Friday 1 February 2019

Conspicuous consumption confusion

At 412 square-metres, the Regent Suite is nearly twice as large as the average Australian home and 20 times larger than the average cruise ship stateroom. With an all-inclusive price of US$11,000 per night based on double occupancy, the Regent Suite is already sold-out for nearly all of Seven Seas Splendor’s 2020 inaugural season sailings.

This is the opening paragraph of a release sent to me by someone from the PR company that represents Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Regular readers 😃 will recall that last November I had a tour over the Seven Seas Mariner, followed by a fancy lunch. Despite being well-used to high-end cruise ships, thanks to a fortuitous and much appreciated work relationship with Silversea, I was still impressed by the level of luxury on the Mariner, and the size of the upper-end suites. They were HUGE! And clearly no expense had been spared with the fittings and furnishings, either. But the Splendo[u]r, which is to be launched next month, is going to be even more lavish, it seems. At least, so you would hope: US$11,000 a night!

Of course I'm being hopelessly out-of-touch and unsophisticated here. I know there are plenty of super-rich people in the world, for whom this kind of extravagance is nothing of the sort. Who do I think I'm rubbing elbows with on Silversea cruises, at Peninsula hotels, up the front in aeroplanes? (Er, not ever the very front, sadly - and actually not even in Business much, these days.) Because I'm getting it all for free, as work, I don't often actually find out how much all this stuff would cost if I had to pay - nor do I need to. Travel story factboxes commonly omit such prosaic detail, which rather makes a nonsense of the title. In the promotional emails I receive it can take some effort to drill down to the price for things. Quite often you have to get to the latter stages of making a booking on a website to get to the nitty gritty. I suppose it's the old 'If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it' thing.

I'm not skint - we did once actually pay for a Silversea cruise that was too popular for us to get onto any other way (that's frequently how this free stuff works - it's only offered at the last minute when it's clear no-one is going to buy it). But I am, by upbringing and temperament, relentlessly frugal, and it goes against every fibre of my being to even consider being so reckless with money. An Auckland hotel is currently advertising a Chinese New Year dinner that will cost NZ$18,000 for six. Honestly, I would choke on my $3,000 share.

To me, it's not only a stupid waste, it's an obscene self-indulgence when, clearly at little cost financially or otherwise to the squanderer, that money could have been spread so far amongst people and organisations who really need it, who could do some real good with it. I know that some rich people do give away big sums, quietly, and well done them - but all that conspicuous consumption? I can't get on board with that.

Except, of course, that I have/do - literally. And the people on my Silversea cruises, that I've talked to, and eaten dinner with, and played Trivial Pursuit with, have nearly all been pleasant, interesting and perfectly ordinary in appearance (I may have been missing the subtleties of labels, watches, handbags and so on). They haven't flaunted their wealth, or boasted about their successes - they've rarely even mentioned their jobs. 

I, of course, rarely mention mine on my various trips. I've always said it's because I don't want people to resent my being there for free, when they've had to pay with big chunks of their hard-earned - I have got that, occasionally, and it has been awkward. But actually, it's equally the case that on the fancy famils I don't want to risk people looking down their noses at me, as someone who's only there because it's a freebie. Not that I would particularly care what they think, but who needs even incidental negative stuff when your actual job is to be enjoying yourself?

I don't know where I'm going with this. I disapprove of people squandering vast sums of money on unnecessary luxuries. I also thoroughly enjoy my occasional upper-end experiences courtesy of Silversea and the Peninsula, amongst others, which I entirely accept many people would consider to be unnecessary luxuries. I think the world's wealth should be spread more evenly. I also think we would all be much worse off if some people didn't do extravagant things like building Blenheim Palace or the Taj Mahal. This is complicated. Why is life so hard?

1 comment:

the queen said...

I remember when I was in my early twenties, at a housewarming party for my boss, when I looked around her new house and blurted out, “You must be so rich.” She answered, kindly, “No, we are in a lot of debt.” I suppose the super wealthy have credit cards too, just with a higher credit limit, and perhaps they’re heading for bankruptcy anyway. If they aren’t in debt, no doubt the people paying ten grand a night would choke if asked to pay 100 grand a night. Also, I think it is just and proper that you get lovely things without paying out of pocket.


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