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Like ordering from the dollar menu 81 times

Luxury goods' prices hard to swallow.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 6, 2009 6:15PM

Who's up for a $15 cup of coffee, a $35 movie ticket, an $81 burger and a $480 cocktail?


Oh, and I'm not buying.


I'd be awfully surprised if you were buying, either. Those who read this blog are not likely to want to spend $81 on a sandwich. 

Not that this is just any old burger. It's a 14-ounce Japanese Kobe beef patty formed around a quarter-pound seared Kobe medallion, according to an article at wcbstv.com. No plebeian Heinz or Hunt's for this sammich; it comes with house-made sake onion catsup and a miso and ginger aioli.


And if that doesn't fill you up? It also comes with a side order of Tater Tots. Honest.


Chilled candy, java jive
The other three luxe items were mentioned in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Monica Guzman wrote about Village Roadshow, a high-end movie theater that's going to open in Redmond, near Seattle (and home to Microsoft). Seating is limited to 40, food and beverages can be brought to you, and there's a lounge with a full bar. Tickets cost up to $35.


Just a stone's throw away from there, however, is a movie theater with its own type of luxury: Raisinets served in chilled wineglasses, popcorn in champagne buckets, ottomans in the front row if you want to put your feet up. Tickets to this theater are $10.


Heck, my neighborhood movie house costs $9 -- and believe me, their Raisinets ain't chilled.


Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat didn't get to drink that $15-a-cup brew, known as Esmeralda Especial; he sampled a cheaper one whose beans cost "only" $20 a pound. The Esmeralda beans would have set him back a steamin' $180 per pound. That is, if they hadn't sold out almost immediately.


The columnist also mentioned, but did not sample, a $480 cocktail from a Seattle steakhouse. It's made with an über-pricey liqueur called Grand Marnier Cent Cinquantenaire, a blend of rare cognacs aged at least 50 years. One Web site offered 750 milliliters -- that's a little over three cups -- for $195. Yikes.


I wonder if $480-a-glass hooch is so good that you don't get hangovers? If you did, I guess the only possible response would be that $15-a-cup coffee.


Anybody else find this hard to swallow?
Yes, I know people can do whatever they want with their money. But it still blows my mind that anyone would spend $15 on an 8-ounce cup of coffee. Some posters at the Smart Spending message board spend $40 a week on groceries for two or more people.


According to coffeehouse owner Mike Gregory, some people's reaction to the $180-a-pound beans was, "It's the most expensive coffee in the world. I've got to try that!" Of course, coffee may have come out of other customers' noses when they saw the price.


And that New York steakhouse owner said he wanted his burger to be "the most decadent food item of 2008." It's certainly up in the top 10, given that Kobe beef cattle are famed for getting massages to help them grow tender flesh. 


Personally, if I spent $81 on a burger, then I'd want a massage thrown in as part of the deal.


But the fascination factor of price is how luxury is created. Luxe items were once the province of the rich but are now marketed heavily to the middle class. 


For example, some designer purses go for thousands of dollars. Women wait months to get them. I'm convinced it's the price -- look how much I'm worth! -- that makes these things so desirable. Anything that costs that much must be worth having, right?


But despite real leather and superior workmanship, a handbag is just a handbag. Raisinets are still Raisinets, whether chilled or at room temperature. And sake onion catsup notwithstanding, that $81 burger is still just a chunk of ground beef on a roll.


Published April 4, 2008

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