In the past, I’ve written that I’m not one to celebrate the Sex and the City lifestyle. I have difficulty getting behind paying for a brand name without differentiating functionality behind it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m overly analytical or if there’s something Y-chromosomey about it. I look around at most of the things I own, like say an Element brand flat screen and I am quite happy with its performance for the money. When it comes to fashion though, I have to admit that I don’t get it. Maybe, I’m too much of a Maxxinista (wait, is that Maxxinisto for me?).
I’m reminded by this when I see stories about this $1,050 swimsuit that you shouldn’t get wet. Let me repeat, over $1000 for a swimsuit that you shouldn’t get wet. In my opinion it is also an unattractive swimsuit that will leave an ugly triangle tan-line. Nonetheless, I’m sure there are people with effectively unlimited money that will buy this. That article also gives a nod to the $500 pair of socks that you can’t wash as well as the 8-inch high heels, that are hardly suitable for walking. (The toe-shortening surgery that the article is really about is an article for another day.)
I shouldn’t pick on women’s fashion exclusively though. After all, I could buy dozens and dozens of the swimsuits, socks, and shoes mentioned above for the $250,000 price tag of this Harry Winston watch. The key feature of the watch is, of course, giving you the time in hours and minutes. There appears to be no second hand. When it gets to a new hour, wow, it looks entertaining. Here’s a video:
One of the most disappointing aspects of this is that the crazy spending can’t even be blamed on the Price-Placebo Effect. People know going in how impractical the items are. They don’t do anything better much, much cheaper versions. In fact, in most cases they perform their function quite a bit worse.
It saddens me to see money spent like this. I realize that some people have enough money that purchases like these are insignificant. I can’t imagine being such a person without having a bit of guilt. In the back of my mind, I would think, what would the red cross, dog shelter, or Kiva.org do with that $1,000? Am I really going to get more out of watching all 566 parts of a watch fly together to form a number every hour, or knowing that I could have permanent changed the lives of hundreds of people in a third world country.
Perfect Dad says
So the first thing to note is that you wouldn’t buy these things, nor would someone making ten times as much as you, but maybe someone making 100 times as much as you.
I worked in a huge company in the finance department for a long time. And let me tell you, they don’t have “time” to care about little things like saving a few hundred dollars. Every report was listed in $ millions, and it usually rounded to one decimal. Therefore, until you hit $100,000 the spend didn’t even register. On a global basis, $4M didn’t even register because that much didn’t swing EPS one tenth of one percent. So you had people make decisions that they would not make with their own money, because in their own bank accounts $100 does register loud and clear.
There is a whole industry of selling to the wealthy — either business or consumer. They simply don’t even see the money. It’s like a penny to you, more hassle to track than it’s worth.
That is one of the most awesome watches I have ever seen.
If was a multi-millionaire or billionaire, I would buy that watch. It’s the engineer in me that can really appreciates the watch’s complex mechanical detail.
Sorry, Lazy Man, I don’t buy the guilt argument. Unless you live like a priest or nun, that argument, in my mind, holds little weight. I could argue that, do you really need to live in one of the most expensive parts of the country? Couldn’t you live in Podunk, North Dakota and give the cost of living difference to charity?
If I can afford that watch, I’m absurdly wealthy, I’ve built an empire, I give away truck loads of money already, who are you to judge what brings me happiness?
Matt (with The Online Budget) says
While the items mentioned here are truly outrageous, blindly donating to any charity without doing a little background checking on it first is also outrageous. Specifically, what would the Red Cross do with $1,000? More than likely use it to help pay for its CEO, who in 2009 was paid well over half a million bucks. I prefer to donate to responsible charities that use my money intelligently, the Red Cross doesn’t fit the bill, IMO. Anyway, thanks for the post…
Matt (with The Online Budget) says
Oops – just realized the post that I referenced above was listed by Snopes.com as inaccurate. But still, the same post notes that the present CEO of the Red Cross is pulling in close to half a mil…sorry about the confusion. Anyway, I’ve been to Red Cross offices in the past – they truly spare no expense on their “digs”.
Lazy Man says
Good discussion. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen such good comments.
I realize there are people with insane money these buying decisions because it is nothing to them. I think I mentioned it in the article, perhaps twice even.
In a corporate setting like you mentioned where $100,000 just begins to show up on the radar, it’s time to revisit the corporate structure or corporate philosophy. For example, if I had 10 billion dollars, I’d have some 99% invested somewhere and then use the 100M left over to run the company. I’d have a comptroller in charge of making sure that these buyers are making a solid case for their expenditures, not $1,000 bathing suits. If it’s a gift to get a big celebrity, I could see that. However, before that I’d look to see what charities the celebrity supports and donate money their first. If that celebrity doesn’t appreciate that gesture, I think you move on to the next one.
I’m no priest or nun :-). Not even close.
I do happen to live in one of the most expensive parts of the country. My wife’s military commitment was the driving force behind that. Her salary is pegged to the cost of living. Since we find ways to live frugally, we actually make out versus living in Podunk, North Dakota. I consider where you live to be an investment. For example, there are connections here in Silicon Valley with personal finance start-ups that are more available to me than if I lived in North Dakota.
The idea was that it was a swimsuit that you couldn’t get wet, socks that you couldn’t wash, and shoes that made it extremely difficult (impossible for some) to walk in. It was more much money for less functionality. Now if I paid more money to move to Podunk, North Dakota for a lesser quality home, I might agree that would be a fair analogy.
As for who I am to judge to what brings you happiness? Everyone is entitled to have their opinion and make such judgments. We all do it dozens or more times everyday. I think it would be up to you to decide whether you care about my opinion or not. Most likely in that scenario you wouldn’t.
That may be a good point about the Red Cross. I used them as an example because they are at the forefront of my mind with the Japan earthquake. They seem to be the top charity that everyone is supporting. I suppose the dangers in that is that they may not be the best. Its probably like people buying Apple iPhones and Android devices in 2009 instead of Palm Pres ;-). In the case of charities, I admit that I am behind on my homework.
According to Charity Navigator, the American Red Cross still has a 3* rating. Roughly 92% of their expenses are spent on the programs they provide.
I understand that $500,000 is a lot for a charity, however the Red Cross is a $3 billion a year organization. As a President/CEO of an organization that large, charity or not, I wouldn’t accept much less.
Debt Donkey says
It all just a status symbol game, I think. One more way to show off. Adults are not a whole lot different than kids at a playground in this regard. Oh, and I don’t think 8 inch high heels are meant for walking :-)
That looks like an awesome watch, but I agree, not worth the $250K price tag. I could think of a lot of other things to use that kind of money on…