Peter Chianca: Had it up to here with ‘high-end’

Peter Chianca

Well, the economy is in the tank, gas prices are soaring and we may already be in a recession. So what do we need here in America during this time of financial turmoil? No, not more governmental regulation of the commodities futures market — that would just be silly. What we need is more opportunities to buy $440 Michael Kors Court half-d’Orsay pumps. I’m pretty sure it was Ben Bernanke who said that.

So I guess it’s good news that they recently opened 81,000 square feet of new high-end shops at the Burlington (Mass.) Mall, to go along with the 138,000 high-end feet offered by the new Nordstrom’s department store. That means the residents of greater Burlington should have no trouble using their pending tax rebate checks to get the aforementioned $440 designer shoes, along with the following actual items I found listed on the new stores’ Web sites:

  • $142 bathing suit featured in Sports Illustrated;
  • $230 cardigan with Marilyn Monroe’s picture on it;
  • $9,450 Cartier Panthere watch (pre-owned, but by a little old lady who only checked the time on Sundays).

Given the fragile state of our fiscal affairs, I can only assume this must be part of the president’s plan to stimulate the economy, which I have high hopes for given the success of all his other plans.

A lot of you may be too young to remember this, but it harks back to the “New Deal,” wherein President Roosevelt went on the radio and told all the unemployed farmers and factory workers that he was sending them money to go down to Gimbels and buy high-end fedoras. Unfortunately they were all living in giant balls of dust and had no radios or mailboxes, which is why the Depression dragged on for so long.

But what I’m wondering is, since nobody has any money, why isn’t anybody opening more low-end stores? You know, the type of stores where the kids’ boots are piled so high that rummaging through them might cause them to topple over and trap you until spring, when they take them out to make room for the plastic lawn furniture.

I mean, I’m sure Lacoste, Ruehl and Tourneau are all fine stores, even if they sound like a Scandinavian law firm, but I want to shop somewhere I can buy a cheap three-pack of briefs without being stared down by giant posters of androgynous couples who look like they would kiss each other, if they could just get past all this ennui. Plus, being able to buy a giant pretzel on the way out would be nice.

Yes, I know I could just shop at Wal-Mart, with its sprawling racks and skittish, blue-smocked natives who have long since given up hope of ever emigrating to a store with more natural light. But I’d rather see something like the stores I shopped in as a kid, like Ames, Caldor, Barker’s — you know, places where you could still see the front door from back in sporting goods, and you didn’t suspect that the management secretly wanted to kill you.

Regardless, with everybody getting laid off and foreclosed upon, it doesn’t seem like the best time to spend your Saturdays breaking in that new Master Card at a fancy clothing store like Zara (motto: “All Our Models Look Mad at You”). Something’s got to give with these high-end stores — for instance, the Sharper Image, which recently filed for bankruptcy, stopped honoring its gift cards. Instead the employees just hide behind the giant massage chair until you sense the awkwardness and go home.

But what do I know? Clearly President Bush, the Burlington Mall and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission must all know what’s good for the economy better than I do. I guess I’ll just take out my credit card and head to the malls along with the rest of the country.