Monday, March 03, 2008

If you have to ask

This is not my first time noticing this, but New York Magazine has a messed-up definition of "cheap." I somehow forgot I knew this, and got excited to see that one of the "steals" in the Eating section was a Swedish brunch. I'm a fan of Swedish pancakes and not so much of doing the dishes, so I was ready to say, sign me up!

Then it appeared: "The $48 All-You-Can-Eat Swedish Sunday Brunch." Ah, but there's an explanation: "In what universe, you ask, can a $48 brunch (even one including an ice-cold Carlsberg or a 'Danish Mary') be considered a steal? The one in which you claim a booth in the posh Sunday-afternoon serenity of the Aquavit dining room, strategize a plan of attack, and proceed to decimate the lavish spread in the room next door." This is a prime example of a claim not supported by evidence.

I could understand NYMag saying, look, this brunch is worth $48. Or just stating outright, this brunch is good, with no mention of the cost. As an aspirational magazine (redundant?) these would be reasonable enough assertions. But what's to gain from calling that which is expensive "a steal"? Does it make the reader imagine himself belonging to an implied readership of those for whom $48 is in fact nothing? (It seems unlikely that even the very well-off spend this on breakfast, or else how would they stay that way, but that's another matter.)

Why do I pose this as a question? It seems entirely clear that the marketing strategy is to state as many times as possible that absurdly-priced goods are inexpensive, offering up an imaginary New York in which everyone not only has endless money but spends every last cent... yet for reasons left murky, still desires a bargain. Why else a mention of how reasonably-priced some shoes are because they go for $250-350 rather than the standard $600?

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