Service of Luxury Purchases

August 8th, 2011

Categories: Annoying, Charity Begins at Home, Fashion, Luxury


The lead to Stephanie Clifford’s article “Even Marked Up, Luxury Goods Fly Off Shelves,” in The New York Times last week was: “Nordstrom has a waiting list for a Chanel sequined tweed coat with a $9,010 price. Neiman Marcus has sold out in almost every size of Christian Louboutin ‘Bianca’ platform pumps, at $775 a pair. Mercedes-Benz said it sold more cars last month in the United States than it had in any July in five years.”

mercedes-benzShe continued, “Even with the economy in a funk and many Americans pulling back on spending, the rich are again buying designer clothing, luxury cars and about anything that catches their fancy. Luxury goods stores, which fared much worse than other retailers in the recession, are more than recovering – they are zooming. Many high-end businesses are even able to mark up, rather than discount, items to attract customers who equate quality with price.”

Radio talk show host Michael Smerconish thought that this was great news because it meant jobs for the sales associates and showroom managers, manufacturers, shippers, inventory stock people, and it all translated into tax revenues.

Not all of his staff or listeners agreed with him but I do. Clifford, quoting Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics, also noted that the top 20 percent of income earners generate almost 60 percent of spending. I say, “What does it matter what these folks spend their money on? Is it anyone’s business?”

grand-central1On the other hand, I was on a train with a fellow passenger who rang my chimes. She dragged me and anyone else around her on the crowded Friday night train-no place to move–into her private life. She’d just bought a house in a tony Connecticut town and had a loud and detailed conversation on her cell phone with her insurance broker. We learned she’d paid cash for the place, had four college degrees, how old she was, and that she had just sold another home in NYC. Next, she called a contractor about her remodeling plans, dotting her conversation with her deal with the seller.

In between calls all of us heard about her upcoming travel plans when she kept up her incessant banter with her weekend guest. I am happy to report that when I got off the train I took a look at this woman. She would have been greatly improved had she used some of her money to fix herself up with some of the luxurious goods noted in the Times article.

I’m not quite sure why reading that people are paying lots of money for cars and clothing doesn’t bother me and yet this woman did. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t forced to read Clifford’s article but I had to hear about her. Further, I don’t equate looking great or being comfortable in a car with spending a boatload of money. An officemate has three new stunning summer dresses that make her look like a $million. She said she paid $30 for each at Lord & Taylor.

How do you feel about people who spend excessive amounts of money on stuff? Does what’s happening in the economy make a difference to your answer? Would the train lady have annoyed you? Do you know people like this?


8 Responses to “Service of Luxury Purchases”

  1. JBS Said:

    I don’t much care what anyone else spends on anything, but I do hope the woman with the $700 shoes (I’ve never spent more than $100 and rarely that) has no money in the stock market, since I just heard it is down 700 more points today. Unfortunately, we still have too much money in it.

    In Minnesota, we don’t have a “train,” and you would be highly unlikely to hear that on a bus

  2. Catherine C Said:

    As someone who has clients in the luxury industry, I say hoorah to the people who keep the industry alive. I was pleased to see Clifford’s article. One of the changes the recession brought was a shift away from conspicuous consumption. Much has been written about the changes in consumption attitudes and patterns. But let’s face it: bad manners are bad manners and tackiness is tackiness. There are no economic or social boundaries on that score!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For some people, status clothes and cars are essential. They would mortgage their grandmother’s hut to pay for them. I feel sorry for these people. Some of them, no doubt, are paying credit card fees for the $9,000+ sequin and tweed Chanel coat that people are lining up for at Nordstrom. My bet is that those who really can afford the luxuries will have plenty of money left regardless of what the market does. I hope there are more of them than of the first group.

    I’ve met others who don’t need a train to carry on. If I hear a juicy tidbit and share it with a certain very good friend, this person has so often said to me, “How do you know that thus and such that so and so said is true?”

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Catherine C,

    One of the benefits of luxury goods is that they last a long time. I’ve known several women who have kept couture suits for years. They have remained trim—skinny, actually–and their vintage suits are smashing still!

    I don’t ask personal questions such as “how much did you pay for that and how long have you had it?” to determine what a smart investment they made, but my bet is that they have done very well thank you!

    This works if you have a nose for the classic. Buy something super-trendy and everyone knows that you are wearing last year’s model. I would LOVE to have today any of the wool coats and suits that Audrey Hepburn wore in her movies.

  5. Jeremiah Said:

    My grandfather, who was a civil servant, used to say that the rich were good for the country, because they provided jobs for everybody else to do. That is still true, although the jobs are now mostly not in America.

    What few in his time realized was what the impact of the growth of non-European populations and the accelerating speed of consumption of the world’s resources would be. In less than 100 years, the cost of essentials such as food, energy and medicine has risen so dramatically that their availability for mass consumption is diminishing.

    About 30 years ago, some very smart rich people in this country devised a scheme to make themselves much richer. They called it “supply side economics.” Then using the services of a fast-talking, slick, oh-so-sincere huckster who became President, they suckered the foolish general public into buying into the concept, the globalization that came with it and everything else in sight. It was a great binge, and 30 years later, the rich are very much richer, the middle class is in shambles and the poor are still poor. Unfortunately, however, because of this, nobody except the rich can now afford to buy much of anything worthwhile.

    At least the rich can still buy stuff. Good for them. Don’t knock them, they figured out how to “con” the system. If they make you feel poor, it is your own fault. You could and should have figured how to “con” the system as they did.

    Reread your Darwin!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    While I follow your drift, and agree with it in some ways, I don’t like the direction of the conversation because I know wealthy people who have inherited their money from parents who ran legitimate businesses and others who worked hard and did well. Not every wealthy person got that way on the backs of others and by being greedy. I don’t know Warren Buffet, but I think he is one of the good guys. Mayor Bloomberg has been generous with his personal wealth contributing to a jobs program and a testing program in the last few weeks. And there are plenty of others.

    No doubt today’s tumultuous stock market results have colored your gloomy outlook.

    Nevertheless, in support of your point of view, I think you forgot something else that happened about 30 years ago. Out went the rules that kept businesses in check and like bobble-heads, we all agreed and cheered.

    I saw a repeat of a 60 Minutes segment last night on bank foreclosures and the flim flammery and sloppiness perpetrated by major names in the banking industry and nobody checked up on them. They passed on mortgages with none of the standard paperwork and sold garbage to one another so now there are millions of homes in foreclosure and nobody can prove who owns them. It would be as if I left the grocery store with bags filled with air and only when I opened the bags on the kitchen counter did I realize that I paid plenty but I bought nothing so then I’d sell this bag of air to a neighbor.

    And to cover this up there were document signing operations with any old person off the street signing 300+ contracts a day pretending to be Linda Green, a bank VP at any number of banks and these faked documents were sent homeowners in foreclosure. Shocking.

    As for the Darwin reference, do you equate fitness with shrewd-on-the cusp of sleazy behavior? Oh, my. I wonder if he meant that.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    So someone buys $700 shoes, rides in a Bentley – so what? A wise soul once observed: “If you have money, it’s bad taste to call attention to it, and if you have none, there’s nothing to talk about.” Why criticize the way people spend and/or flout their money? Why bother to be aggravated over something that isn’t ones business?

    I could live to be 1000 and still not understand the interest in anothers affairs. The only purpose to this activity seems to be it keeps the scandal sheet rags in business, thus reducing the unemployment rate!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love your quote. In 22 words it says it all.

    And I agree that a person who decides to spend a ton on shoes or a car is not my affair. I think, however, if a Bernie Madoff type person has robbed me and struts around with expensive gew gaws, that would be another thing and you’d hear grumbling.

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