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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Rich are Different from You and Me...

This is a stupid Christmas present for all of you who, like me, are piddling around on the Internet on Christmas day instead of doing something more constructive with your time.
The source: Neiman-Marcus' Christmas Book. Not the new one, which still features wretched excess, if this article from the Telegraph can be believed (and I feel that it can). The page featured here is from the 1974 catalogue, a spectacularly rare, mint-conditioned piece of ephemera that I picked up from the fine Rochester shop Utter Clutter--Dames Don't Care, one of the best secondhand stores in Western New York.
Here's the craziest part. I remember receiving this catalogue when it was new. We moved into our Cranford, N. J. house in 1968, and the Neiman Marcus catalogues, which were addressed to the previous owners of the house, kept coming every Christmas even though my family wasn't remotely capable of affording the cheapest gift in its pages let alone the Faberge Egg (a real one, not a copy) that it advertised for a bargain price of 25 thousand bucks ($116,500.00 in today's money, a relatively stable price for the object when inflation is taken into account ...a "world time computer" advertised in the same catalogue that gave you "readout of any time in the world, plus consistent monitoring of your the touch of a button" would, by contrast, set you back by $4,750.00 in 1974 dollars or $19,965.00 in 2008 dollars, and the PONG computer game for your home would cost $2,311.74 in today's dollars). We also got yearly packages of lovely oranges and apples intended for the same family from Harry and David's fruit company for many years after they had father innocently and honestly, and perhaps stupidly, returned the first package and the Post Office guys just ate the fruit. In the following year we came to our senses and ate the oranges and apples ourselves--(thank you, Mr. And Mrs. Wolfram!)
But to return to the catalogue. Every year the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book would feature a one off gift idea that gave rich people something that the rest of us couldn't afford if we wanted to and wouldn't buy if we could.
But there was a recession in 1974, and conspicuous consumption was...slightly out of style. So they scaled down from the solid gold diamondstudded electric swizzle sticks that i remember from another Christmas this.
It's a mouse ranch.
Yes, I am not making this up.
The text is so stupid that it could only have been written by someone who thought they were being clever. "Imagine the thrill of sitting around the campfire (or fireplace) singing songs of the prairie under the full moon (or lamp) with your own herd lowing softly (squeaking gently?) beyond the light of the fire. Picture the thrill of rodeo time: roping, dogging, barrel racing, prize stock exhibitions and sales. The N-bar M ranch is a controlled and utopian environment created in clear acrylic." (The italics are mine.)
What I want to know, all these years later, is this:
Did anyone actually buy this idiotic thing? For crying out loud, it cost over $3500.00, or about $15,000.00 in today's dollars! All for a few pieces of Plexiglas.
Somehow, I can picture George W. Bush doing it.
Addendum: Here is excess that makes the Neiman Marcus excess look restrained. Some people just have too much money.
Merry Christmas all.


Anonymous said...

A mouse...ranch. Gee, I'd hate to see what a mouse stampede looks like.

My favorite Christmas gift this season was simple and good to buy in bulk...four dozen blue Col-Erase pencils!

Nancy said...

Hi Alex,
Nieman-Marcus's Christmas catalogue is deliberately over the top. It is designed for people who have too much money and too little taste.
There WERE a few good buys in the old catalogue, but the Mouse Ranch and the His n' Hers Hovercraft were pretty bad. And they were cheap by N & M standards.