As in Handbags, So In Love–The Power of The Least Interested — Part 3

Victoria Beckham’s pink Birkin bag–I think it’s crocodile– is just one of many of her gorgeous Birkin bags. But watch: The Power of the Least Interested applies to getting an Hermes Bag in pretty much the same way as it applies to getting  a guy.

It’s called the scarcity principle in purchasing, and Hermes is great at employing it. The Hermes Birkin bag, above,  like its sister bag, the slightly smaller “Kelly” bag, is always waitlisted because of its alleged scarcity (“They’re each handmade,” the company explains). Whether Hermes can or cannot summon the deft hands of bag-makers and crocodile-finders round the globe to work more quickly begs the question of why these bags are so hard to get.  If it were about supply and demand, they’d  simply increase supply to meet demand– but it’s not. It’s about the Power of the Least Interested. Who desires the handbag sale more–you, the potential owner, or Hermes? Hermes would like you to think it’s you. Company president Robert Chavez announced in the September 2005 issue of “W” Magazine, soon after I’d noticed the connection between love and handbags, that the wait list for Kellys and Birkins was absolutely closed at all Hermes stores across the globe.. “It may open up in a year or two,” he said then, “but there are no guarantees.”

Surprise! The list opene up.  They may want to pretend we can’t get Birkins or Kellys, but they don’t mean it.   However, their technique is brilliant. A crocodile Birkin with pave diamond closure sold at New York’s Doyle Galleries’  “important estate jewelry” auction auction for $57,000–and that was back in September of ’05, so imagine what it would be now.

Christian Dior’s “limited edition” tie-died crocodile “Detective” bag, at $32,500, has an engraved plate with its number on it, lest buyers question how limited the edition of Detectives really is.

Consider the difficulty of getting into a new nightclub, the one with bouncers at the door deciding who is and who is not admissible. Or consider the “limited editions” of art, prints, and perfumes—the special crystal bottles, say, or the light, summer versions of the fragrance (like Yves St. Laurent’s “Paris” which, each summer, uses different roses to make its one-time-only scent) that one can buy for only two or three months before they vanish.  The Hermes growing waitlist, just like the nightclub’s restriction to only beautiful young socialites, and the limited editions of anything, send out the same message: their commodity is rare and your access to it is limited. Only the lucky few can afford it, buy it; or dance there. Scarcity is the means by which the very interested sellers manipulate the semi-interested buyers. Only by disguising the extent of their own interest do they succeed in getting you into their store or their disco. Hermes only pretends that selling you a $33,000 bag is less important to them than owning it is to you—but, by God, they had a  two-year waiting list, and now a closed one,  to vouch for the success of their ruse.

Waitlisting adds to the prestige of getting the product, but, more interesting still, to the  fun of the desiring itself— the way spending the night at the mall the night before Black Friday adds to the fun of buying Christmas presents.

Limited edition candy, the newest commodity flooding the market, has passionate chocoholics stocking up on Kit Kats—buying them on ebay and stocking them in their temperature-controlled cellars, then reselling them on ebay. Candy shelves are prime real estate, says Kevin Griffin, former publisher of the Griffin Report of Food Marketing, and, “at the end of the day, it’s all about money,” and limited editions offer a powerful tool for boosting sales and increasing brand loyalty. Limited edition chocolate not only means tons of money for Hersheys and Mars, but to eager entrepreneurs who stockpile discontinued items—like Black Jack gum, and Green Tea Kit Kats—in their basements, and are making thousands of dollars selling them to clients going through their particular sugar withdrawal scenarios.

The Power of the Least Interested as a means to enhance desire is everywhere. What’s love got to do with it? SO much. Stay tuned.

Next time: More on the Power of the Least Interested

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