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29 June, 2005

By vertu of necessity

Last year Gulf News ran an extraordinarily good value promotion, where for Dh400, readers got a one-year subscription to the paper, free delivery, and a Dh500 Rivoli gift boutique voucher. Buying the paper each day in a shop would cost nearly twice as much - around Dh800 a year - so for anyone actually needing to buy a luxury watch or pen, it was effectively Dh100 cash-in-hand to receive Gulf News.

The vouchers expire on the 30th of June, so there has been something of a last minute stampede to Rivoli. According to the sales guy, most people are buying Mont Blanc pens and watches, but a few cheapskates chose sub-Dh500 Cartier keyrings, just to use the voucher up without handing over extra cash.

"One customer, he bought a Vertu mobile phone," the assistant revealed. "Eighteen thousand dirhams! Minus the Dh500 voucher, of course."

The mentality of someone who could waste nearly five thousand US dollars on a mobile phone yet still remember to use his little voucher is bewildering. As is anyone prepared to spend so much money on a device that will be obsolete in six months' time - at least a watch or pen can last several years (or even decades) without becoming redundant.

"It is a status symbol, you see," the assistant explains. "These people - they are so rich they just don't know what to spend their money on."

It is a pity a brand-new Mont Blanc pen cannot be used to write on the internet. As a result, its gleaming black-resin body with platinum-plated nib lies unused in its exquisite little pen-coffin. Beautiful, yet essentially useless in the cyber age.

Much like the paper edition of the Gulf News. Despite the fact that it arrives every morning before dawn on the doorstep of Cell Bock G, the online edition is the only one read.



Blogger Shaun said...

There are very few joys like a Mont Blanc pen. What's so special about this $5k phone!

30 June, 2005 06:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Frank's book, "Luxury Fever", addresses the issue of $5K cellphones. All this is clear evidence that our utility functions include not only absolute wealth, but also relative wealth as arguments in the function. (Econspeak for we care about social rank.)

30 June, 2005 20:16  
Blogger Bull in a Chinashop said...

A man who would redeem his Dh50 cash voucher on the one hand, and fork out 5k for a cell phone on the other, clearly has nouveau riche written all over him.

Old money is almost never penny wise and pound foolish!

01 July, 2005 13:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gulf News should compensate to the people who have not been able to redeem their vouchers.They should not leave their custoemrs who have not been able to redeem becasue of some reason.

28 July, 2005 17:39  

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