The Wall Street Urinal: an update on the Stooples phenomenon


The OP industry never tires of discussing new and innovative ways to bring top selling items to market. With what is arguably one of the best-loved office products of all time, the Post-it note, Stooples believes it has found an answer.

In its catalogue, which comes with the tag line "Office Tools for Hopeless Fools", Stooples features the "hands-on desk accessory", a severed human hand with the palm open, perfect for holding a handy pile of Post-it notes, as its photo demonstrates.


"Nothing beats the hands-on experience," says the copy that accompanies the photo. "Our friends at Qatar Office Supply now offer a limited supply of severed-hand desk accessories taken from limbs of convicted shoplifters to pickpockets. Experienced hands have large palms and lithe fingers for holding maximum quantities of desk supplies."


The product may seem a little brazen and un-PC when compared to most office product catalogues, but this is the mission of Stooples, a parody of the office products world presented in a 128-page book-come-catalogue that has already sold 25,000 copies worldwide.


Co-writer of the catalogue, Adam Najberg, told OPI+ that he thought the office products industry was an easy target for his satire. "If you made fun of nuclear physics, only seven people in the world would get the joke, whereas everyone can relate to the office…and there is plenty to joke about."


Staples was not always the chosen target of Najberg’s sardonic affections though. "We played with a number of names," he said. "We toyed with ‘Office Despots’ and ‘Office Hax’ but found that, among the people we asked, ‘Stooples’ got more of a laugh."


The catalogue has gained wide appeal from top execs to the office world’s new entries, due to the variety of "handy" products featured, including marketing voodoo maps ("to punish those towns and cities that won’t buy your products"); nasal deflectors (to stop high-pressure fountains shooting water up nostrils); salary coffee mugs (to display your salary to reflect your success); fluorescent-light tanning butter (to brighten "grey and lumpy office skin"); and a panic mutton (an overstuffed lamb doll to cuddle during times of crisis – who, when you rub his tummy, agrees there is a "baaaaaad boss").


There are also accessories for outside the office walls, such as the "Wall Street Urinal", which offers real time stock prices, keeping brokers informed when "duty calls"; and an executive tatami, a basket-weave, all-rattan floor mat that allows commuters a slice of comfort in the aisle of a busy tube or subway train.


The concept of Stooples was devised jointly by Najberg, 36, and co-writer Kevin Reifler, 49. Najberg, an American working as a Dow Jones editor in Frankfurt, had been working on a business satire website when he was contacted in 2003 by Reifler, a New-Jersey-based marketing and PR director, who asked him if he wanted to collaborate on an office humour website.


"After we started the website, ‘wacko’ Kevin had these great ambitions of getting an agent and a book contract and it has all fallen into place," said Najberg. Nick Vacca, a contact of Reifler, then came on as the graphics mastermind to pull the project together.


Najberg, who claims he was "Kevin’s son in a previous life", says that he and Kevin sent numerous emails per day as product ideas were formed and he would work on the book after hours (a self-confessed insomniac, energetic Najberg claims he can only sleep four hours per night). Since that time, the book has gone through three print runs and there are already discussions for a fourth. It is more successful than "they could ever have imagined", said Najberg.


"With satire nothing is off limits," he added. "With potty language, there is a limit with how far you can go, but with satire you can’t exclude any categories – in the book we laugh at blacks, homosexuals and communists, and there aren’t even any of them left."


Najberg says the response he has received so far from the office products industry has been excellent. "Some of the mainstream media just do not get it. But with people in the office products industry, as soon as they see the name they start laughing."


So where to next? Najberg says that himself and Reifler are seeking out alternative distribution channels (watch out Paperworld!) and looking to stick with writing business satire, although perhaps not in the form of another catalogue-style book. "We didn’t have any grandeur delusions on what money we could make and we still don’t. Catalogues are expensive to produce and we see this is an expensive hobby."


But maybe the joke has gone too far. Najberg and Reifler claim they have already received a number of requests for products, mainly from executives’ secretaries, who believe the products are really for sale. And the most popular request? The marketing voodoo map, of course, which executives believe will look cute in the boardroom.


After all, poking fun at the ill-fated is always good for a laugh, in Stooples’ book anyway. And as Najberg says, "when you have tense moments in the office, you can crack a joke and this defuses all the stress. Laughter is the best medicine in the office." 


Staples has declined to comment.