Archive for Sunday, February 1, 2009

The ‘shame’ of luxury

The wealthy turn stealthy as economy weakens

February 1, 2009


— Throwing your money around is so pre-recession.

As the economy weakens, the wealthy and the businesses that cater to them say it’s more common — even chic — to scale back extravagant spending and play down affluence. Retailing experts call it luxury shame, or stealth wealth.

From Rodeo Drive to Fifth Avenue, that means one thing: Hide the labels.

Some shoppers are asking cashiers at high-end stores to put their purchases in plain white paper bags. Others want their expensive clothes and jewelry shipped home so they can walk out of the store without any bags at all.

“There’s a sense of there being a gaucheness in spending in excess and coming home with a Louis Vuitton or Chanel bag,” says Lucyann Barry, a personal shopper and stylist for New York’s ultra-rich.

For one self-conscious client, Barry recently delivered a $1,200 Gucci handbag disguised as a gift so the rest of her family wouldn’t know she had bought it herself.

Of course, plenty of rich people have become decidedly less so as stocks, homes and businesses have declined in value during the recession. And they’re cutting back. Holiday sales were down at Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co. and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Despite the slump, the affluent still maintain lifestyles that would seem extravagant to the vast majority of Americans — hundreds of dollars spent at exclusive restaurants, thousands dropped on shopping sprees.

What’s different now is the extra care some are putting into making themselves seem more like everybody else.

“I’m trying to be more covert,” said Edward Douglas, of Randolph, N.J., who owns a small manufacturing company that he says has so far been unaffected by the recession.

One of his luxuries is vacationing with his family in the Bahamas, and although he still intends to go this year, he’s planning on flying commercial instead of by private jet.

Robert Jones, who owns businesses including a nightclub and two restaurants, now spends $400 on a regular hotel room for his family rather than shelling out $1,000 for a suite.

And instead of chartering a private plane for business trips, he’s signed up for CoGoJets’ “jetpooling” service — the jet-set equivalent of sharing a taxi.

“A lot of us are downsizing not only because we have to, but because we think it is the right thing to do,” he said.

At the trendy Intermix clothing store in West Los Angeles, some shoppers are still willing to drop $10,000 on a shopping spree that might bring home a couple of ostrich skin handbags, a pair of shoes and a designer dress.

But instead of walking out with one of Intermix’s prestigious shopping bags, they often have their purchases shipped to their homes. They also come to the store dressed down in jeans and a T-shirt, a clerk observed.

“The fashionista is now a recessionista,” said Burton M. Tansky, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus, which is throwing more invitation-only events for small groups of its best customers.

The fashion industry itself appears to be waking up to the new subdued shopping mood among the well-heeled. That means more understated colors and prints, says fashion consultant Robert Burke, who has previewed the collections of several major designers that are to be displayed next month in New York.


repaste 9 years, 1 month ago

i think they are simply afraid some of us are ready to start reprisals - the race riots of the 2000's. iI think this is a future possibility if things don't change. Off with their heads!

Flap Doodle 9 years, 1 month ago

Take the example of the recent coronation in DC, blowing $150 million to celebrate what a compliant press and hundreds of millions of illegal campaign contributions can accomplish. Party on, O'dude!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 1 month ago

I'm far more concerned about this type of spending and questionable activity:Isn't it odd each time our nations financial institutions crumble there are Bush family near by and a McCain still in office?Who has history with financial institutions going south such as the savings and loan scandal? Republicans! The Most Reprehensible of the Keating Five. The story of "the Keating Five" has become a scandal rivaling Teapot Dome and Watergate ... Who hosted the Iran Contra secret illegal sale of weapons? Republicans!

womanwarrior 9 years, 1 month ago

Oh, poor rich people. What suffering. Let me get my box of tissues.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 1 month ago

Yes sometimes folks with a lot of money do further inflationbut let's not forget how our local,state and federal politicians assist them in contributing to our problems for their own benefit:GM taking stimulus money to Brazil to finish a new plant. How will that create jobs for americans?Citi Group blowing stimulus money on a $50 million aircraft and spending $400 million to have their name on a new stadium.War Profiteers Lunch For Developers'm not so sure the big commercial spenders from the extremely wealthy sides of town are the big problem. Again it may well be politicians: The Military Cost of Securing EnergyAccording to a new report from National Priorities Project (NPP), the United States is spending between $97 and $215 billion dollars annually on military action to defend access to oil and natural gas reserves around the globe. The Military Cost of Securing Energy provides a critical analysis of the military cost of defending U.S. energy concerns overseas. The report estimates that the military spends up to 30 percent of its annual budget to secure access to energy resources internationally.

Corey Williams 9 years, 1 month ago

Pilgrim2 (Anonymous) says…"To paraphrase the looney left mantra of the past eight years< “Bush isn't president anymore.”"No, but when you throw a big dumb stone in a lake, it takes some time for all the ripples to disappear. Oh, and it's not "class envy" when there is no class to be envious of.

Kat Christian 9 years, 1 month ago

With ya logirithmic all the way. I knew Reagon was a mistake, then we get worse by putting in Bush, Sr. Clinton helped turn some things around until he p!&&ed off the Republicans and they went on a Witch hunt to destroy him, which took him away of doing more good for this country. AND then the OTHER Bush, Jr. That to me is the BIGGEST mistakes this country made. How many businesses did Bush, Jr. start and run into the ground? DUH!! Now I just hope President Obama can save what's left and rebuild something stronger for us. So far he's brought the American people together just by being who he is - its a start.

Kat Christian 9 years, 1 month ago

i think they are simply afraid some of us are ready to start reprisals - the race riots of the 2000's. ************This reminds me of something I was reading about recently: Slavery in this country. When the civil war began the South were afraid of losing their slaves to freedom, then when the slaves gained their freedom and were given land the South was afraid of being pushed out and that is when they began to find other ways of stifling the black population through segregation, the Klu-klux-klan and no vote. The Creed of America is a strong one meaning that ALL MEN(PERSONS) ARE CREATED EQUAL. I still believe in this. This country had to subcomb to ultimate GREED for it to be recognized. Now we have and through our new President he will help resolve this and put it in its proper place. I do not believe that greed is more powerful then rightousness. There has always been the haves and the have nots, and I think in time the haves will shrink in numbers and the have nots will increase to where there will be a closer balance. Then this country will be on the right track, because we then be more united as a people. There is strength in numbers. I truly believe this is a passing phase we must endure at present. WE SHALL OVERCOME.

yourworstnightmare 9 years, 1 month ago

In Haiti, wealth is concentrated in a very few ultra-rich plutocrats. Indeed, 95% of the population is equally poor.Haiti is a good example of a "banana republic", and the Bush economic policies pushed us closer to that status.

jumpin_catfish 9 years, 1 month ago

Well you listen here pilgram2, socialism is not the answer and if that's what you libos want it may be about for Teaparty II. Ya feelin' me.

Godot 9 years, 1 month ago

The rich folk are not ashamed, they are afraid.

Godot 9 years, 1 month ago

Any member of congress who lobbied in favor of or voted yes for the TARP should be tried for treason. That includes our dear President.

Corey Williams 9 years, 1 month ago

Pilgrim2 (Anonymous) says…"Well, let's all defer to the resident expert on “no class.”"Yep, it's pretty easy to spot if you know what you're looking for. Columns in front of any house smaller than 2000 sqare foot is one good example. Buying something just because it's expensive, regardless of how it looks, is another. Here is a good example of that: (Anonymous) says…"Well Corey, you can keep your poverty. I worked hard for everything I have and I'll be damned if I will let some socialist try to take it away."When did I say anything about poverty at all? Is that "mad" as in crazy? Just a little tip here: if you're going to retort to anything that anyone has said, it might help to do a little copy and paste to make sure everyone knows just what you're talking about.Oh, and yes, you will be damned.

Sigmund 9 years, 1 month ago

Which is worse, the shame of luxury or the pride of poverty?

notajayhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

Godot (Anonymous) says… "Any member of congress who lobbied in favor of or voted yes for the TARP should be tried for treason. That includes our dear President."Isn't it strange, though, Godot - the vast majority of those who voted "Aye" for TARP got re-elected. People will b_ & moan in forums such as these, and do absolutely nothing about it. Except, of course, for continuing to send the same people back again and again to do the same things over and over.B all you want, folks, keep telling yourselves it's them doing it to you. You're the ones who sent them there.

Godot 9 years, 1 month ago

Right on, notahayhawk. "We are all Madoff." -- Karl Denninger.

JHOK32 9 years, 1 month ago

Let me get my hanky out.......those poor souls having to put their diamonds and mink coats in plain bags. I suppose they'll be disguising their Mercedez to look like a '63 Plymouth? Maybe disguise the new Learjet into looking like an old broken down cropduster....Oh the terrible burdens we must bear so that we may quiet our consciousness because we know there are our fellow Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, their retirement savings. And where did these things go to you ask? Why right into our plain paper bags and old cropduster planes. That's where all those things went, This kind of highway robbery in America is called capitalism. The more you can screw out of your neighbors, the richer you get. No socialism here my dear, none of those damned red commies either. Just us greedy-ass capitalist pigs robbing our neighbors blind and saying hi to him on the street like nothing ever happened. Although you know it did, you with th plain paper bags. Good thing you've been taught not to be one of those red commies, they are the scum of the earth. All of us actually sharing the wealth, how unfair is that, that means we would all get equal shares? Maybe instead of you driving a new $60,000 hummer and me driving an '73 rusted out Ford truck with no a/c or heater, maybe we could both drive a quite nice Chevy Impala? No, that would make entirely too much sense. Guess we better break out the plain paper bags. Now I'm depressed, gues I'll go buy some more fur coats or a few diamond necklaces to help me make it through the day. This terrible burden that is upon me. What is a por little rich girl to do?

notajayhawk 9 years, 1 month ago

Sigmund (Anonymous) says… "Which is worse, the shame of luxury or the pride of poverty?"Well, heck - if ya' gotta' be ashamed of something ...***JHOK32 (Anonymous) says… "Oh the terrible burdens we must bear so that we may quiet our consciousness because we know there are our fellow Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, their retirement savings."They aren't trying to ease anything, let alone their consciences (which I believe is the word you were trying for - or did you really mean quiet their consciousness?!?). And this is where I have a problem with the storyline - it has nothing to do with shame, either. They put their belongings in plain packages so they don't have to listen to the rants of the class-jealous zealots like you.Yes, although I usually take pains to say class envy (the two terms are not synonymous), in this case it's obviously jealousy. To save you the trouble of looking up the difference, envy is when you want what someone else has, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's one of the things that motivates a person to improve their lot. Jealousy is when you believe someone else is taking away something you think is yours.Tell me, jhok, these diamonds, minks, Mercedes, and Learjets - those things all belonged to you and they stole them from you? Just how in the h_ does someone shopping for Gucci on Rodeo Drive cost you your job and your health insurance?I don't have all those things either. But the difference between me and jhokers like you is I don't give a rat's a if someone else does have them. More power to 'em. It didn't cost me anything, and regardless of what you believe it didn't cost you anything. Unlike those who think the government isn't taking enough of their money to pay your way - now that is one class getting theirs by taking it away from someone else.

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