The End of Excess

Today’s 8,000-word dose of schadenfreude is here, courtesy of Michael Shnayerson and Vanity Fair. All the bankers laid low by ill fortune you could ever want!

Still, a look at the real-estate "bargains" shows how much further there is to fall: a Greenwich home which sold for $11 million after being listed at $19.9 million; a Hamptons rental for a mere $250,000, down from an intial asking price of $500,000. Yes, just for the summer. People are still mentally pricing off the highs: enormous numbers seem positively reasonable when they’re much smaller than they were a few months ago.

Last night I ate at a very expensive new downtown restaurant; it was packed. Maybe people feel that spending a few hundred dollars on dinner doesn’t make a difference when the big problems are with seven-figure salaries and mortgages. Or maybe they’re simply more likely to order the $50 wine than the $2,000 wine, and that way they can get most of the benefit at a fraction of the former cost. But I do still get the feeling that people need a little time to unwind from the culture of excess; that right now they’re just looking for cheaper flat-screen TVs, as opposed to not buying a new TV at all.

On the other hand, I do think that there’s a solid future ahead for the likes of Vanity Fair, at least. It always catered more to those who would dream of spending millions of dollars than it did to that select group who actually do. And now the dream is stronger than ever, not despite but because of the recession. There’s always a bull market in escapism when the economy turns south.

This entry was posted in consumption. Bookmark the permalink.