Friday, September 26, 2008

When The Going Gets Tough...

... Bankers Wait in Line at Hermès Sample Sales

Wall Street may have turned into one big fire sale, but that is apparently not enough to dampen the perennial feverish enthusiasm for a sample sale, even one where bargains are defined as a $900 pair of boots or a $280 leather-bound hunting horn the size of a comb.

It’s not that the women in line were unaware of the scent of financial disaster hovering in the air. To the contrary, more than one was waiting there to get away from it.

“I just needed a break,” said a banker who waited, on crutches no less, for well over an hour on Tuesday. “You know it’s not going to be a good year for anyone. But some things are recession-proof, and this sale is one of them. Even if I don’t find anything, I still spend a thousand. It’s like Costco.”

That shopper would not give her name or say where she worked, since she probably should have been at the office, under the circumstances. “Let’s just say my bank’s still around,” she demurred. “That narrows it down to about four.”

Nice to know that panic isn't running too rampant! Then there's this attitude:

“Even if the economy’s down, a sale is all the more reason to buy something nice,” said a young woman in a dark, sharply tailored suit. Like the banker ahead of her, she declined to give her name, on the grounds that she was supposed to be at the office — in her case, helping to prepare Securities and Exchange Commission filings to comply with new hedge-fund regulations.

She folded her Wall Street Journal under one arm. “Buy something nice, it makes you look good. If you look good, you feel good. If you pay full price and things are unstable at your job, it takes away the enjoyment.”

There is always that other option. “Not to buy?” she asked. She shook her head. “That wouldn’t work.” No one seemed to be considering the possibility that a few months from now she might not have a job to dress up for. Then again, there’s no more pressing time to buy a high-prestige morale boost than when you might be dressing for job interviews.

Perhaps it's this kind of attitude amongst the nation's bankers that got us into this mess in the first place. But that doesn't mean we can't also glean some investment tips from this article:

“I used to buy Sirius stock to keep myself from buying more Hermès scarves,” said Jan Goode, who was wearing a coral one and carrying a tote she had had made to showcase another one. Ms. Goode, who is in her 50s, considers herself a serious collector of Hermès scarves, stopping just short of considering herself someone with a serious problem.

“Now my Hermès holdings are much more valuable than my Sirius stock,” she said. “Sirius is at 90 cents a share. I should have been buying scarves all along.”

...When the prices of vintage Hermès scarves go down on eBay — then we’ll really know we’re in trouble.

And lest you think there is no sense of financial discipline and moderation driving these shoppers, check this out:

“I’ll only buy if it’s something I really need,” resolved the woman from Long Island, as if she might enter the sale to find, alongside $2,000 jackets, $300 change purses and $200 toddler robes, essentials like light bulbs, toilet paper or toothpaste.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.


Anonymous said...

Cry, because this attitude will hurt us all. This makes me almost hope we crash and burn, so I can see these people on a street corner burning their $280 hunting horn or whatever it is to stay warm. We deserve whatever we get, we allowed this to happen and are allowing these fools to be bailed out. Contact your congressmen if you feel the same way and tell them to call the bailout off.

mapgirl said...

Wait a second. Buying stuff at Hermes on sale is not necessarily crazy or wrong. Luxury spending or overspending by bankers isn't what caused this problem. It was their stupidity in overleveraging their banks with CDO's. And it easily could have been prevented if regular folks all around the US hadn't decided to take on more mortgage than they could handle over the course of many years.

I don't really give a crap if someone wants to take a mental break and go shopping. I used to window shop in the luxury stores near the Pacific Stock Exchange in my younger days just to get away from my desk. I hardly bought anything since I couldn't afford it, but if these bankers can, I don't care. I care if they are buying it on credit when they can't.

They're adding to the GDP at this point, which may be all that we can do for our flailing economy. (Though I agree, it's not exactly stocking up at the supermarket on food.)

I want people to understand something. I was going to have to work till I was 70 before this happened and I am still going to have to work till I'm 70. What has changed?

I admit, for my mother, who WAS contemplating retiring, is probably not going retire next year like she had hoped. But she undersaved her whole life long before we got to this point. She could have woken up a lot sooner and done stuff differently. (And I don't mind bailing HER out. She's my mom!)

Anonymous said...

Sadly, bankers are getting the last laugh. They profited from creating this mess and the banks still standing are going to be bailed out by our tax dollars. Main Street suffers while Wall Street is still filthy rich and shopping at Hermes, even if it means a "downgrade" to a sample sale.

(Btw, I don't usually blog about money related issues. But I just wrote a post that expanded on my feelings regarding the economic crisis. Feel free to contribute to the dialogue.)

Chariot said...

Commenting on that first paragraph from mapgirl...

The bankers overspending and the loans they give ARE connected. The bankers make a commission from each loan they sign. Therefore give more loans and make more money for those luxury items.

If they had a different attitude they would have made sure people could afford the loans first and this mess wouldn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I sometimes feel like I'm of a different species than these women just based on how they dress. Now that I hear how they think about these things, my feelings of utter alienation from those people have only increased. They and I obviously occupy opposite ends of some spectrum or another. Am I the freak, or are they? Or are we all freaks in different ways?

mara of portland said...

I have to laugh at “I’ll only buy if it’s something I really need”. Tee-hee!

Anonymous said...

As my Mum frequently says... sometimes she thinks we need a 1930s style depression so people learn between "wants" and "needs"... we live in such a wasteful society, people throw things out as soon as they are not the latest "in thing".

Admin said...

Some of us have had great discipline over the years and can afford to take advantage of the impending financial doom that is going on. Why shouldn't we? In the meantime, I am going to take advantage of the crisis and pick up some cheap stock, a new house, and some other great deals. A bit sadistic, but true.

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Anonymous said...

Cry rivers of tears, cry buckets of tears, and most importantly, cry to God.
We will ALL soon awake to the fact that we have ALL placed ourselves in a handbasket. Wake up ... we all know where that hadbasket is headed. Carol

Anonymous said...

Cry rivers of tears, cry buckets of tears, and most importantly, cry to God.
We will ALL soon awake to the fact that we have ALL placed ourselves in a handbasket. Wake up ... we all know where that hadbasket is headed. Carol

Anonymous said...

This feeling that it is okay to cheat your employer out of time is not okay. These people are like irresponsible teenagers and they need an attitude shift quick.