and give the command, Roll Over. Now, let go of your rock. It's that simple!" The manual explains that a Pet Rock will roll over until it tires of the game, which is usually when it reaches the bottom of the hill. Heel, Quartz!
Very little is what it seems anymore, and that is surely the case with these two gifts.
The wife says, "Close your eyes, dear," when handing over your Christmas present. You hear the solid thunk of an expensive car door closing. Ah, a new Bentley, you think. Your surprise will turn to ashes as you discover it's only a jackknife. But maybe the best jackknife in the world. Made in White-fish, Mont. of high-carbon steel by the Track Knife Co., this folding hunter comes with a fine leather belt case. With brass and stainless-steel hardware and a resin-impregnated wood handle, the Track weighs in at $69.95. The hinge pin and connection produce the Bentley-door sound, which is made much of in the advertisements. You can order by phone—and have delivered COD—from Ithaca Gun Company, Box ST, Terrace Hill, Ithaca, N.Y. 14850, (607) 273-0200. If the price bothers you, consider the bargain that goes with the buy—once a year the White-fish experts will be glad to recondition your knife for a mere $1.
The second fooler is shotgun shells that melt in your hands. Packed in a typical ammunition box by the prestigious Godiva chocolate company, 25 rounds in the standard calorie-pattern cost a mere $8.95. Each piece of chocolate is foil-wrapped to resemble a shell. If there's a mixup and you load your Purdey with the bonbons, the kids' Christmas hamster can clean the barrels, but your dentist won't like extracting shot from your fillings if you bite a real bullet. If you have a sweet tooth, write or call: Pepperidge Farm Mail Order Co., Inc., P.O. Box 119, Clinton, Conn. 06413, (203) 669-4131. Credit cards welcome, no COD. Merry Christmas, and remember that new backpack may be a licorice bicycle.