Desperation in Rich Town

Looking at someone in a nice suit, driving a Mercedes, knowing they own their own business or have a high paying job most of us would come to the same conclusion. That person is doing well. But for all we know, they can be one missed sale away from trouble, teetering on the brink of losing it all.

On my recent vacation to California I spent some time walking up and down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. In spite of being rich I’m not nearly that rich and like most of the other tourists, I looked in the windows at jewels I could never afford and gawked at cars that cost more than my house.

My weakness is art and I can’t walk by a gallery without stopping in to see what they have to offer. Most times I just look and talk with the salesperson about color, composition and other aesthetic issues of the various works. I can’t and won’t spend $50,000 thousand for a painting no matter how much I love it so eventually I leave.

This trip was different as I was struck by the relatively low prices of the original works in the several galleries I stopped into. Instead of 5 digit prices many pieces were in the mid 4 digits such as one Mrs. Obscure and I spent a long time talking about. That one was $8,600.

So here we are in an art gallery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and we’re seriously considering an original work of art. You would think that this gallery being in the center of such incredible wealth would be doing well, that’s what we thought but the gallery director’s action told a different story.

I suppose he sensed that the piece wasn’t something we had to have. We liked it but we certainly weren’t in love with it. “This has been a slow month for us,” he said. “After Katrina we’ve seen things really slow down and if you’re interested we can do better on the price for you. We can make you a really nice deal.”

I enjoy going to galleries and I’ve even occasionally bought pieces but this was the first time that anyone has offered to lower a price. But he wasn’t done yet. “The price on this is $8,600,” he said “and we’ll have to ship it to you but if you’re interested I can do the whole thing including shipping for $6,800.”

Mrs. Obscure and I were dumbfounded. Standing in a beautiful gallery on Rodeo Drive the gallery director had just discounted an original work of art $1,800 or 20% without us even asking.

Appearances can be deceiving and our own preconceived notions can be way off. We decided in the end that we could put $6,800 to better use than a picture we liked but didn’t love. But now we know that maybe at the next gallery and for the next piece we do love, we can get a better deal.