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Hermes is paying for this

Hermes is facing a legal battle with two American shoppers who have sued the French designer over its refusal to sell them Birkin handbags.

Two Californian shoppers have accused Hermes of only selling its sought-after Birkin handbags to customers deemed “worthy” enough.

A class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco alleged that one of the complainants made “multiple attempts to purchase a Birkin bag, but was told on each occasion that he needed to purchase other items and accessories”.

Now, if I were Hermes I would be paying for this. I’d be picking up the legal bills of these shoppers. Actually, I’d have gone and found them, paid them to bring suit and lavished them with cash in fact. What better advertisement for Veblen Goods than that mere money isn’t enough?

20 thoughts on “Hermes is paying for this”

  1. Now, if I were Hermes I would be paying for this. I’d be picking up the legal bills of these shoppers. Actually, I’d have gone and found them, paid them to bring suit and lavished them with cash in fact. What better advertisement for Veblen Goods than that mere money isn’t enough?

    Problem is though, what if they’re somewhat melanin rich? and those rather biased courts decide that they’ve been profiled?

    Outcome then is not quite so certain.

    Sure, they can shut up shop in California or whatever the jurisdiction of a court applies, but once these grifters try they don’t quit once they smell blood.

    What good is a Veblen good that you are forced to sell to certain people?

  2. Two Californian shoppers have accused Hermes of only selling its sought-after Birkin handbags to customers deemed “worthy” enough.

    The California shoppers, believed to be named Harry Prince and Meghan Halfblood, said in their defence that they only demanded a token stipend from Hermes, inflating annually in line with US CPI.

    ;¬)

  3. @John Galt – good points. But consider the outcome of what you describe – some melanin-advantaged client brings suit against Hermés for not selling them this item, and wins, and Hermés is now forced to sell them the item. Now every single melanin-advantaged client who owns or buys the item is socially-devalued in the eyes of the sort of people who set store by the ownership of the item – oh, look at them. Parvenus. Navvies. Merely wealthy, not classy like us, they got their Hermés bag because they forced Hermés to sell to them – not by being socially superior and Chosen, like us. Such a course would immediately and seriously devalue the bag as a marker of status in the very circles in which it is so-highly valued as a marker of status. I’m sure that both Hermés, and the community of people who own, or aspire to own, this rather-ridiculous marker, understand this dynamic very well, and do whatever they can to stabilise the apple-cart. All it will take is one stupid ‘rapper’ or ‘influencer’ to wreck the whole happy deal forever, and I bet Hermés watches their customers like a hawk to stop this from happening.

    llater,

    llamas

  4. I can’t reconcile ‘he’ in the first para of the quote (below) with ‘the other woman’ in the second. Maybe it/he/she/they is/are trans rather than melanin enhanced.

    A class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco alleged that one of the complainants made “multiple attempts to purchase a Birkin bag, but was told on each occasion that he needed to purchase other items and accessories”.

    The other woman was told its handbags were only sold to “clients who have been consistent in supporting our business”, the lawsuit claimed.

  5. It’s not as if it’s a new phenomenon anyway… If you wanted to buy a Bugatti Royale you were invited to spend a couple of days chez Ettoré and Madame Bugatti and if they “didn’t like the cut of your jib” your purchase was refused.

    I think that they only sold about half-a-dozen in total, the “entry requirements” must have been pretty tough!

  6. Is it because they is black?

    That was the line Oprah Winfrey used to great effect (coincidentally when promoting her latest book) a few years ago.

  7. It sounds like a straight up market power abuse or antitrust case – if you require people to buy stuff they don’t want in order to get stuff that they really, really do, then that’s bundling and illegal. I guess the relevant market is actually just Birkin bags. They’ll win.

  8. “The other woman was told its handbags were only sold to “clients who have been consistent in supporting our business”, the lawsuit claimed.”

    Similar thing happens with super premium wine. You can’t just turn up and buy a bottle of La Tache at £5K/bottle. They keep them by for their best customers. The people who are spending big money throughout the year.

  9. Having dug a little further, it turns out that the named plaintiffs are not members of any special class.

    One of them is male, but – get a grip. He’s not buying the bag for himself.

    I’m having a hard time discerning what their cause of action might be. Hermès’ policy might or might not fit the definition of ‘bundling’, but ‘bundling’ is not per se an anti-trust violation or unlawful. It seems to me that what’s being offered is ‘preferential terms or offers for loyal customers’, and not ‘you must buy these other things to get this one thing’, which is not even what’s being offered – there’s no guarantee that you can buy the specific item, no matter how much other stuff you buy.

    I looked a little further – I thought that thse bags must he fantastically-rare in order to command such prices and demand. Turns out that (per Wikipedia) Hermès has made and sold more than a million of them, there’s a very-healthy second-hand market, some people are alleged to own hundreds of them, and they are in dact not so rare at all. Given what they are, I’m amazed that there isn’t already a well-developed trade in counterfeits. If you can buy a Rolex ‘superclone’ that’s so good that it will fool most dealers and can only be detected with sophisticated and microscopic analysis, seems to me that something as mundane as a handmade leather bag should be easy to copy flawlessly in many places.

    llater,

    llamas

  10. In UK free trade seems to include the right to not trade. See El Vino kicking out the harridans, Burberry wrestling their brand away from the chavs, etc.
    But this is Merica, where Christians are forced to bake wedding cakes for pederasts. So these grifters will probably win.

  11. As Llamas says they’re plenty of resellers of pre-owned Birkin bags and other high-end goods.

    They may have been trying to get their hands on one of the special versions made with premium materials.

    This wouldn’t work in the as putting something on sale is just “an offer to treat” not a promise to sell.

  12. seems to me that something as mundane as a handmade leather bag should be easy to copy flawlessly in many places

    In the good old (pre-97) days, Honkers was a popular place for Dior (or whomever) to have a few hundred dresses run up. They’d often make another hundred or so, to be sold in Stanley Market – without labels, of course. But that was no problem, because the adjacent market stall had an endless array of designer labels, which they’d sew into your new dress while you waited.

  13. Bloke in the Wash

    Are these handbags any use in a fight? Oh sorry my mistake, I thought I was on the “Government to take over football” thread.

  14. @ Chris Miller – indeed. Regarding counterfeits, I sometimes wonder . .

    I have a friend who works back-of-house at a large Rolex dealership. Through him, I have seen a couple of videos which teach staff how to identify counterfeit Rolexes. A lot of the comparisons are made under a microscope, and at least one involves audio analysis of the sound of the watch when it’s running.

    Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am, but a lot of the differences that are purported to distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ seem to me to fall within the normal variations in any manufacturing process, even an extremely-precise one, and I wonder whether the videos would be quite as convincing if they did not clearly have ‘genuine’ or ‘counterfeit’ prominently superimposed on the screen. Which leads me to the obvious question . . . . but that question was obviously an extremely unwelcome one . . .:-).

    But it surely must make sense, from an economic viewpoint. If you are selling a pure Veblen good (and that’s what a Rolex is – a $20 Timex keeps better time and lasts longer) and your product is on the downward slide from its peak, but still considered very desirable by some, wouldn’t you trade off some amount of future Veblen-associated value for a large profit today, by secretly making a larger quantity of virtually-indistinguishable examples of your product and selling them for a lower margin but in high quantity? After all, at this point, you’re not selling a Rolex that’s unquestionably ‘genuine’, but rather ‘what looks like a genuine Rolex that’s indistinguishable from the real thing by the people who you are trying to impress by wearing a Rolex’. The knock-off Rolexes I saw being sold for $10 or $15 in HK stores lo, these many years ago, were obvious fakes that would not fool anyone but the most-unsophisticated. But modern fakes are so good, that they are, TAIAP, ‘real’, lacking only the Rolex seal of ‘reality’ – which no longer says anything about the watch itself.

    llater,

    llamas

  15. Bloke in Pictland

    A young woman admired my watch recently. “Which brand is that?” “The best that Tesco sells”, said I. Her interest cooled.

  16. >llamas
    March 21, 2024 at 10:40 am
    @John Galt – good points. But consider the outcome of what you describe – some melanin-advantaged client brings suit against Hermés for not selling them this item, and wins, and Hermés is now forced to sell them the item. Now every single melanin-advantaged client who owns or buys the item is socially-devalued in the eyes of the sort of people who set store by the ownership of the item – oh, look at them. Parvenus. Navvies. Merely wealthy, not classy like us, t

    Thing is – neither the ‘classy’ nor ‘the rich’ are buying Hermes;)

    Its middle-class strivers – not, not even middle-class, but young people striving to look rich that spend more money than they can afford on something that literally no one except them cares about.

    Mere ownership of such an item tells the old money that you’re not.

  17. @Napsjam – “if you require people to buy stuff they don’t want in order to get stuff that they really, really do, then that’s bundling and illegal.”

    Where is that illegal? And how does that work for card packs (like Pokemon, or Magic: The Gathering) which contain an unpredictable variety of cards, forcing people to buy packs in the hope of getting the rare one they want? Or a fast food restaurant which offers a small toy with every burger intending that parents are forced to buy a burger they otherwise wouldn’t so that their child can get the toy?

  18. Agammamon has it to rights. Labels isn’t class. Lack of label is class. The small businesses & individuals make stuff for the true elite don’t put labels in their goods. They’re not looking for customers . They have the customers they want.
    There’s a geezer I met in London a few years back. You want a watch? He’ll make you a case & put a movement in it. It will be your watch. There will be no others.

  19. @Agammamon – of course, you are right, and the truly-rich and old-money folks do not give a fig for Hermès bags and similar Veblen goods. But (as I said) these things are very important to a whole cohort of people to whom these things are very important, and to a subset of people who want more than anything to be admitted to that cohort. Hermès understand this very well, and knows that, while that cohort may not be ‘old money’ or ‘truly-rich’, they are nevertheless quite rich enough to put plenty of cash in Hermès’s pockets.

    @ Charles – under US anti-trust laws, activities such as ‘bundling’ and ‘tie-ins’ may, or may not, be illegal. But a basic test of their legality is whether they can be construed as being ‘anti-competitive’. In the instant case, I find it very hard to see how the Hermès approach could be anti-competitive, since the products which customers are ‘expected’ to purchase before being considered worthy to buy one of these bags are all Hermès-branded and unique, not available from any other source. Cases of ‘bundling’ and ‘tying-in’ have been held to be anti-competitive only when the products which the consumer has been compelled to purchase are of a kind where the consumer is denied a choice among other, competitive products.

    @ BiS – indeed. The approach to perceived ‘luxury’ and Veblen goods can be both different – and surprising. I know a man who wears a very-costly watch – not a Rolex, in fact, a step or two up from a Rolex. I was rather taken-aback when I saw the cavalier way he treated this rather-fine piece of horological art. I never doubted but that he could well-afford it, but he wore it in the same way I wear a $20 Timex, and it showed. It was battered and well-worn and showed the scars of more-than-one poor life choice. It was only after I had known him a while that he shared that the watch is, in fact, a high-end counterfeit. He laughed at me for thinking he’d spend so much for a ‘real’ one and then treat it in that way. But it pleased him to allow casual observers to think he was sufficiently devil-may-care to treat a symbol of his wealth and success with such abandon.

    llater,

    llamas

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