Friday, January 26, 2007

Tribeca, December 2006

After a busy week working at the book sale and having other business almost every night, this (above) is what I want to do this weekend.

Working at the book sale has been interesting. It’s got me thinking about consumerism. We all know Americans are just out of control when it comes to shopping, but here’s a brilliant example.

The book sale is comprised mainly of used books, but we also get a small amount of donated merchandise from the publication where I work. Some is sent by manufacturers who hope we’ll run an article about it; some is purchased for photo layouts to accompany stories on design and fashion. It then goes to the sale, with the proceeds going to charity.

One of my coworkers bought some merchandise yesterday, including a pillar candle in a simple glass holder, inside a cloth bag, inside a minimalist cardboard box. It bore the name Manolo Blahnik, of the shoe empire. (Who knew Manolo made candles?)

My coworker bought this candle for $5. She then came back to her desk and began researching her purchases to find out what they retail for. Turns out that candle sells for $75 at Bergdorf-Goodman.

I repeat: $75 for a CANDLE.

Do I even have to point out that this is crazy? There’s no other word for it. (Except possibly obscene.)

But here’s what’s also interesting: My coworker got much more enthusiastic about the candle when she found this out. It wasn’t just the candle that excited her; it was the bargain. She wasn’t interested only in the value of the candle to HER; she was interested in its value to society, relative to what she paid for it.

After all, these candles really aren’t candles. They are containers for the Manolo Blahnik name, and all its attendant chic and status. When you buy a $75 candle, the object itself is the least of your purchase.

I'd say she paid about what it's worth.

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