Luxury for $10? I’ll Take Two!

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.

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Written by Ami

Wingtip Founder & CEO, Ami Arad is the quintessential modern gentleman. He has distinctive taste, an eclectic style, and dresses for every occasion. Ami developed his vision for Wingtip at a young age; even back in high school where four years of speech and debate meant weekends wearing a coat...
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In keeping with your toothpick theme, I suggest one centimeter of synthetic spider silk dental floss:
“commercial silk is typically harvested from cocoons of the silk moth. This silk is only one-third as strong and about half as elastic as what spiders produce. Spider silk is the strongest natural fiber known. The most appealing type is the “dragline” that spiders use to move about and snag prey. Dragline silk — what Peter Parker employs while swinging through the streets — is six times stronger than steel and can be stretched to 50 percent of its length before it breaks. Reproducing dragline silk has been called the Holy Grail of materials science. In 2002, scientists at Nexia Biotechnologies produced spider silk proteins in cells from a mammal. The proteins were then spun into silky threads. The Nexia research was supported by the U.S. Army, which is interested in producing dragline silk for better armor, tethers and bulletproof vests.”


Another suggestion is that $10 would buy you nine solid
gold staples.
A standard staple weighs 32.4 mg
Current gold price is $32.25/gram = $0.03225/mg
$0.03225/mg x 32.4 = $1.0449 per staple.
$10.00 / $1.0449 = 9.57
By contrast a box of 5,000 standard staples costs $1.39 at Office Depot, or $0.000278 per staple.
That means each gold staple costs about 3758 times as much as the regular product it replaces. Is that multiplier sufficient to satisfy your luxury test?

Michael Fischer

Hey, I thought about some luxury goods for 10 dollars. Keeping with the recent trend in Ultra-Luxury Bottled Water, how about “GLACE Rare Iceberg Water”…
From their website…
The source of this perfect water is the far northern region of the western Atlantic, between the coasts of Canada and Greenland. This area produces approximately 40,000 medium to large sized icebergs annually and is the only source of harvestable ice on earth, completely environmentally safe and the cleanest water on Earth. The largest source of ice is the Antarctic Region, however the weather, location, and enormous size of the Icebergs within this region, makes harvesting far too dangerous.
Icebergs are by far the rarest and purest type of water on earth. What makes them so ?pure? is that they are date back 12,000 and 150,000 years and pre-date man and pollution. They have been protected within glacial walls over the centuries and fall naturally into the sea, thus yielding the only water in its true original form. Harvesting icebergs can be an unstable and erratic process, and at times somewhat dangerous. Iceberg harvesting is slow and precise science, making the volume harvesting virtually impossible, producing only 6,000 metric tones or approximately 600,000 cases per year for the entire world market, making GLACE Iceberg Water the rarest water in the world.
At 80 dollars for a case of 12 bottles, one bottle of this super luxury water will cost you almost 7 dollars… if you can get it.

Martyn Bergh

I agree with you completely on the decline of luxury. Champagne is to me the most obvious example – even now looking to increase the area of the appelation just to get access to more grape.
What about a cup of Kopi Luwak, or coffee made from beans that pass thru the digestive tract of the palm civet? It is apparently the best cofee in the world. I found 100g for $100 online. Using 8.5g of coffee per cup (as per the specialty coffee association of America), that would come out to $8.95 a cup. Starbucks coffee sells for $15/ for a 1lb bag which comes out to 28c per 8.5g cup.
So, it is possible to get real luxury for under 10 bucks!

Duane Dyar

The other gentlemen have posted some very well thought out ‘Luxery Under $10′ items with solid math behind it.
I will take the simple route in keeping with the theme of your article; how about a Louis Vuitton baby diaper pin? It could be manufactured overseas at a minimal cost with cheap materials and a logo slapped on it.
Wala, it would be a ‘bargain’ for new mothers that shop at Louis Vuitton.

Jason Maguire

I think that Mr. Dyar has it, keep it simple.
How about branded air? There are people out there so overly in love with automobiles that they will go to extreme lengths to maximize the cars performance.
If someone could market a branded “tire air” for say a Mercedes dealer, people would go nuts for it. Of course this air would be “special’ Mercedes air and would only be obtainable from authorised dealers.
So if you could have air put into your tire at a cost of ten bucks (not to mention the labor charge) that my friends would be true luxury!

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