Lux Faux Pas
Lifestyles of the rich and famous are overplayed. Be it the golden toilet, the designer labels, or that Rolls Royce, being wealthy is out of style… No really it is. According to the Associated Press, affluent members of society are ‘scaling back extravagant spending’. Retailing experts refer to this phenomenon as “stealth wealth” or by the more popular term: “luxury shame”.
“A lot of us are downsizing not only because we have to, but because we think it is the right thing to do,” said Robert Jones, a California proprietor.
Many wealthy view the practice of luxury shame as respectful to the less obscenely rich. Trendy, yet sensible; this fad connects them to the average Joe. From a social stand point both experience some level of sacrifice, which during a recession is not only respectful, but quite chic.
“There’s a sense of there being a gaucheness in spending excessively, then coming home with another Louis Vuitton or Chanel bag”, says personal shopper Lucyann Barry.
High-end consumers now demand items to be placed in a plain paper bag. Others opt to have the items shipped to their home creating an illusion of window shopping. Dressing down, to “seem more like everyone else” is another tell-tale sign of luxury shame. Though some of the wealthy have become decidedly less so due to the declining value of stocks and businesses, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish them.
“Instead of buying six designer bags, they might just buy one,” said Barry. “Instead of charting a private plane they might go commercial or jet pooling.”
However, solely analyzing the fad aspect takes away from its greatest advantage; safety. Granted, leaving a store empty handed and dressing in sweats from time to time feels charitable, the reality is crime rates rise during economic hardship. Robberies especially, in fact newly released criminals report purposely violating parole in order to return to prison. Sadly, it’s the only place where anyone will be guaranteed food and a place to sleep.
Ironically the effects of luxury shame do nothing to benefit society as a whole. Cut backs create loss all around. For instance, holiday sales at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Ave, and Tiffany & Co. were down. Slow sales lead to layoffs. Layoffs lead to less money, and the economy’s black hole grows.
"We’d better hope they don't stop spending too much", said founder of the luxury institute, Milton Pedraza. “It could be fatal.”
Perhaps, the best move is not to spare our feelings, but to continue living excessively. Better yet, jump on the stimulus package bandwagon and cut us Joe’s a check.