Is Luxury Fashion in Trouble?

by Honolulu Mother

This Daily Beast article on the flagging performance of various luxury fashion brands suggests alternately that luxury brands have saturated the market to the point that they no longer seem, well, like a luxury; that they’ve alienated the consumers who buy the real stuff by focusing more on celebrities who borrow gowns for the Oscars than on the paying customers; and that it’s simply priced itself out of the general clothing market.

Do you think luxury fashion’s time has come and gone, or is this a blip? Is it something you find worth paying for?


202 thoughts on “Is Luxury Fashion in Trouble?

  1. High End Fashion Names have always taken a back seat to practicality and budget for me. At one time, these were considered out of reach or a truly luxury, likely once-in -a-lifetime gift. But, given that outlet stores, consignment stores, online stores, and more “look alikes” on the market today, I think that they have lost their uniqueness. Granted, one would still have to shell out a small for true Louis Vuitton purse ($950 to 1,000) a look alike can be purchased for around $200. If you are familiar with the details or you didn’t get a very close look, you would just assume it was the pricey bag.

    I would never have bought Dior baby clothing from the store, but when I found a cute onesie at a garage sale for $2, I bought it. Most people who know me, just assumed it was a gift!

  2. Yes I think luxury fashion’s time is past but regular retail is in free fall too. People are not shopping at traditional stores and even the non luxury but affluent brands like Tory Burch, Theory, etc. are dependent on sales. I have never bought a luxury item of clothing, but I don’t think that the quality in the affluent brands is there, so I would never buy any of it if it wasn’t at a discount. And I don’t see women around me buying luxury brands other than most of them having a Burberry trench. And then there’s also the theory that millennials only want to spend their money on experiences.

  3. There is a collapse in general retail as well. Just look at Aeropostale, Abercrombie etc.

    Keeping in line with the unfortunate trend of 2015 so far, RetailNext’s latest survey on physical retail has a whole lot more red ink on it than the nation’s merchants wanted to see. On average, traffic to physical stores was down about 9.8 percent on average, while sales have fallen off by 7.6 percent.

    Part of it is more buying moving to online but I also think that shopping as a hobby isn’t what it used to be as people are spending more time online.

  4. Maybe if the manufacturers would produce some attractive clothing, we’d buy it again.

  5. Wow, I am not the target audience for this. Not that I’ll let that stop me. :-)

    I think this is largely economic. These giant companies all extended into the UMC as “aspirational” brands. Which works great when the economy is humming and the UMC is growing — sure, you lose a few of the real UC, who see their exclusive brands “degraded,” but you more than make up for that with the hundred million Chinese who all want Vuitton luggage to mark their new social status. But it doesn’t work so well in a world of growing inequality, which means that aspirational middle (the target audience) is now shrinking instead of growing — many are sliding out of the top 20-25% and closer to the “real” MC (and ergo must cut their budgets for silly things like new purses), while a few make the leap to the real UC (and no longer think that Coach is so awesome when everyone below them on the totem pole has one). In short, this is the “top 20%” version of that Indiana article I posted yesterday — the audience just isn’t there to the same degree due to economic shifts.

    I also suspect these brands’ sheer size goes against the current ethos for local/artisanal. I think in the fairly rarified universes where the uppermost of the upper-crust makes its way — those who are looking to scale up from the “aspirational” brands into the true luxury brands — the way to set yourself apart is now through careful individuation. It’s all about knowing the right (local/organic/hot) restaurant and getting into the right club or school — it shows not just that you have money, but that you have taste and connections and power. Simply going to the top-end brand from one of these vertically-integrated houses shows that you have money, but that’s all; I would think that finding some hot new independent designer who does awesome/unique/high-quality work would be a far more important signifier of your knowledge/connections/taste/etc.

  6. “Just look at Aeropostale, Abercrombie etc.”

    See, this is what gets me — I just Do Not Get the appeal of those places. $50 for a miniskirt or pair of shorts? I don’t spend that on myself, much less my kid. And there’s nothing special about it at all. It’s all the same generic foreign-made cheap crap as everywhere else — this one just has a logo that says, “hey, I get my generic foreign-made cheap crap at Abercrombie.” If that is my option, why wouldn’t I go to Kohl’s and get generic foreign-made cheap crap for 1/3 the price? DD got a $100 gift card to Aeropostale for Christmas, and we still haven’t found anything attractive and reasonably-priced to spend it on.

  7. I like Amazon which has moved into he more fashionable space. I like online shopping and shopping for clothes online is no big deal. I have a hard time finding clothes in stores so online is better. With all sales and discounts the customers feel like they don’t know what is a fair price, so they just wait it out or find cheaper substitutes. Stores like H&M offer style for cheap and customers mix high and lowers end pieces. Brands have yo decide whether to go with volume and dilute the brand or remain small and exclusive.

  8. I was listening to CNBC this week and they were saying that Amazon is projected to be the #1 seller of clothes by next year.

  9. “which means that aspirational middle (the target audience) is now shrinking instead of growing — many are sliding out of the top 20-25% and closer to the “real” MC”

    I disagree with this, and not just because it makes no sense mathematically.

    I’d say that what has happened in the past 30 years is what used to be the middle class–married, single-breadwinner families (and they definitely weren’t buying luxury purses)–went one of two directions. They stayed married and added a second income becoming more UMC in tastes and buying power (if not mathematical ranking), or they are not married and usually have a more difficult time covering household costs while rearing children. The last time I saw Census data, the typical married family with breadwinner(s) between the ages of 40-49 had something like $80,000 in median earnings, and that’s including the data from single-earning households. From that, you can roughly estimate that the median, married, two-earner household has a combined income of just over $100k. In other words, *THAT* middle class has never been in a better position to buy mass-produced luxury purses. I agree with your analysis, however, of why many don’t seem to really want to.

    I was out on my boat with my Dad and we were commenting about all the bass boats, and you just don’t see anything these days under 150 hp, and 200 hp is more the standard, and there’s no real reason for this other than they can. You zoom across the water at 65 mph to get to your fishing spot where you drop a small electric trolling motor (another grand or so) and sit for four hours. And bass fishing is not a Totebaggy pursuit (not like Rocky’s DH’s fly fishing, although there’s always going to be some crossover). While this is more anecdotal, add to evidence the recent article in the Washington Post about how the average pickup truck that is sold keeps getting more and more expensive (based on trim level), well beyond inflation, while you keep in mind that the F-150 is still the #1 selling vehicle in America. This middle class is doing just fine, better than ever, in fact. They’re the cop/nurse, or welder/HR rep, or equivalent.

  10. Also, RV sales have reached record highs, and the average one keeps getting bigger, fancier, and more expensive. Disney theme parks have never been busier or more expensive. If the middle class has lost interest in Gucci, it’s not because they can’t afford it.

  11. I just Do Not Get the appeal of those places. $50 for a miniskirt or pair of shorts?

    Sure you do, Thorstein Veblen explained it perfectly well. The spending of the money is the point. I once read that popularity for guys in high school rests of three pillars: looks, athletic ability and the socioeconomic status of your family. For girls maybe it’s: looks, social skills and socioeconomic status? Anyway, the brands are how general society ranks people on the socioeconomic scale.

  12. I also suspect these brands’ sheer size goes against the current ethos for local/artisanal.

    That’s a really good insight. It’s probably better to have a wonderful little dressmaker who just whips things up for you.

  13. Disney theme parks have never been busier or more expensive

    I think it all has to do with technology. People can now influence their perceived SES ranking among their peer group by consuming experiences and displaying them on Facebook, Instragram, etc.

  14. “People can now influence their perceived SES ranking among their peer group by consuming experiences and displaying them on Facebook, Instragram, etc.”

    Yep. If you’d known 10 years ago, you probably could have made a fortune investing in whoever manufactures small, handheld chalkboards.

  15. Abercrombie is about the brand and flaunting sexuality. And demonstrating that your parents are wealthy enough and cool enough to let you wear it. I think I told the story here before about how the mean girl years started at my school in 5th grade when all the cool girls secretly planned to all wear Abercrombie for the first time on the same day. At least when I was a teen though, Aero was more reasonably priced. And not really a status symbol.

  16. Based on this past weekend’s FB posts of friends, the money goes to – (1) select sports teams (one family has boy in basketball and girl in volleyball), other two posts are one kid families; (2) sports non-select teams (in school or out); (3) experiences – concerts, Disney vacation; and (4) vehicles/boats.

    If you are in select sports, so are a lot of your child’s peers and your social circle begins to center around it. So, you go to games, plus practice, plus individual coaching or small clinics. The things money appears to be spent on is “better” quality equipment – face mask for a pitcher – and food (always on the go and sometimes far from home), and things like massage/PT for injuries. All this on top of the select club fee, which can be several thousand per season.

  17. “The spending of the money is the point.”

    Yeah. Which is why I get it, but don’t get it. Because it’s stupid. It’s the freaking Sneetches, and I never liked those star-bellied bastards.

  18. “Yeah. Which is why I get it, but don’t get it.”

    I get it because from about the age of 12 to maybe 19, I was somewhat into brands.

  19. A question on experiences – seems like kids are being pulled ou of school for these non school related things. How do families juggle being out of home for many weekends plus school work, home related errands ?

  20. For years I was a Nunn-Bush (dress) shoe guy; perfect for the office environment. Then they went downhill. So I found Bostonian, which cost a bit more but they were much better, only to have them go downhill. I’ve tried Johnston & Murphy, Cole-Haan and other brands, too; all of which were (recently) poorer quality than I expected.

    So just this week I found a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes on clearance for $157 (list price $385) and am wearing them now. AE has a reputation for very high quality (like Johnston & Murphy once had), so we’ll see. So far, so good. These are the most expensive pair of shoes I’ve ever bought.

  21. Both of us are into brands but not to the extent that we will drop silly money on designer things. Foe example DH will buy Cole Haan work shoes if they are current/his styling etc. for his work he will buy Brooks brothers 365 but not brooks bros the expensive line. Neither of us work in jobs that make it necessary or even okay to have high end designer clothes. I like mid range clothes and handbags since I like to buy a lot. We would rather save money and spend on experiences and travel.

  22. “the money goes to – (1) select sports teams (one family has boy in basketball and girl in volleyball), other two posts are one kid families; (2) sports non-select teams (in school or out)”

    This. What people are spending on travel sports and things like dance (multiple classes, recital fees, multiple costumes, recital tickets, competition fees, traveling and lodging costs for the competitions) could easily pay for a new wardrobe of name brand clothing every season.

  23. I am really lucky that my kids are oblivious to brands. Even my now 10 year old DD, who is at an age where girls really start caring, seems to not notice. She likes sports logoware, but doesn’t really care about brand. She has no idea what her girlfriends wear. The boys live in snarky Tshirts. Their goto brands are ThinkGeek and SnorgTees.

  24. Wouldn’t this be driven by something happening in Asia just as much as in America? Are we even the biggest market for these brands? I don’t know.

    I’ve never bought anything that would truly qualify as a “luxury” item of clothing or accessory. Cole Haan/Theory/Eileen Fisher are on the higher end of my spectrum, and I have no interest in ever spending $2000 on a purse. I don’t know that I have every been the target though – do Totebag median families really buy this stuff? How do they afford it along with an $800K house and everything else? I always figured it was either single people or the truly affluent (the 1%, not the 2-10%) or celebrities/pseudo-celebrities that get it for free.

  25. Yesterday was just awful, timewise. I started my day volunteering at the elementary school Colonial Day, which had turned into an epic battle because the girls were supposed to wear long skirts and aprons, topped by a school provided hat that looked like something a food service worker might wear. There was no way she was wearing a skirt so she ended up with a long apron of mine (very chefy and plain, no ruffles) over capri pants, and her white lace orchestra top. I volunteered in the music room which was way fun because I got to jam out on the dulcimer in between groups of kids. When DD’s class showed up, she had put a gray fleece jacket on, zipped, to cover the orchestra shirt and turned the apron into a cape. Oh, and she had “lost” the hat in the first 15 minutes. I was just started giggling. I totally hate these school events where they expect parents to kill themselves over costumes. so I admired her rebelliousness.

    Anyway, I finished my volunteer slot at noon, and had a 1:30 faculty candidate interview on campus. I ran home, got out of my colonial gear, threw on my business appropriate costume, slid by the voting area to vote on the school budget, and then whirled over the bridge to campus. Sat for 3 hours in the worlds most boring faculty candidate interview, then had to sit through an evening industrial advisory board meeting, at which my chair started rambling on and on, so we were stuck there for 3 more hours.

    Got home at 9:30pm, discovered that DD and DH had gotten into a major fight because she had refused to go to her lacrosse game (no particular reason, I think she was just out of sorts after a day surroundedby colonial costumes) and that DS1 had gotten email that he was missing half his health assignments (and yes, he did do them – I saw them – he just forgot to hand them in)

    So I was trying to post stuff yesterday, but I had only a tablet with one of those gruesome fake keyboards, so I couldn’t manage any nuance or detail. So I gave up. Just my summary: yes, I love Cincy chili, yes Charleston has amazing food if you are into a certain kind of nouvelle-South, and sorry but East Coast food is just as good as California food – you just have to know where to go. I was sorely disaoppointed by every meal I have had in SF but I am sure I am going to stupid places. If you are visiting NYC, get thee to Queens, especially Flushing. for the kind of killer authentic, exotic, ethnic food that you really can’t get even in places like Charleston.

  26. do Totebag median families really buy this stuff?

    In Boston, I’d say no. Atlanta, Miami, LA? I’d say it’s far more common.

  27. Fred – my husband loves Allen Edmonds. He has several pairs – gets a new pair every year or every other year. They’ve held up well, except for the pair he wore in the snow without snow covers (my dad called the shoe protectors rubbers, but I don’t think that’s the right name….). Allen Edmonds will repair the shoes at their shop and send them back to you – new soles, etc. I don’t recall if it’s free or if there is a cost. They seem worth the investment to me, since they are pretty classic style and will last for years.

    I get paying more for expensive clothes for men, especially suits. DH spends about $700 a suit, which probably is middle-of-the-road. I don’t think it makes sense for women’s clothes to spend a lot since fashion changes so much and the quality doesn’t seem to justify it.

  28. I also see paying more if you get more. DH has suits and work shirts individually made, because he just doesn’t fit into off-the-rack. He also buys higher-end shoes, because he just destroys cheap versions. I justify Coach purses (the highest-end I go; yes, I realize it is not actually high-end) because they have never fallen apart on me and because they will repair any problems without question. I also get my shoes at The Walking Store now, because they tend to be comfortable and hold up decently.

    I just hate paying lots of money for something that is neither particularly beautiful nor particularly well-made.

  29. There is very little high- end luxury clothing that I would recognize. I buy the overwhelming majority of my clothes on sale, because that is how I’m wired. I’m shopping for a dress for a wedding, and after buying plane tickets and accounting for hotel and gift, I want the cheapest dress I can get away with.

    LfB, I’m the same as you on purses – coach or Kate Spade, but only the leather Coach. I won’t carry the ones covered in their logo. The Kate Spade ones typically don’t show a logo, which I like. A friend was showing me a $2,000 Chanel purse she was eyeing, and I just don’t get it. I’d rather do about 300 things with that money.

  30. “but only the leather Coach. I won’t carry the ones covered in their logo.”


  31. Every time I go to Buckhead Atlanta where all of the designer stores are (and I’m only going there for Shake Shack) I never see anyone actually in the stores shopping.

    Nordstrom just reported a bad quarter too so it’s not just the middle class stores that are having a hard time, the stores that cater to the affluent but not 1% level, are also not performing well.

  32. “This middle class is doing just fine, better than ever, in fact. They’re the cop/nurse, or welder/HR rep, or equivalent.”

    I totally agree. We live in a community that is pretty close to the median in income, and the parking lot at the local mall, anchored by Sears, JCPenney, and Macy’s, is always packed on weekends. Though you can always get a spot near Sears, which seems to be hurting, the cars move slowly up and down the aisles near the other entrances. And people are buying, not just window-shopping. They come out with large bags. Without a reservation, you have to wait at restaurants like Bonefish Grill or Carrabba on a Friday night. These are not Totebaggers, and not even close to being UMC, but they seem to be doing just fine.

  33. My problem is there doesn’t seem to be a middle of the road. I miss certain tailoring elements that used to be commonplace. Men’s suits that have a stripe and the stripes don’t line up – back to front, lapel to collar. You see this a lot on news and commentary shows – if you don’t want to step up for a suit properly made – please go for a solid color.

    Woman’s clothes have the same problem when there is a pattern and they don’t worry about matching front to back – on the sleeves – collars – wherever.

    Any wool skirt or dress that is not lined – the lining helps with the drape of the garment. No 1/2″ seems – help the garment to hold shape – yes I know it came be a pain to iron them open.

    Cheap cashmere – where does this come from? Rats? I would rather have cotton or a blend.

  34. “I have no interest in ever spending $2000 on a purse.”

    Every weekend, I wonder about the target readers for the WSJ “Off Duty” section, or whatever it’s called, in which $2000 handbags and $500 white T-shirts are portrayed as “basics” that everyone is buying. Who are these people? Do they actually read the WSJ?

  35. OLD MOM – I agree. I also have trouble with the cheap linings they are using nowadays in suits – they hold odor a lot more.

    I don’t buy ‘luxury’ items as conceived in the article – my highest-end clothes are Theory, Reiss, or similar, and I wouldn’t pay more than $250 for a bag.

  36. ” Without a reservation, you have to wait at restaurants like Bonefish Grill or Carrabba on a Friday night. These are not Totebaggers, and not even close to being UMC, but they seem to be doing just fine.”

    Hmmm, well *we* like those restaurants. ;)

    And I believe they’re under the same parent company.

  37. Milo, DH and I just finished watching Netflix’s new show “The Ranch” with Ashton Kutcher. We loved it. Our favorite show since Friday Night Lights. You should check it out.

  38. Heh, We consider going to Bonefish as going out to nice restauant! Never been to Carrabas.

  39. We’ve never been to either of those places. I’m trying to think of the chains that we go to on a regular basis. Probably only Shake Shack? The kids go to the Cheesecake Factory with the nanny but I hate that place. There are a few local chains (3 locations?) that we go to but otherwise it is all independent places.

  40. I like Bonefish. Packed on weekends here also. Vogue and WSJ supplements are a great relaxing experience – I like looking at the pictures.

  41. Houston – Thanks. DW has us watching two miniseries right now: Containment (virus outbreak–gross, scary, and depressing) and The Night Manager (stylish European arms dealer/international intrigue/organized crime).

    When those are finished, I’ll push us into The Ranch.

    “We consider going to Bonefish as going out to nice restaurant! Never been to Carrabas.”

    I think Carrabas is maybe a half step or a step above Olive Garden, although I guess I’ve never actually been to Olive Garden. It’s in the league with Bravo Cucina Italiana and Macaroni Grill, and perhaps a half step below Maggiano’s Little Italy.

    They’re all good. Really, it’s just pasta and sauce, chicken and shrimp, woodfired pizza, scallops and linguine.

  42. DH is very picky about eating Italian outside. And since we try low carb, we never end up eating italian as much. DH dislikes Olive Garden food. Maybe next time we can try Carrabas, but they are not as ubiquitous here as Olive Garden.

  43. Who are these people?

    In my experience the most common scenario is a totebag or above level job and family money.

  44. I like the leather Coach bags as well, for their durability. By my calculation it works out about the same as buying a series of inexpensive bags and replacing them when they fall apart over the lifespan of the Coach bag.

    I will go for the occasional upscale brand purchased at a discount, but not so much from the big fashion houses. More Laundry or Milly or that sort. I have lately been on a kick of buying from weird Chinese brands that sell inexpensive vintage-ish stuff on Amazon, so kind of going in the opposite direction.

    I’m not really surprised to learn that none of us has much insight into the perspective of the real luxury customer.

  45. I will confess that I own two handbags and wallet from luxury designers. These were purchased when I was working full time, AND I cared about walking into work with the right bag.

    I think I posted many years ago about using a personal shopper at Saks. I got promoted and I was traveling a lot to Europe, and conferences. I needed some higher end clothes, and it was tricky to pull off that look in business casual.

    I almost never wear those expensive brands now, but I definitely will pick up one or two items when they’re deeply discounted.

    The stuff that Old mom mentioned about patterns and seams drives me nuts too. I would rather have one really decent go to meeting outfit that is higher quality vs. lots of junk.

    My expensive wallet purchased when the exchange rate dipped is ten years old, but it looks brand new. Some designer stuff is a complete waste of money. Just a licensing play, but a few things can last a lifetime if they’re a classic.

  46. @Scarlett – I wonder the same thing about the NY Times style section, which is similar to the Off Duty section with the $500 t-shirts.

    “I think Carrabas is maybe a half step or a step above Olive Garden, although I guess I’ve never actually been to Olive Garden. It’s in the league with Bravo Cucina Italiana and Macaroni Grill, and perhaps a half step below Maggiano’s Little Italy.”

    I would agree except I would put Maggiano’s at the same level as Bravo and Macaroni Grill. Any of the three I would pick when staying in an unfamiliar place near a mall. Also in that group – Biaggi’s. I don’t generally like to eat Italian food (minus pizza) at restaurants since I think it is one of the easiest things to make very well at home. BUT, these restaurants are great for groups with a wide range of tastes & food snobbery levels, like when traveling with coworkers or extended family. And the low-carb people can usually get a decent salad.

  47. “I’m not really surprised to learn that none of us has much insight into the perspective of the real luxury customer.”


  48. I hesitate to go to the mall because I feel like the whole thing is carefully designed to get you to linger — shop a while! now stop for a coffee or gelato! time to shop some more! feeling hungry? do you smell all the restaurants? — and I can just feel the money trying to fly out of my wallet. And my nearest mall is no longer a middle class mall. The low end department store is the Macy’s, and the high end stores are Prada, Chanel, Harry Winston, etc.

    However I do have to go sometime soon because my youngest says we’re all out of the Lush shower gels that are his main motivation to bathe.

  49. Design houses can’t find paying customers for couture dresses. At one time it was one of a kind but now even First Ladies have changed when guests have the same dress.

  50. I like to go to the mall and browse in Sephora, Cusp, and Bloomie’s (occasionally J Crew) sometimes to see what the trends are like, but then I have to leave bc I want to buy things. :) If I go to the mall, I’ll go on one of my work-from-home days at 10 am sharp so I don’t have to run into any other shoppers.

  51. I love Carrabas and Bonefish. Pasta Weesie or Bang Bang shrimp? Yes please! My restaurant snob husband is horrified.

  52. Come to think of it, Italian food is neither of our favorites, so we tend to stay away from Italian even in non-chain places. I do not count pizza in this estimation. :)

  53. High-end outlet malls are packed here on weekend. whenever I go, I see a lot of people with number of shopping bags in hand. I don’t think anyone has stopped shopping really.

  54. I don’t think anyone has stopped shopping really.

    On average, traffic to physical stores was down about 9.8 percent on average, while sales have fallen off by 7.6 percent.

    The data seems to disagree with everyone’s perception.

  55. I think outlets and TJ Maxx/Home Goods are the exception to the people aren’t going to stores thing because they don’t have an online presence.

  56. Correction – TJ Maxx does have an online shopping option now but I think most people probably do their discount shopping in person.

  57. “On average, traffic to physical stores was down about 9.8 percent on average, while sales have fallen off by 7.6 percent.”

    Maybe MMM is more popular than we thought.

  58. IME Coach bags last forever. However, the styles from my young career days are no longer appealing to me and I’m sure they would look dated in today’s corporate environment. I used to carry a heavy leather Coach briefcase to show how professional I was, but today I’m more about lightweight microfiber bags. IOW, paying more because something will last forever is not necessarily an advantage.

    There is talk that one of the big malls in White Plains is soon to be sold, with plans to make it more integrated into the surrounding downtown area and jazz it up to make it more appealing as a destination spot, whatever that means.. I’m sure sales are way down for that mall, and it will be interesting to see what happens to it. The other mall in that city is more upscale, and is probably doing a bit better.

  59. Bonefish is OK, and would be better if you could just pop in on a whim, but it’s not really a place I want to plan ahead to visit. And at the same price point, there were so many much better places in the DC area. Like The Four Sisters in Merrifield, or Matchbox or just about any decent Thai or Indian restaurant.

  60. CoC – I have a heavy leather Coach briefcase I received as a law school graduation present. Today, its probably on a shelf somewhere in my home. Can’t remember the last time I used it.

    It was heavy!

    Why did all the good quality stores go down hill (Ann Taylor – yes you!)? Still seems to be the same target shopper.

  61. I thought Mac Grill was going out of business? They closed up shop near me and was replaced with a high end steak house. Years ago it seemed like the Italian chain restaurants all moved to creamer focused dishes, and the remaining red sauce and olive oil dishes became flavorless. We like to go to small independent restaurants for Italian.

  62. ATM, I drove an hour for my annual shopping trip recently and was underwhelmed by Ann Taylor, which I’d sought out based on comments here. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

  63. WCE – you can still get some items there, but have to watch the quality of the workmanship and fabrics used. I still go there for some basics but far less than I used to.

  64. “people spending money in ways that don’t involve stores. ”

    besides online buying, if car dealerships don’t count as “stores,” then that could be a big factor. I think sales have been up, and with cheaper gas, people are back to buying more trucks and SUVs, which are more expensive.

  65. The quality at Ann Taylor and J.Crew have become terrible which is why they have to resort to deep discounting.

  66. ATM, Lauren, Meme or anyone else — any restaurant recommendations near Lincoln Center for a pre-ballet dinner? Mid-price preferred, not luxury dining. :)

  67. “On average, traffic to physical stores was down about 9.8 percent on average, while sales have fallen off by 7.6 percent.”

    That’s an average. There is a huge range in retail. Some stores (Apple, for one) and malls (Tyson’s) always seem to be packed, but older, downscale malls and stores are empty. Sears and Penney’s and other former anchors are clearly hurting, but Best Buy seems to have turned around and the stores that sell essentially disposable but stylish clothing and home goods are flourishing.

    And has anyone checked out Wayfair online? No idea you could buy an upholstered chair for under $200 that inspires hundreds of rave reviews.

    What I also can’t figure out is how Amazon is making money from Prime customers like me, who take advantage of free shipping to buy things every week that I could get in a store — like 6 pairs of gardening gloves or a watering can or boxes of disposable latex gloves — but online is easier and then I get nice boxes in which to cart my donations to the thrift shop.

  68. Scarlett – we bought some rugs (stair runners) from Wayfair and I thought it was a good experience. They came really quickly.

  69. CoC – Rosa Mexicana, Shun Lee West, Gabriel’s and Café Fiorello. Café Fiorello may be your best bet for making sure you’re not late for the performance. They’re used to a pre-performance crowd. Rosa Mexicana has the slowest service of the 4. Haven’t been to Shun Lee in awhile but they may still have a café/quicker option next to the main restaurant.

  70. CoC, that mall in White Plains has been sad for years. I have expected it to go under for at least the past 15 years but it always hangs on.

  71. I go to the Tesla, Apple, and Microsoft stores at the mall. I will tell the kids to dress at work like their supervisor.

  72. We tried recently to take DS2 and a couple of his friends to Cheesecake Factory for a birthday celebration after a movie, but the wait was 3 hours. On a Sunday at 5. They clearly are doing well. We ended up at a Greek restaurant nearby – at the suggestion of one of the kids, who said it was one of his faves. The kids all had a good time.

  73. Pursewise, I go for the hippie/ethnic look. I have a gray microfiber bag with delicate floral embrodery on it that I use a lot. I also have a wool one made in Appalachia with leaf appliques, and another that has Miao embroidery on it.

  74. Rosa Mexicana

    That’s where Bernie Madoff had his last company holiday party. If I have the timing right, he left his office and met his wife and sons at home and told them what he’d done. The sons left to tell the FBI and Ruth and Bernie went to the party.

  75. Most of my clothes are not expensive. And I mostly buy stuff on sale. I do have expensive bags that I keep a long time. Today’s bad is at least 7 years old. I spend more than average on shoes and coats.

    I like Bonefish, Carrabba’s, Matchbox and Four Sisters. I guess I just like food. I think Carrabba’s food is better than Maggiano’s. Way less salty.

  76. Rhett – didn’t know that!

    Rosa Mexicana’s guacamole is fantastic – made fresh at the table.

    CoC – I used to live in that neighborhood. =) All of those restaurants are rated $$$ on Open Table but look at the menus – you can find a good variety of dishes at different price points. Anything $$ or below, the quality really drops off. If you want to go upscale – Jean George and Per Se are in that neighborhood too.

  77. Re: chains: I have been reasonably happy with a number of the mid-priced chain restaurants mentioned (Carabba’s used to be our go-to when it was the closest reasonable option; I adore Mac Grill’s bread; etc.). But I am just NOT willing to stand there and wait around for an hour or two to be seated. Really? I won’t wait an hour for a fantastic hot spot in Manhattan — wtf would I wait that long for a mediocre steak in a strip mall? So we more typically default to higher-end (which takes reservations) or lower-end (which doesn’t require the wait).

    And only tangentially related: I got my AARP card, and with it came a list of the companies that have deals with them. So now DS keeps asking me if we can go to Burger King, so I can use my “old lady card” there for the discount. :-)

    @CoC/ATM: I think it’s a question whether what you happened to buy remain in the preferred style and fit your current lifestyle, which you can’t always predict. I splurged on a (nylon) Coach baby bag with a gift card from my ILs, because it was gorgeous and didn’t scream “baby bag” and so I figured I’d use it forever, but after @3 years of using it for dirty diapers and such, it sort of lost its appeal (surprise). OTOH, I have a soft-sided leather bag from the Coach men’s store (sort of the combo between a briefcase and a totebag), with a long strap that I can wear across my chest, that I use every day as a briefcase, laptop bag, travel bag, etc. That puppy was close to $400 (and on clearance at that), but it is an awesome, awesome bag that just looks better as it gets more beat up and used. My mom also used her Coach totebag as her professional bag for 20+ years — until I bought her the same bag I have as a replacement, because she loved mine so much. :-)

  78. You guys know I am not much of a chain restaurant person, but there are some I like. Dinosaur BBQ is just great. I like the wings, but only the wings, from Buffalo WIld WIngs. And recently I went to a chain called Nando’s Peri Peri which I thought was pretty good.

    My biggest issue with chains is that they often suffer from a kind of sameness. I remember going to Outback a few times, and noticing that they used the exact same spice rub on every kind of meat. A lot of chains tend to have the same veggie melange as a side to every single entree. Boring. And since I enjoy reading restaurant trade mags, I know that those veggie melanges come out of a food service bag, and that is why you see those same side melanges at so many chains.

  79. I refuse to wait more than 20 minutes for a restaurant table. I have gotten crabbier about it as I have gotten older. Waiting just ruins the experience. And since I can cook, the only reason to go out to eat is the experience. Unfortunately, restaurants seem to be abandoning reservations. A lot of them think long waits make them seem hipper and more millenial.

  80. A lot of them think long waits make them seem hipper and more millenial.

    I think it also tends to increase bar business.

  81. A lot of the hip places don’t even have a setup where you can wait at the bar. You have to stand in line. Several of the hip places in Charleston were like that, and I am seeing it more and more often in NYC

  82. Now that I remember, I’ve been to Rosa Mexicana. I am very picky about Mexican food and I wasn’t too impressed, but I do seem remember their guac was delish. I’m going with relatives from New Mexico, so I’ll ask them if they want the novelty of trying NY Mexican food.

    Fiorellos looks good, with fried artichokes on the menu. That may be my equivalent to Meme’s zabaglione, one of my favorites and often hard to find in American Italian restaurants.

    I recently finally went to PF Changs, and their lettuce wraps lived up to their reputation IMO.

  83. And while I am being crabby about restaurants, a pox on egg-on-everything, ironic tater tots, and small plates in general. Going out to a new place turns into a prolonged discussion with the waiter: “exactly how big are the small bite plates? And the mini plates compared to the middie plates?”. And then everyone in the group has to agree on the proper number of plates, sizing of plates, and choices that everyone can share. And I can hear all the other tables doing the same thing. It takes forever to order in these places.

  84. CoC, don’t make your NM relatives suffer Manhattan Mexican!!! Take them somewhere in Port Chester if they want Mexican.

  85. @MM – I like Nando’s. The food is better than most at the price point, and DS loves it. They have decent beer on tap, and good sangria. It’s that middle of the road between quick service and sit down which is nice with kids sometimes since once you are done – you leave, yet you get table service. But why is the music soooooo loud??? (and now I become my grandmother)

  86. Definitely agree about long waits — hate them. Cheesecake Factory definitely does not have a bar. And having to wait outside with a drink, like some restaurants I’ve seen, is marginally better.

  87. Cheesecake Factory definitely does not have a bar.

    Every Cheesecake Factory I’ve ever been to has a bar.

  88. A lot of the hip places near me take your number, and text you when you can be seated. Nearby bars become spillover waiting rooms. Seems to work well for both.

    @MM – DH feels the same way about small plates. I have heard the exact same tirade from him many times.

    NYC Mexican food??? Isn’t that like the ONE cuisine that you can’t get a good version of in NYC?

  89. From the web site of the White Plains Cheesecake Factory: “Happy Hour is available in the bar area Monday – Friday from 4:00PM – 6:00PM. Choose from select Specialty Cocktails, Well Drinks, Wines by the Glass, Beer and Appetizers.”

  90. I have never eaten at Bonefish, but remember my mom saying she liked the Bang Bang shrimp so much she found the sauce online and bought some to make at home. Carrabas has been on my list of places to try because a couple of people recommended it, but I don’t like Olive Garden so if they’re similar, I have no desire to try it. As far as chains, we go to Texas Roadhouse sometimes (despite how much I hate how loud it is) because it is somewhere all of us can find something we like. My son only eats meat, and my daughter likes anything except steak, so they can split a meal and both be happy. We won’t wait longer than 30 minutes for a table – there is always somewhere else we can go.

    I do most of my shopping at the outlet mall because it’s very close to my house, while the mall is more than 30 minutes away. My daughter has gotten some great dresses at the Off Fifth, so that’s where I plan to go this weekend in my quest for a new but cheap dress. A lot of the quality there is off, but there are stores that I like and have been happy with what I’ve gotten.

  91. NYC Mexican food??? Isn’t that like the ONE cuisine that you can’t get a good version of in NYC?

    I think there’s more than one of those . . . do they have decent versions of other US regional cuisines as a general rule?

  92. Hmm, I think when I’ve been to the Cheesecake Factory there has no room at the bar, and a crowd milling around in front and outside with their pagers. I’m pretty sure someone in our party asked about having a drink before hand.

  93. I am unfamiliar with all these chains that you mention (other than Olive Garden, the Cheesecake Factory, and PF Chang’s).

    We also hate to wait for tables. I make reservations, or we go super early (like 530).

  94. A neighborhood place near Lincoln center is Il Violino. I like the Smith for American.
    I haven’t been to Shun Lee in a long time, but I used to love it.

    That other mall in White Plains is a little scary. I went there when I had jury duty because it was the only place to park. In a pending nightmare, I got a questionnaire notice for federal jury duty. I am actually interested in serving on a federal jury, but it is in lower Manhattan. It would take me at least 90 minutes each way. NO!!! cell phones or electronic of any kind. I really hope that I don’t get selected to serve because I think it is for two weeks.

    LfB, I spaced on the fact that we are sharing the same bday. I still have a couple of months until I receive my card. I heard that I can get a free donut at DD with the card if I buy a drink.

  95. The Cheescake factory across from the “nice” mall in WP is much better. I think the service in Yonkers is horrible. I really like their salads, and it is a good place to go with DD when we are on vacation.

  96. Lauren, I got called once for that court in lower Manhattan, and I was petrified I would have to serve. At the time, I had a small baby and did not want to be away, cellphone less, for such a long time each day. I was able to get out of it thankfully. I am still terrified that I might have to serve on that court some day. Just having to travel in and out of Manhattan withoug a cellphone scares me.

  97. Is eating out a regular event for most Totebaggers? We eat at restaurants very, very rarely. Although this conversation is making me want to!

  98. Headlines from the local paper’s weekly food section:

    1 chicken, 4 meals [normal enough so far]
    Roasted rat is much like chicken, except for the extra legs and tail [What the hell?!]

    I know they’ve been cutting pay over there for years, but still!

  99. NoB, we’re not big eaters-out either. Not with a house full of teens!

  100. Eating out has been a regular event for us, but I am trying to make a lot more meals at home. A lot of the food we get out is fairly mediocre, and costs much more than making mediocre food at home would cost me. Plus, several of us are trying to lose weight, and restaurant food is much higher calorie. The amount of time we spend driving there and back is more than it would take to cook and clean up. However, I am the one that meal plans, shops, and cooks (others clean up), so the burden of eating at home more falls disproportionately on me. That’s why we have not achieved my goal of cooking virtually all meals at home.

  101. We eat out as a family maybe once every couple of months. It varies. Obviously if we are traveling we eat out more although even then, we try to stay in places where we could cook. We do get takeout once a week though, for Friday night. Usually we do Chinese, although finding decent Chinese takeout has gotten really hard as they all convert to higher priced and ickier pan-Asian places. We also do Mexican from one particular local place we like, and pizza, also from a local non-chain.

  102. MBT – I’m the main cook in our family, too. I cook four times a week. When I cook, I try to make enough for leftovers, which we have twice a week. If it turns out on a leftover night that there aren’t enough leftovers, I just tell family members to supplement their meal with whatever’s around; common supplements are sandwiches, baked potatoes in the microwave, cheese and crackers, etc. The final day of the week is DH’s night to cook (he’s not much interested in cooking, so he generally just tosses some sort of meat on the grill or under the broiler). So, we get home-cooked food pretty much every night, but I’m only actually cooking four out of seven nights.

    I’ve found that the biggest variable for me in terms of keeping my weight steady is not eating out. A couple of meals out in a week, and I swear I put on five pounds. So I really don’t mind that we don’t eat out much.

  103. Mooshi, I am not going to be able to use childcare as an excuse because the age cutoff is 12. I did look into whether I could serve in White Plains as that is the other federal court, and they said probably not. Most of the cases in the southern district are in the court in lower Manhattan. The woman on the phone implied that it could be worse because she said the southern district includes people that live even further in Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties too. I would probably have to get into details about elder care, but I don’t know if that would work. I am going to look into whether there is a store around there that stores phones for the day. I know there are delis/small businesses that held phones for kids when NYC publics used to ban cell phones. I think it is nasty to make someone travel that far on public transit with no cellphone. The huge blow up under the metro north tracks yesterday highlights the reason why this is risky.

  104. “:NYC Mexican food??? Isn’t that like the ONE cuisine that you can’t get a good version of in NYC?”

    Ha! Have to agree with that. Rosa Mexicano is good, but expensive for Mexican. There used to be a Oaxaca restaurant near me. That was real Mexican, not the American version of Mexican and it was fabulous. Mmm, just thinking of their mole now makes me hungry. I wonder if it is still there?

  105. “Is eating out a regular event for most Totebaggers?”

    We eat out once a week as a family most weeks, and have a date night approx once a month. Can’t remember the last time that we got takeout or delivery – must have been years.

    And then of course we eat out when we go on vacation/weekend trips, which is approx 4-5x/year, although for our annual beach vacation we mostly cook (grill out) at the rental vs. eating out. Rarely eat out at lunchtime – the occasional business meal. Travel for work 1-2x/year.

    OT – I agree that quality seems to have declined at all price points. The older merino wool and silk basic sweaters that I got from J Crew and Ann Taylor 10-15 years ago were of noticeably better quality. They lasted for years without pilling or losing color. Now, you are lucky to get a half-season of regular wear. But the really cheap clothes look CHEAP. (H&M, I’m looking at you.) And why are all the t-shirts so thin? I thought I’d try Everlane, and those seemed to be better quality at first, but they still got the holes at the bottom where they hit your waistline almost immediately.

  106. Chains I like: Cheesecake Factory. PF Changs is fun.

    All the chain Italian places people mention (Biaggi’s, MacGrill, Carabbas etc — even Olive Garden) serve perfectly pleasing food, but I or DW can make almost everything we would order there ourselves, better, fresher, cheaper, less salty. I/we might go to someplace like Outback if we have a really good coupon that can be applied to whatever special they’re running that we like and DS3 asks nicely if we can.

    I can/do/will eat at pretty much any kind of restaurant as long as they have stuff on the menu I want, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about locavore/farm-to-table/organic/all-natural etc etc.

    NOB – we eat (dinner) out more often than I would like. I find dining out takes more time / costs more / really isn’t anything special (ok maybe only 2 of those most of the time). Recently we’ve been going to a local “brick oven” pizza place, a local long-standing Mexican place, and a cash-only Greek place. We decided to get dinner from the Greek place on Saturday and we’ll probably go to the pizza place Friday.

    And the long waits at some places are just nuts. Life is too short.

  107. Lauren,

    It looks like that policy is due entirely to one judge:

    The rule against cellphones was originally put in place out of security concerns. There were concerns that phones could be used improperly for things like recording conversations, taking photos of jurors — even as explosive devices, Judge Preska said. Although other courts have been more liberal with their cellphone policies — New York State courts allow everyone, not just lawyers, to carry cellphones into the building; and the federal court in Brooklyn began allowing cellphones within the last two years — the Southern District had unique concerns, Judge Preska said.

  108. We eat out *as a family* rarely but we probably get takeout 2x/week, usually the days when I am working at the office. The nanny takes the kids out once a week and DH and I have date night also once a week (different night).

    Takeout – last night it was Vietnamese food from the food court, other times it is pizza, Thai, or (more rarely) Indian or sushi.

  109. We eat out a lot less since having to go low carb. Whoever was asking about Carabba’s, I think Carabba’s is better than Outback, though they’re probably aimed at the same demographic. The food is better at Carabba’s.

    In my “walkable” Denver development there are precious few non-chain restaurants. It’s a source of irritation for many in this Totebaggy community. We have Noodles, Chipotle, Einstein Brothers, and Starbucks. There’s a weird independent restaurant that has uncomfortable chairs and overpriced entrees and they put bacon in everything. Then there’s one of those fake Irish pubs with the huge TV screens showing sports all the time. Oh, and a mediocre sushi place. The irony is the development actually drove out at least one really good genuine Mexican restaurant. Now I have to drive to get my birria and chicharrones.

  110. Lauren, thank you for those restaurant ideas!

    The idea of serving in federal court jury duty is unappealing for sure. Ugh, good luck. Last night two family members were trapped in Manhattan after that fire. It was a mess, with the subways going to the Bronx jam packed. Uber saved the day, but that would not be an option without a cell phone.

  111. DH and I used to go to Bertucci’s when I was pregnant with DS, for Sunday lunch. I have fond memories of that chain. I looked up Del Posto. I loved to watch Lidia’s cooking show and I have her cookbook. Italian is my comfort food though I tend to eat less pasta and more protein.

  112. So, continuing from Sunday re our DS1. (The fiction writers wouldn’t dream up this story.)

    So he puts his resume out there on Monster last week. Gets about 6 immediate hits, 5 in sales and one in retail.

    As I described, he went for one interview to become an insurance sales guy and they asked him to take their sales-aptitude test. He told me they said he got a 97% on it. No surprise. So they want him to come in tomorrow for a 2nd. The job is 100% commission (maybe a little bit of salary early on).

    Meanwhile, he decides to interview for another sales job, this one selling advertising (which he has actually done as part of one summer job). His 2nd with them is Friday. This is base + commission. He expects to get an offer from them.

    And as this is going on…remember he has his $11.25/hr Shift Supervisor job at a national retail chain…his boss texts him this morning (day off) asking him to call. Boss says one of the nearby stores in the chain needs help, he wants DS to go there and says he’s giving him a 16% bump in pay to $13.

    DS tells his boss, he can’t commit because he’s got a couple of other things he’s looking at and appreciates the recognition but doesn’t want to make the boss look bad by saying yes and then taking another job. All good, boss understands.

    Half hour later, boss calls. “Look, I really need you to help me out. I’m raising your pay to $15/hr and you can choose from among these stores to work at here in the area.” (which includes one closer to his new apartment than the current store) DS leaves it as he’s got to really think about it and will give an answer on Monday.

    Here’s the kid (young adult) who has completely ignored his quasi-totebag parents’ advice; flunked out of the same college twice, lacks any kind of college degree, and without even trying got himself a 33% raise. At $15/hr ($30k/yr) he’s doing better now than a lot of his cohort who just graduated with degrees in business who don’t have a job yet. No, I can’t see him working retail as a career…but who knows?

    I think Rhett is the one who has repeatedly talked about the non-totebag path to success.

  113. A few points. My collecting hobby means that I socialize with true luxury consumers, and online with folks who reside in East Asia. Some of these wealthy people are very down to earth except for their yearly watch purchases well into 6 figures. Some fit the stereotype with Lamborghinis and hand made shoes and the rest of the trappings. I know people who fly private regularly. None of this is relevant to the topic.

    The term “luxury” as used in the article is a marketing classification. Most of us, including Milo’s “non totebag” guys with the tricked out F-150s or boats, are spending money to purchase good technically classified as luxury. Spending 300 on a purse or a pair of men’s dress shoes needed for work versus 150 is a matter of degree, not kind. MMM types may have bikes that cost 2500. Bikes, plural.

    Speaking to the decline in aspirational luxury sales. I recall knowing a young woman with money for whom buying 2000 bags (and there were several in her closet) was not the mark of success. It was being on the list to to buy the newly issued limited edition LV bag from the Japanese designer immediately. That was pre-crash, of course, and it pales in comparison to the cachet, access and waiting list for one of those 10000+ bags that were Princess Grace’s favorite (see opening paragraph). The class of shopper represented by that young woman is not particularly found in the US anymore. In Asia for all sorts of luxury goods there are “limited editions” for each region and the collecting tendencies that are prominent in Japanese and Chinese buyers (I don’t know enough about other national groups) mean that wealthy people may have multiple items that appear somewhat indistinguishable to outsiders but speak to their prosperity and good taste.

  114. We don’t eat out, as in a sit-down restaurant, very often, and when we do, it’s usually together with friends or family.

    OTOH, several times a month we won’t be able to go home for a meal, so we’ll go somewhere to eat, typically a place that does a lot of takeout business but also has a seating area, e.g., plate lunch places. In those cases we typically don’t have a lot of time for our meal, making a sit-down restaurant infeasible.

    When the kids were younger and less overscheduled, we ate out more.

  115. IMO, banning cell phones while not providing for secure storage is unreasonable in this day and age, and provides yet another reason to make people attempt to get out of jury duty.

  116. Fred, that’s great! Denver Dad and I as well as Rhett have repeatedly made the case for social skills and sales ability over practically anything else.

  117. I am the only Totebagger who likes the Olive Garden. Bring on the breadsticks! Macaroni Grill is an abomination. Never tried Carrabbas.
    We go out maybe once a week, almost exclusively non-chain restaurants. Chains are for business travel.

  118. Fred, congrats to your DS1, as well as to you and your DW. The fact that he’s getting these offers, especially the one from his current employer, reflects very well on how you brought him up and the basic values you taught him.

  119. BenL, my family went to Olive Garden during our last trip to the continent, and we liked it enough that I think we’d go there again if given the chance, although perhaps not that same Olive Garden, which was right next to a Chipotle.

    By far the favorite chain restaurant we ate at during that trip, and we made a point of trying as many chains that don’t have a presence here as we could, was Shake Shack. We also really liked Chipotle, and on a previous trip, Chick-Fil-A. And we had a good experience at Applebee’s too.

  120. Go with the flow, Fred. I could never have predicted my son’s life arc.

    CoC – I like Bar Boulud right across the street from Lincoln Center. There are lots of Daniel Boulud restaurants – this is one of the less expensive ones. You can get an amazing charcuterie plate and good desserts. But I think of it a moderate price for Manhattan – and it is clear that my idea of moderate is not everyone’s. You could check the menu. I dislike Cafe Fiorello, strongly.

    Restaurants. I have never been in most of the ones you all are talking about, and I have heard of maybe half. We have lots of regional chains with 4-10 locations that fill that predictable menu niche. I think it fairer to describe Massachusetts as an outlier rather than as in a bubble. Nobody ever test markets here.

  121. “I’m going with relatives from New Mexico, so I’ll ask them if they want the novelty of trying NY Mexican food” — @CoC: if they are like my DH, they will expect green with an egg on top. :-) I spent 2 years persuading him that what he knew of as “Mexican” food was not actual Mexican food. . . .

    We eat out too much. I actually try to go high- or low-end, rather than spend $80 on a generic pasta plate that would have been cheaper at home or infinitely better at Cinghiale. Also admit to huge weakness for PF Chang’s and Pei Wei (though not sure we have gone since I got my 101 Easy Asian Meals cookbook, whose lettuce wraps totally kick their butt).

  122. That’s great news Fred! Some people end up doing far better in life than they did in school and others end up doing far worse. It seems certain your son will end up doing far better in life.

  123. Fred – that is great to hear about your son. Sounds like he is very gifted naturally at sales/people skills. And based on the letter you shared the other day, it sounds like he is turning into a pretty great person too. You must be very proud!

  124. Fred – good luck to your DS1 !

    And in strange happenings just today we got a coupon from…..Bonefish Grill. Don’t recall getting one from them before today. But we will be pay them a visit before the coupon expires.

  125. We eat out/order in a lot. I keep saying we need to be better about cooking at home, but my good intentions are usually long gone by the time I get home from work. I do about 98% of the meal planning and 85% of the cooking and dishes/clean up. I get decision fatigue a lot. Cooksmarts was helping a lot, but now we’re getting our CSA box and I have to figure out what to make with what I have on hand. This week I have green garlic, sunchokes, kale, spinach, chives, rhubarb etc.

    We don’t eat at chains very often. We have so many local restaurants that have opened up within a mile of our house. And in the last few years there has been a delivery service that will now deliver from most any restaurant nearby. Too tempting too often.

    Our favorite family restaurant is a Mexican restaurant where we’ve become regulars. The kids love watching soccer on tv, coloring the kids menus, and helping our regular server make the guacomole. We tip well (25-30%) and it turns out that our server now makes our margaritas extra strong. We probably go there twice a month.

    The last time we went to Olive Garden we had a horrible diaper malfunction. I’m still traumatized. I’m not sure I can ever go back.

  126. Rhett, thanks for that info. That is ridiculous. If it was nationwide, I would be fine with it. Just the southern district – forget it. Very unfair because most people can not drive there and leave a phone in their car.

  127. Lauren,

    “We saw we had a lot of people with laptops, but only a few Internet ports,” Vincent J. Homenick, the chief clerk of the jury division for New York County, told me in his office on the first floor earlier today. “So we figured out [free] WiFi would be a good thing.”

    Hat tip to Mr. Homenick.

  128. We don’t eat at chains very often. Never been to Panera. Went to Chipotle for the first time last month (just to finally try it out). We do love Pizza Hut and prefer the pizzas over more authentic, local places. There are so many restaurants here with so many types of ethnic food. Just tried to talk my DS2 into trying a hip new Ramen restaurant and failed.

  129. The only chains we eat at are the fast casual ones (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) and we’ll do Chik-fil-A once or twice a month. I think it’s probably been over ten years since I’ve been to a mid priced chain restaurant. We also have a service that will now deliver fancy to low priced food to our house (postmates) so we’ll get Shake Shack from there once a month. We order pizza on Fridays but otherwise we cook every night. Maybe we go out with the kids once per month and date night every other month to an expensive restaurant.

  130. We split the difference tonight. Something a little spicy for us, and chick filet brought home (it’s on the way) for the one who doesn’t eat spicy.

    A plus for Panera is that they post the calorie counts for everything. They have a menu option where you can get a half of any two things, and I really like one of their salads. My DD and I go there if we are out doing something together.

  131. Lauren, I’ve spent a lot of time in the SDNY courthouse and I would check my phone at the security desk.

    It is possible that that is for attorneys only but I didn’t think it was.

  132. I mean there is a bunch of little cubbies for phones, and the marshals give you a little metal token with a number on it.

  133. “Went to Chipotle for the first time last month (just to finally try it out).”

    How’d you, and your family, like it?

  134. “We also have a service that will now deliver fancy to low priced food to our house (postmates) so we’ll get Shake Shack from there ”

    I wish we had that option. When we were in NYC, we wanted to eat at Shake Shack, but the lines were so long, and we only had a few days there and didn’t want to spend so much of that time waiting in line, so we skipped it. If we could’ve gotten the food without the wait, that would’ve been worth it.

  135. We eat at home probably 5 out of 7 days. The other days are usually a local restaurant or fast casual – Potbelly, Noodles, Chipotle, Pei Wei. Panera is now out of the rotation since they’ve raised their prices. I don’t care for their change to the U Pick Two and the multiple price structure.

    If my kids made the dinner decisions we’d eat out 7 out of 7 days.

  136. Thanks for info about federal court on Pearl. I’m still hoping they don’t pick me!

    We really like Shake Shack, but we are still waiting for one to open nearby. We go in the city, or Long Island. The lines are not as crazy due to more locations.

  137. RMS, Danny Meyer created Shake Shack. There was originally one location near his “real” restaurants and lines were enormous. He slowly expanded throughout the city, and NYC burbs. He didn’t want to franchise until he found the right partners.

    The menu would probably remind you of Steak n Shake, but it is the 21st century totebag version. Very different vibe and quality of ingredients.

  138. Fred, that’s great! Denver Dad and I as well as Rhett have repeatedly made the case for social skills and sales ability over practically anything else.

    Yup. Fred, your son is a great example of this. He’s figuring it out at an early age and he should have great things ahead of him.

  139. Scored 97% on a sales aptitude test? Sales skills will ensure success in many types of careers. Combine that with a good work ethic and high intelligence, and his prospects are bright. Now, if it were me I would be very happy but I would also have a nagging thought that the lack of a college degree will come up later as a block to upward job mobility. However, the college credentialing paradigm is changing, and that issue may never come up. Plus, with more maturity down the line he may very well decide to knuckle down and finish his degree. All in all I would be very happy with this turn of events.

    I’m wondering if your other sons share this kid’s sales aptitude?

  140. I know people in business who got the required degrees along the way. By that time it was more of a formality than a requirement AND some of those people got brand name school MBAs. Fred’s DS1 has had a good K-12 education so finishing College doesnt seem too hard to me.

  141. My DIL’s father has had a very successful career in sales without a college degree. He makes good Totebag money, too.

  142. I’m wondering if your other sons share this kid’s sales aptitude?

    Middle one, no. Youngest, probably/I think so. He’s very similar to his brother in a lot of ways, including personality & gift of gab but hasn’t shown that sales drive yet.

  143. I love Olive Garden! I was traumatized though when I went there once back when I was pregnant, ordered the chicken scampi (my usual) and it came out not fully cooked, this was when I was just past my food aversions, bluh

    finally gave it another try about a year ago

  144. One BIL got a brand name MBA because it was required by his workplace. Looks good on a biography.
    DH did not nor was it required or suggested that he go for a higher degree. Both have been successful ay work.

  145. Next week is the last of 6 episodes, I never understood the fuss about him until this show

  146. On topic (and including yesterday’s topic): one benefit and drawback of living in a low cost of living area is there’s no place to shop. I do most of my work-clothes shopping when traveling to a city that has a proper mall.

    Off topic (but related to the car post): I went on-line to USAA today to go ahead and get price quotes for the 2 cars I’m interested in, just to see what we’re looking at. The process has totally changed. When we bought a car last year, we built the car on-line, and then received a USAA price that could be taken to any dealer. We also received e-mails from dealers bidding on getting us the built price. This time, once I built the car, all I got was a Truecar estimate – no particular USAA price. Annoying, now I actually have to do my own further research and negotiation.

  147. We live in a small town in flyover country, so we have very few chain restaurants. When one comes to town it’s a big occasion. We got a Panera about two years ago, and a Chipotle last year. Still too small for Olive Garden or similar – have to drive about 30 – 45 minutes for one of those. We’ve got some wonderful local restaurants, but as someone mentioned above, there are so few of them that you can’t go too often or it gets old. They do change their menus seasonally, and have new specials every week, so they recognize the problem and try to adapt. We eat at home most of the time.

    Re: clothing, the highest-end department store within an hour of us is Macy’s. Most malls are anchored by JC Penney and Sears. We use trips out of town as an excuse to go shopping.

  148. Fred, that’s great. I expect all of this must make him feel successful, and hopefully less wistful than he was feeling last week about his college path. No matter what he chooses now — trying college again or not — I expect the confidence boost he’s getting from being a valued employee will matter a lot, and make him see the choices really are his to make, and he can handle whatever he chooses to take on.

  149. Lark – It’s definitely changed. Be prepared to be contacted, through both email and phone, by multiple dealers looking for your business now, and probably getting repeat calls from the same dealership.

    My latest complaint about USAA is that, after they detected a $500 fraudulent charge on our credit card (+1), it took a full week for them to get us new ones. Initially I thought that they should overnight them, since theirs is the only card we use, but DW handled the call and was busy, and they promised two days. In actuality, it didn’t get mailed until three days later, and even then it was regular postage.

  150. “How’d you, and your family, like it?”

    Meh. We won’t be back. There are better burrito places in Houston.

  151. Fred – Thank you for sharing. I think he is going to do really well!

    Shake Shack has opened a few locations here. I’ve only been once. I thought it was really good, but it is essentially a higher quality version of fast food burgers & cheese fries. So I’m not sure that it is worth waiting in line for a long time. I wouldn’t drive a long distance for it. But I would definitely go there again if I was nearby and in the mood for it.

  152. We have most anything you want for shopping and I still order everything online. Occasionally I’ll go to Nordstroms if I want to return something I bought online. I don’t mind buzzing over to the stand alone J.Crews or Anthropologies, but for some reason I just hate going to malls (which is quite a change from my pre-kid days).

    Shake Shack is just a better Steak and Shake (with cheese fries). I think Steak and Shake makes a good burger (and hot dog) but their fries are meh and so are their shakes.

  153. Regarding Mexican food in NYC, I have run across a few good taquerias and restaurants. And there are tasty fusion foods like Korean tacos. When my son was in Milan at the World’s Fair last year, one of the “typical” foods at the NYC pavilion was Korean tacos.

  154. @ Milo – 2 calls already. So. Annoying. All I wanted was the USAA price! Which apparently no longer exists.

    On the upside – the process was almost too easy before. This will at least encourage me to hold off a few more months.

    And, oddly, Sequoias are apparently hard to find. None on the lot of our local dealer (didn’t stop them from calling me). There are a few at a dealership 3 hours away. (See – low cost of living area = so few ways to actually spend your money!). I’m not going to drive 3 hours just to test drive. To buy, sure, but not to drive. So I told the local dealership to call me once they have one on the lot, and I’ll come by to test it.

  155. We have tons of coastal/Mexican fusion food where we are – think shrimp tacos with the freshest shrimp you’ve ever tasted, but that Mexican spice you just can’t recreate at home. OMG so good, I could eat them every day. That type of food is easy to find where we are.

    But no Cheesecake Factory or those type of chains (which I love!!).

  156. We have a number of nicer burger and shake places popular with families but no Shake Shack. Like WF which took ages to open, it could be a while.

  157. Our local courthouses also ban cellphones. That deprivation might actually kill DH if he has to serve again. Last time, he only had to be there for a day.

    Steak and Shake is a dive, and on my “do not eat there again” list, along with Bob Evans. Though they do have very good iced tea and fries. I agree with the comment about not wanting to stand in line and pay for mediocre food when you can make mediocre food at home at a fraction of the cost. And the atmosphere is far from relaxing. We have a chain restaurant here that has TV screens at EVERY booth, and that is one of their selling points. We had our “duress dinner” at the non-fancy country club last night, and it was accompanied by stale rolls (delivered by Gordon Food Service — I asked) and fake butter. And five TV screens in the otherwise pleasant new dining room. DS told me that what I really want when I go out is the same food we have at home brought to my table without the work. Yes. Or something we can’t easily make at home because we don’t have a wood-fired pizza oven or access to hanger steak.

    We do eat out a lot when traveling, and DH usually makes reservations well in advance (Girl and the Goat in Chicago has no opening until AUGUST in case anyone was wondering), but though most of those experiences have been wonderful, some of the menus are going overboard with strange ingredients that neither of us has ever heard of. Sometimes every single menu item has at least one weird thing that requires a google search.

  158. (See – low cost of living area = so few ways to actually spend your money!).

    We must be neighbors.

  159. Shake Shack is just like every other specialty burger and shake place. Decent burgers, tasty but greasy fries, tastes good while eating it but leaves me feeling really lethargic and gross. I actually like Steak and Shake’s fries better because they are so light and crispy (at least 15 years ago they were when I last had them).

  160. (See – low cost of living area = so few ways to actually spend your money!).

    I was looking on some of the rural area’s I’ve worked and the most expensive house in town is $500k and it’s been on the market for 18 months. So, even housing you can’t really spend too much or it ends up totally illiquid. I was thinking of ADA moving to Wyoming. If she ever wanted to leave she’s basically have to sell her house to the person they hired to replace her.

    I have a new found fascination with flyover country cattler/timber/mining baron mansions.

  161. I haven’t tried Shake Shack, but I haven’t been impressed by the other totebaggy burger chains (Five Guys, Smashburger, Elevation) so I haven’t been itching to try it. They are slightly better than McDonalds but I would still rather get my burger at a local pub with a nice beer to wash it down, or hot off the grill at an outdoor family BBQ

  162. “Girl and the Goat in Chicago has no opening until AUGUST in case anyone was wondering”

    crazy! I never book reservations before the day off, except something like Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day

  163. “And has anyone checked out Wayfair online? No idea you could buy an upholstered chair for under $200 that inspires hundreds of rave reviews.”

    need to check this out!

  164. Rhett, we lived in a small town in Ohio when my dad was a plant manager for an oil company, and we moved around a lot as a kid. He bought the house of the guy who was the previous plant manager, and sold it to the guy who took my dad’s place four years later!

  165. Rhett – What a terrible investment those must have been over the years. Just to build it must have cost far more in 1923 than $2.3M (adjusted), not to mention all the upkeep and updates req’d to even ask that price.

  166. I like all those burger places. Burgers may be my favorite food. :) I didn’t try Shake Shack until I accidentally found the Grand Central Terminal location, and it only had a 5-minute wait.

    A few years ago you had a chance to get in The Girl and the Goat without reservations if you went early and took an outside table. The menu may have been limited for those tables.

  167. @Milo — Thus coming full circle to Rhett’s comment to me yesterday AM: this is the housing version of luxury fashion conspicuous consumption. You build it to signal that you have so much extra money you don’t even have to think about investment value or upkeep.

    Plus, you know, he lived in flyover country, so it’s not like he could head to the local upscale mall to flash his cash. :-)

  168. LfB – I know, for the initial purchaser, they’re probably rich enough, but I was thinking more along the lines of the difference between the average nationwide real estate appreciation rate and some of the outliers. People tend to only focus on the positive outliers: “Imagine if only you’d bought an apartment in Brooklyn in 1991…”

  169. average nationwide real estate appreciation rate

    Which is barely above inflation. “Tthe average annual home price increase for the U.S. during the whole 1900 – 2012 period was only 3.1%/year — just a shade better than the inflation rate of 3.0%/year.”

  170. Milo,

    Per The Worst Hard Time, the 1920s were quite the boom times for commodities, but the house is more likely a status display/ signaling device. than an investment.

  171. The Olive Garden discussion together with the low cost of living area discussion reminded me of the Olive Garden restaurant review that went viral a couple of years ago: . The linked article notes what a lot of them missed: it wasn’t a positive review.

    In the terminology I learned from one of my audio Great Courses recently, urban – coastal culture is more low context (you directly say what you mean and don’t expect people to pick up unstated messages based on contextual cues; more common in areas where you have people from different backgrounds), whereas the culture the review was written for is apparently more high-context (you have to look not just at what is said but what is left unsaid, the circumstances, who’s speaking, contextual cues; more common in areas where people have shared experiences and assumptions to draw on).

  172. I think luxury should be mixed with low to high so everyone can afford it. Plus have more sales. I think if the adjust a few things with pricing, designs and how they market them. We as the people will mostly buy them often. Not once in a blue moon. Luxury is a gift and should be shared with everyone. I hope I made a good point on this topic🙂

  173. Pingback: Local. Fashion.

  174. It is not in trouble it is changing. The industry is going trough a change from the Millennia’s, since they need to be different. Personalised luxury will be the next king

  175. I think pretty much everything is becoming saturated in this world which is quite sad, luxury is more accessible despite the great lack of a growing economy, are young people simply prioritising their spends on luxury items rather than savings? I think spending patterns have certainly changed which has impacted on who gets their hands on that luxury item. I also think social media has had an impact as although not in the girl on the street’s grasp, if you see a designer dress at the Oscars posted everywhere online you almost become desensitised to it’s ‘exclusiveness’. I feel luxury is losing it’s way slightly but that changes will happen to make it come back full circle, with a bang!

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