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Wealthy Shoppers Opt for Inconspicuous Consumption

Posted on Dec 15, 2008
Fifth Avenue

Stealth shopping: Flashing designer labels, at least on carry-out bags from high-end stores (pictured here is Prada’s Fifth Avenue outpost in New York), is suddenly gauche.

Whereas during boom times not so long ago, the über-loaded were all about having it and flaunting it, some among their ranks are now feeling the need to tone down their spending habits, if only for the sake of appearances.

The Daily Beast tracked the recent consumer activities of Kathleen Fuld—whose husband, Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld, was one of the first horsemen of the 2008 economic apocalypse—at one of her favorite retailers, Hermès, and discovered that she has been concealing her pricey purchases in a generic white bag instead of the luxury retailer’s trademark orange tote.

Sneaky! But sooner or later, surely these “secret shoppers” will have to switch up their tactics yet again when the plain white bag becomes the telltale sign of astronomical wealth ... or wait, maybe it already is.

The Daily Beast via Gawker:

At Hermès and a handful of other exclusive retailers, “secret shopping” has becoming the winter season’s newest trend. Anyone who can still afford, say, the three cashmere throws at $2,225 each that Mrs. Fuld bought when she stopped by the store that day isn’t likely to advertise it. Instead, the city’s most extravagant shoppers are ferrying their purchases home in unmarked bags; delegating delivery to assistants; or manipulating credit card bills to disguise their spending from outsiders—and their spouses.

“We kind of respect it,” says the sales associate, who’s worked at the store for several years and sees a white bag twice a day now, up from once a month in August. Skipping the trademark citrus bag, with its thick paper, brown cord handles, and logo, Hermès’ biggest spenders are “trying to be discreet.”

Indeed. Since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Mrs. Fuld has still been a regular client, visiting the boutique once a week and spending $5,000 or $10,000 each time, says the associate. Now, she doesn’t want any one to know. (Through a spokesperson, Mrs. Fuld declined to comment on this article.)

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thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, December 17, 2008 at 3:42 am Link to this comment

The first thing the rich must do is to convince you that they do not exist.

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By Sepharad, December 16, 2008 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There’s a much better longer, more informative and entertaining article on the same subject in last Sunday’s NYTimes. (Mrs. Fuld is not the only one doing sneaky shopping; why does she rate such an exclusive Truthdig spotlight?)

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