Dorm Registries? Really?

“Move over brides and expectant moms: Now college-bound kids want to be showered with gifts also!”

“Move over brides and expectant moms: Now college-bound kids want to be showered with gifts also!”

This is a direct quote from a recent CNN article that heralds yet another clever marketing ploy dreamt up, no doubt, by some highly paid retail chain CEO who happens to have one or more offspring heading off to college this year.

Yes, it has come to this.

Just as people who are getting married and people who are having baby showers (and not necessarily in that order) can create a gift registry listing the items they need or the goodies they don’t need but really really want, now college students can have their very own Dorm Registry.

That is, instead of relying solely on raiding the parents’ furniture, appliances, cupboards, closets and bank accounts, students heading to their own apartments and dormitories can set up their Gotta Have wish list at any number of participating retailers and freshly minted websites.

Over the last couple of school terms, familiar megastores such as Target, Wal-Mart and The Bay have ‘quietly’ created online registries for those poor college kids who would surely be dumpster diving and living without the benefit of modern appliances if it wasn’t for relatives, friends and neighbours generously jumping in and consulting the Dorm Registry and gifting items on the struggling students’ lists.

Maclean’s magazine recently reported on one Meaghan Vital, a 19-year-old student who is moving into a college dorm in Windsor, Ont.

She discovered the Dorm Registry concept and quickly listed “20 must-haves” with a well-known department store chain. These included: “a $160 blender, $130 Tassimo single serve coffee maker (with matching $25 disc carousel), and a $90 portable chopping system.”

Oh, and also, as a “long shot” she is asking for a pink cotton candy maker and a stainless steel deep fryer.

But if that doesn’t rattle your piggy bank, Ms. Vital will also accept the department store “gift cards,” though she fails to specify what amount is currently acceptable for a Dorm Registry gift.

And CNN News interviewed Patricia Blanton, 17, who is leaving home to attend San Francisco State University. Not only has she set up a Dorm Registry, Patricia is planning what many college freshman have: a trunk party. A trunk party consists of having a bash “specifically to fill up their suitcases (or trunks) with dorm necessities.”

What better reason to have a party than to collect some valuable stuff while you’re at it?

One wonders if young Patricia and Meaghan happen to be business majors.

Oh, I’m all for loading up college students as they make their way into the often merciless and uncertain world of university that involves a demanding regimen of 24-hour partying and occasional studying.

In fact, my Better Half and I did our best to set up our own Rotten Kids for university to the extent that we, the parents, are now living with significantly less furniture and appliances, and our cupboards, closets and bank accounts are virtually empty.

But to my knowledge, our RKs never got wind of this latest trend toward Dorm Registries and trunk parties. I wonder if it will work for second-, third- or fourth-year students. Hmmmm.

I can’t help but think back to the first time I attempted university. Picture this: four 19-year-old guys in a “furnished” basement bachelor apartment consisting of one medium-sized room with a kitchenette, four single beds scattered about, a large room divider closet/shelf monstrosity, and a couch. And that’s it. No TV; no coffee maker. No pink cotton candy machine.

Our various parents made sure we had essentials, of course, like cutlery, dishes, a box of granola bars, and something called ‘laundry detergent,’ which we never even opened. I had a one-speed bicycle that I’d purchased for $3.50 and painted with spare cans of spray paint. It was stolen within two weeks.

Suffice to say, I lasted half a miserable school year, came home and got into a rock ’n’ roll band, and got my happiness back.

But I really wonder what our freshman Dorm Registry would have looked like back in the bachelor apartment days. Something like:

Dorm Registry — H. Hay

Top 10 preferred items:

1. TV set. Preferably the maximum 29-inch screen. With cinder blocks to put it on.

2. Two-four of beer. Preferably Alta 3.9. Preferably chilled.

3. One large pizza, loaded (no shrimp). Preferably hot, from Tom’s House of Pizza.

4. Bean bag chair, any colour.

5. Leather jacket. Size: medium. Colour: black.

6. TV dinners. Preferably several dozen, preferably Hungry Man.

7. Schneider’s popcorn maker. With supply of popping corn, butter, salt.

8. Bicycle, preferably electric.

9. Ludwig Rock On practice drumset. Two tom toms, four cymbals. (Worth a try?)

10. Pink cotton candy machine.

Ahh, college life — how much better would it have been if Dorm Registries had been invented way back when?

Actually, not that much for me, I suspect, because sometimes it’s not really about the stuff, is it?

Besides, there wouldn’t have been any room for any of that merchandise in our basement suite — except for the beer and the pizza.

And when you think about it, what else do you really need when you’re a college student?

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.

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