Admittedly, one of the issues with a Book-of-the-Month Club is you have to read a whole book each month! I thoroughly enjoyed February’s selection — Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas — and yet I just finished it this weekend. The basic premise of the book is that large luxury houses like LVMH or Gucci Group, in their quests for corporate profits, have sacrificed much for the bottom line. In some cases, it might be lesser materials, outsourcing production to lower-wage countries, skimping on packaging, or otherwise deviating from the original quality that made many brands the household names they are today. The book is filled with interesting anecdotes and statistics, that at alternating points make you long for "luxury" and disdain it.
Indeed, it is a shame that marketing has devolved to the point where so many companies bastardize certain words that they eventually become meaningless. "Concierge" is a great example. The "concierge" in your office building paid just slightly more than the rent-a-cop is not a concierge. If you’re lucky, they can point you to the restrooms, but they certainly aren’t getting you a table at a trendy restaurant or court-side tickets to the game. "VIP" is another overused-&-abused phrase. As Seth Meyers & Amy Poehler pointed out on SNL in the wake of the Elliot Spitzer scandal, "Anything that has the words VIP in the title is not for VIP’s" [clip here]. And so it is with "luxury" too.
The iPhone photo taken for this blog was at the Las Vegas airport in mid-February as I was knee-deep in the book. The store advertised "Luxury for $10", and included jewelry, scarves, and leather goods. Without sounding snooty, it seems impossible that any of those items could be both luxurious and under $10. That got me thinking, "What on Earth could be a luxury product for just $10?" If a true luxury item is sold at some multiple over the regular version of the same item, there are very few products that could make the cut. And I’m willing to offer a $50 On The Fly gift certificate to the commenter on this blog that comes up with the best product idea. My entry? A toothpick made of cocobolo.