a blog with cultural bulimia.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

the still (in)famous omelet

"It's standard marketing practice to lure customers into thinking they're getting a bargain by making an item $9.99 instead of $10. But Norma's frittata works through an inverse psychological ploy: The four-figure domain is crucial. Like diamonds, fur coats, champagne, you're paying for the price more than the thing itself—a public display of the fact that money's nothing to you. (Of course, the only people who can afford these forms of conspicuous consumption are those whose every waking minute is devoted to money—making it, monitoring their investments, moving it around to make more money out of it.) At Norma's, the element of ostentatious largesse is turned into a ritual: When someone orders the $1,000 omelet, says Steven Pipes, general manager of Le Parker Meridien, 'we have a bell we ring and we make an announcement to the whole dining room. Some people clap.'"