The Friday Rant: THIS Is Why Consumer Debt Is So High!

This is just one example of how our societal “values” have forced us all to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, but it speaks to the heart of the debt problems that face today’s Canadians.

Have you ever registered for china at William Ashley?

We live in a world of consumption.

A world where the exact same shoe, with a different logo, could cost three times as much, AND, be “worth” the price in the eyes of the consumer.

A world where if you want something, and you don’t have the means to get it, there’s always somebody out there that will give you those means – at a price.

Consumer debt is out of control.

The ratio of debt to household income in Canada is approximately 163%, and shows no signs of slowing as it creeps toward 170%.

People buy things they don’t need, and allow themselves to be sold by advertising and marketing that turns wants into needs.

Last week, I had the pleasure of going to William Ashley with my fiancée, Jenna, to open a wedding registry.

Jenna and I are not the type of people who value what William Ashley has to offer.  When we moved into our new condo two years ago, we replaced our IKEA kitchen plates with some gorgeous new fashions…..from Winners.

But as I’m learning with wedding planning, even though the wedding is about you, there are a lot of concessions to be made for the folks around you.  Some of the older members in our family have suggested, rather sternly, that we “do what all young couples do,” and register at William Ashley.

Tradition?  Or blind sheep?

We all buy diamond rings for our fiancées because, “That’s the way it’s always been done.”  It’s wholly unnecessary when you think about it, but do you want to be the first person to tell your friends and family, “We’re actually not doing the whole ‘ring thing’ and instead we’re just going to take a cool trip”?  Society will judge you, like it or not.

So at the request of a family member who wanted her friends to have the ability to buy us fine china, we went to William Ashley’s to register.

I knew we were in trouble as soon as we walked in.

They took our coats, and asked, “Would you like coffee, tea, or water?”  Ummm…..Perrier with a wedge of lime?

William Ashley is full of stuff that the average human being does not need, and won’t ever need.

William Ashley is full of stuff that costs fifty-times more than a suitable substitute, and yet, they do very good business.

The women who work there are pros, make no mistake.  They know how to sell ice to an Eskimo, and they’ll use any tactic possible: pressure, pride, shame, guilt – they stop at nothing to up-sell you into stuff you don’t need.

The first thing they tell you when you start talking shop is by far the most important: any gift purchased for you is easy to exchange for something else.

Read between the lines, and nobody is purchasing you a spoon, a plate, or a blender – they’re purchasing cash value.

So the more items they can get you to register for, the more cash value will be purchased.  And they don’t care whether you turn those salt and pepper shakers into another place-setting; they just want you to add more and more to your registry.  They tell you repeatedly, “If you’re unsure, just register for it, because you don’t have to take it in the end – you can just get something else!”  It’s all about the cash value in the end.

Of course, this leads into the second tactic, which is getting the bride and the groom to pay money out of their own pocket after the wedding!

If you register for 12 place settings, and only 7 are purchased for you, well surely you’re going to figure, “We should buy the other five settings, since $1,750 of the settings were bought for us, and it really only costs us another $1,250 to finish the set.”

They’ve set the whole registry process up to get you to forget the basic principle: you don’t NEED any of this stuff!

Jenna and I were both shocked at how plates could cost $2,500, but as we were told by our elders, “When in Rome….”

The salesperson explained that the “formal” dinner-ware featured a platinum inlay, bone china, and hand-etching, as if to suggest that this is something we gave the slightest crap about.  She further added that these dishes cannot be used in the microwave or the dishwasher, which was when I laughed the hardest.  So you’re paying MORE for something that has LESS function than what you already have.  Great.

When we suggested that we’d get one set of formal china, the salesperson said, “You need formal and casual.”

Well, what the heck else was she going to say?

And no matter what we chose, there was always something better to be found!

“This line is made in England, the birthplace of the industrial revolution,” she said.  “Not a lot of consumer goods are made in England anymore!”

And that was her reasoning to spend $2,200 instead of the ones we really liked at $900.  Just because the British don’t make a lot of plates anymore – we’re supposed to want those which they do make?

But the most incredible up-sell was, and forgive my lack of class because I don’t know the correct terminology, these “under plates” that you don’t actually put food on, but rather you put them under your plate to “give the place setting a more vivid, exciting feel.”

Seriously.  There are plates that you put under your dinner plate, that you’ll never use, never dirty, and never have any use for, other than to look pretty underneath the plate on which you eat.

Oh – and they were another $2K.

“They give the table a more proper look,” the salesperson said.  “They’re inviting.

I dryly responded, “I think once people are inside my house, they probably realize that they were, in fact, invited.”

She just smiled, and kept on.  Nothing fazed her.  I was tempted to smash her over the head with a crystal vase just to see if there was a robot underneath her skin…

It’s amazing.  They call knives and forks “flatware,” they call glasses “stemware,” and they call plates, “dinnerware.”

Elegance has value, does it not?

The up-selling continued, as we realized that the “place settings” didn’t include what we wanted.  I figured a “five piece” place setting would contain a bread plate, salad plate, dinner plate, bowl, and rimmed-bowl.  But in fact, every five-piece setting contained the three plates, and then a coffee-cup and saucer.

“We don’t really need a dozen coffee cups and saucers,” I said.

“Well don’t you offer your dinner companions coffee or tea at the end of the night,” the salesperson said, as if to suggest that failure to do so would be socially inappropriate.

I didn’t feel the need to tell her that we don’t host 12-person dinner parties at our 6-person table in our 1,100 square foot condo, but I did tell her, “We have coffee mugs – lots of them.”

She asked, “Which line?”

“Bosley,” I said.  “I’ve been stealing ‘Bosley Real Estate’ mugs from my office for the past few months – about one every other week.  I almost have a complete set.”

She just smiled, and moved on.  If we wanted bowls, which in my opinion, are part of any “set” of dinnerware, we’d have to register for them separately.  That would be a reoccurring theme as we’d soon find out…

After we chose our “flatware,” I figured we were finished.  We had tickets to the Blue Jays’ home opener, and we wanted to get there early and watch some batting practice.

“You’ve yet to choose your stemware,” she said.

Forgive my ignorance, but I honestly didn’t know what stemware was until last week.

“Wine glasses?” I asked, once I figured out what our supposed next step was.

“Yes!” she said with such fake excitement that it made me want to test out the flatware in her kneecap.

“I think we’re going to skip this step,” I said, as I looked over at Jenna for approval.  Like any good man, I was doing what I was told, and on this day, I was told, “Please, please, don’t embarrass me!  Just keep your sarcasm to a minimum, and let’s just get this done.”

The salesperson was shocked.

“Do you already have the appropriate stemware,” she asked.

Define appropriate.  I don’t think anything in that store is appropriate, and yet the salesperson would think the same about my home.

“We have wine glasses at home,” I said.

“But do you have the appropriate stemware,” she asked, as she subtly tried to switch terminology from cheap “glasses” to expensive “stemware.”

“We have Reidel glasses at home,” I said.  “They’re the #1 wine glass maker on the planet, and they’re sufficient for our needs.”

“Right,” she said, as she ignored me, and took our place-settings, set them out on a felt counter, and added two wine glasses.

“Now look how elegant this is!”

I asked her, “How come you have two wine glasses?”

She looked at me in amazement and said, “Well, my dear, every proper table setting has one glass for red and one glass for white.”  She added, “We have Merlot glasses, Cabernet glasses….”

This is when I just about lost it.

“I’m going to stop you right there,” I said.  “I want to give you an idea of who we are, as people.  So let me be clear: I do not, nor will I ever, associate with any person who thinks any less of me or my wife because of the type or shape of glass in which I serve them wine.  It’s that simple.  That’s who we are.”

I remember when Jenna and I had the housewarming party at our new condo, and with 60 people crammed into an 1,100 square foot condo, we ran out of supplies very fast.  One of my friends and colleagues, a man who I consider a mentor and who I look up to more than anybody, asked me for a glass of wine for his wife.  I was out of wine glasses, rock glasses, tall glasses, and even three snifters that I have for some odd reason.  I looked around, and all I could find was a stack of red beer cups.  I looked at him, and then the cup, and before I could address the issue, he said, “David, listen – I am not ‘that guy.’  I don’t care what glass I get, nor does my wife, and please don’t ever, ever think of me that way.”

That’s the kind of company I keep.  And this is a man that makes $2 Million per year.

So if the amount of money you make, and how important you are, is any indication of how you should be “served” at a dinner table, then this salesperson clearly was in agreement.

“One day, you’re going to have your boss over for dinner,” she said, as she played the shame card, “And you’ll be horrified if he doesn’t feel the same warm elegance he’s accustomed to when dining in his own home.”

“I’m self-employed,” I told her, as I was tired of launching objections.

“And when you entertain high-profile clients,” she continued, without missing a single beat, “They’ll want to know they’re in good hands.”

Good hands?

People with expensive cutlery and platinum dinner plates are providing “good hands?”

We finished picking out our needless, over-priced, expensive crap, and then proceeded to the computer so she could enter all our items.

We told her that we had to get going, as it was now 6pm, and we had tickets to the Jays game, but she showed us that she could not possibly care less, as she basically held our coats hostage.

She wasn’t just going to enter our items into the computer – she was now going to up-sell us on serving spoons, platters, dishes, and the like.

“What will you use to serve?” she asked, as if to say that my $2 blue ladle from Dollorama was not compatible with our $2,500 dinner plates.

This is when Jenna – my polite, accommodating bride-to-be, lost her will as well, and said, “We REALLY need to get going.  We’ve told you this twice now.”

At 6:30pm, after four more up-sell attempts, and a full explanation of all the documents that came in the William Ashley plastic bag, we were finally back on the street, and had left a place I hope I never, ever have to set foot inside again.

This is a rant, and this is a story, but it’s also a microcosm of society’s problems.

I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it makes me feel to think that my friends are going to write me and Jenna cheques on the day of our wedding.  What for?  Why is this necessary?  Oh, right, because it’s a societal norm.

The price of consumer goods is increasing at a rate far, far higher than the average household income, and for every $25 fork that William Ashley sells, another person or family find themselves that much further behind the eight-ball.

For every 20-year-old girl who feels the “need” for a $600 hand-bag, all I see is somebody who has been duped by the world in which we live today…

54 Comments

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  1. Rob says:

    Well commenting years after the fact. Someone amusing but you’re being a dick. Be a man and if you really don’t want find China then just go don’t go in there. Apparently you don’t have the balls to do that. And you’re a realtor hyping overvalued crap and taking a big commission on it.

  2. Maggie K. says:

    I have never heard of William Ashley but I wouldn’t mind some fancy tableware! The whole hard-sell aspect of the situation sounds like a huge drag.

  3. DanO says:

    This is by far the funniest and best piece that you wrote. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and furthermore enjoyed the fact that you still registered while angrily kicking the ground with your foot.

  4. Bertie Wooster says:

    If you want nice glasses and dinner plates, you should be able to buy all you want at garage sales as soon as it warms up. We now buy all our china and crystal at garage sales.

    As someone who has been married and divorced, my advice is to go old school and just ask for cash instead of a bunch of stuff that you don’t really want.

    1. ScottyP says:

      But isn’t is better to divide half a dinnerware set than half of your savings?

      Sorry, that was crass. Couldn’t resist.

  5. FRBYWA says:

    David,

    I love your blog. I really do. I do because it is intelligent and insightful. And I’ll read it forever. But I found your last entry on Ashley’s a little bizarre.

    First of all, the main reason for too much consumer debt …. is mortgage debt. You said, “People buy things they don’t need, and allow themselves to be sold by advertising and marketing that turns wants into needs.” Yes…things like bigger and bigger houses and condos, with granite countertops, fancy appliances, beautiful views, nice big balconies, etc. These are the things that have caused consumer debt to balloon the most.

    Second, what the hell is so objectionable about someone who wants a nice set of dinner plates? You make it sound like anyone who wants a nice set of dinner plates is some materialistic person with no values (or without the right values.)

    Here are some facts about myself: I have ZERO debt of any form or any kind. I save over half of my income. At one stretch in my life, I saved 90% of my income. I live in a smaller house on a 25 ft lot, with no mortgage. I could afford to get a larger one on a 50 ft lot (and still have no mortgage) but I choose not to. My last car I had I paid cash for and drove it until it was 18 years old. I don’t own a nice watch and I don’t buy designer clothes. I don’t really enjoy these things. I could afford pretty much any luxury good I want but I’ve donated more money to charity than I’ve spent on what one would consider a luxury good. But I own a nice set of dinner plates. Oh my gosh, what a sin! When I recently got married, my wife and I went to Ashley’s (we registered there) and picked out a nice set. A set that is classic and which we will use for the rest of our lives.

    We didn’t get the dinner plates because it was tradition. We bought them because we will enjoy using them. We also got them so that we could use them when we put on a nice dinner party for friends. We feel that by setting a nice table and cooking great food is to some degree showing respect for our guests. It is putting effort on their behalf, because we want to do something nice for them. But I know, doing this isn’t mandatory or by any means everything. And like you David, we have wealthy friends as well. We have one that doesn’t make $2MM per year but closer to $20 million per year. And we have one that makes minimum wage. We have friends across the entire income spectrum. And some of these friends would appreciate a nice set of dinner plates and some couldn’t give a damn. But they are all great people!

    One of the wealthiest people we know will buy clothes from a second-hand store! But he has also spent thousands of dollars to get Superbowl tickets. So to each his own. Some people value some things more than others. How about granite countertops David? Would you appreciate this in a condo? Some people may like granite countertops and some might like nice dinner plates, etc. Do you have any things that would be considered material in nature that you like, David? If I remember correctly, you pimped out your patio pretty nicely didn’t you? Me thinks this counts. How the hell can you think it somewhat silly that someone wants to have an attractive dinner table when you spent so much time, effort and money to have an attractive patio?

    All this ranting and raving about dinner plates? Just utterly bizarre…….

    1. derek says:

      I don’t think the plates were ever the issue, more the peer pressure and perceived feeling of inadequacy for not conforming, as well as the sales pitch.
      You are spot on about getting priorities right – pay off your mortgage before buying the fancy goods. Marketing has a lot to answer for.
      Personally I try buy wooden / antique furniture, crockery etc on auction or where available. Better built and lasts longer than the dross available at most dept stores.

    2. Frances says:

      You can get nice dinnerware at IKEA or any number of other places. The ultimate in fine china is hardly necessary. Also, I guarantee that you will not use them for the rest of your life. Fine china chips or breaks just as easily as anything else.

    3. ScottyP says:

      @FRBYWA

      The point of David’s post, I believe, was priorities.

      1. You regularly use your nice dinner plates. This fact alone makes your purchase make sense. Though I can’t offer anything more than anecdotal evidence, my guess would be that most fellow purchasers of thousand-dollar china can’t say the same thing.

      2. You can afford your nice dinner plates. This you made clear in detailing your background. Doing so showed that you are not only responsible with your money, but that choosing William Ashley over IKEA is a decision that — unlike most people — you can monetarily afford to make.

      3. You value nice dinner plates. Meaning, they are legitimately important to you. Again going with the anecdotal, I would venture that 99% of the people who venture into William Ashley will never feel the same way towards their dinnerware as you do. You put it best yourself: Some people put value in place settings, others put value in Super Bowl tickets. To each their own. But your dinnerware is clearly a higher priority to you than it is to many others who make the same purchase, regardless of whether or not they can afford it.

      That’s what this is all about: 1. Making use of what you acquire; 2. Spending within your means; and 3. Prioritizing what truly matters to you and what doesn’t. The salesperson at William Ashley may have believed point #1 while misreading her clients, but it’s doubtful that she cared about point #2 at all while clearly disregarding point #3 altogether. If you believe that the salesperson’s actions are defensible, then I’ll be just as confounded by your position as you were by David’s post.

      David was not trying to belittle those who legitimately followed points #1-3. David was questioning those who fail to meet the criteria of points #1-3, yet somehow manage to fall into the trap anyway — due to such factors as peer or family pressure, insecurity, adherence to status symbols, wanting to keep up with the Joneses, etc. And this attitude he finds objectionable.

      Looked at in this light, his post made complete sense.

    4. jeff316 says:

      Consumer debt and mortgage debt are two different things. So the reason for too much consumer debt is not mortgages.

  6. Lewis Winthorpe III says:

    They’re called “chargers”, you peasant! David, you have obviously never experienced the sensual thrill of tasting a premier cru Bordeaux out of a proper crystal wine glass. Perhaps Toby Keith Red Solo Cup is more to your liking.

    Just kidding. Good commentary.

    However, by extension, the same logic of perceived value that drives that industry (wedding, gifts etc.) also drives real estate, and it is a fine line to be cognizant of…lest we spiral down into Monty Python self parody…

    People who would never pay $1,000 for a Wedgewood butter knife holder somehow get the notion that paying $600+/sq ft for a shoebox condo is a rational decision.

    1. moonbeam! says:

      Hey — don’t get down on Toby Keith!!

  7. AndrewB says:

    I 100% agree with this post/rant. I do not understand the fascination with opulence and indulgence. I see 20-something like myself, spending $800.00 on Canada Goose jackets and hundreds on bottle service at the club etc instead of tackling their $20,000+ student debt from college. I don’t understand why people would sink their money into “stuff” or depreciating objects for the sake of their ego.

    The lease queens in Toronto just love to grab themselves a new 3-series BMW every 4 years to “live the life” and “be seen”, yet have no sense of money and will continue to make lease payments for the rest of their lives because they want whatever is the newest BMW/Mercedes/whatever.

    People will run into Holt Renfrew and won’t bat an eyelash to spend $700.00 on a Gucci purse. All of this indulgence to satisfy poor self esteem and ego. If you truly need to have expensive things because they are expensive, something is wrong. There is no value to this indulgence, except to feed the ego.

    Imagine if people took the money they spent on this crap and used it towards something constructive, like oh I don’t know, perhaps make a few extra mortgage payments? The absurdity!

    1. @ AndrewB

      The girls at my office corrected my mistake.

      I said that a Prada handbag was $600.

      Apparently, the wallet is $600, the clutch is $1,500, the purse is $2,300, and the full bag is $4,000.

      Unreal.

      Gatorade is $2.49 a bottle at the corner store, but 28 bottles for $15.99 at Costco.

      The average consumer can save up to 80% on most purchases if they want to.

      1. AndrewB says:

        That makes it even worse. Why ANYONE would spend $4000.00 on a leather bag with a logo on it to carry their crap is beyond me.

        1. derek says:

          The bit that gets me even more is that (and I am generalizing) these peeps male or female will have the accessories but live at home, in a flea pit, or in a tiny glass box with 24 hour traffic as their view and have such an ego / attitude associated with it. Must be exhausting! Happy Weekend everyone, it’s nearly beer o’clock.

    2. Joe Q. says:

      Signalling. It’s all about signalling (more so than about the ego).

      By wearing a CG jacket, or driving a BMW, or carrying a Gucci purse, or getting a massive house, you are signalling (rightly or wrongly) that you have the ability to buy these items — that you belong to the social class comprised of people who have the ability to buy these items, and that others of this social class should count you as one of their own.

      Paying off student and mortgage debt has no signalling value (it is not visible).

      Like I say, this stuff is the human equivalent of the (male) peacock’s tail — an appendage that poses no evolutionary advantage other than signalling (demonstrates to females that the male is a strong and agile enough to survive, despite carrying around a giant “eat me” beacon on its butt). Darwin himself identified the significance and evolutionary reasons for the peacock’s tail in the mid-19th century. The idea that humans also engage in signalling didn’t come until later.

  8. Chris says:

    Yes, dishes are a total rip-off and it’s ludicrous that they use the proper terminology. But when realtors use fancy terminology for condos priced way beyond what’s reasonable on this planet, no, don’t attack that. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    1. derek says:

      Chris, I think not all Realtors are made the same. Most are though. David has pointed out in the past that he is in agreement that the condo market is laughable and will not hold their values come the hour of reckoning.
      Whilst on the subject of plates, can someone tell me why I can get a pair of Levis for 40 bucks and someone is prepared to go to Holt Renfrew and buy a pair of Gucci jeans for 500 – same league as the plates if not much worse!

      1. AndrewB says:

        Reminds me of the movie Wanderlust.

        “It’s not a bachelor, it’s a micro-loft”.

      2. @ Derek

        I have a pair of Deisel jeans. I got them in NYC, they were $120, marked down from $400. The chances that anybody, anywhere, ever paid $400 for them is slim to none, but it lured me in! I wanted a bargain!

        1. derek says:

          Now thats a deal I might have gone for, but are they any better? I have seen guys in Montreal buying not just one pair but a few at a time at 500 a piece.
          When will houses be offered at great discounts like that?!

  9. GeorgyBoy says:

    “Some of the older members in our family have suggested, rather sternly, that we ‘do what all young couples do,’ and register at William Ashley.”

    LMAO
    First time I hear of “William Ashley” and I just got married last September! I guess I’m a just poor boy, from a poor family.

  10. Tina says:

    “Bosley,” I said. “I’ve been stealing ‘Bosley Real Estate’ mugs from my office for the past few months – about one every other week. I almost have a complete set.”

    David I had not laughed so hard for days. Thank you

    1. ScottyP says:

      Ditto

      1. Krupo says:

        Also, I think that should be the next memento you issue to clients rather than the standard calendars. Consider it! 😉

  11. Jeremy says:

    Cancel it if you haven’t already, if anyone asks why direct them to this blog post. Get a nice but not crazy expensive set of sturdy dishes. That’s what we did, and my only regret is not getting a couple more place settings since I have managed to chip a a plate and a bowl when I dropped them recently.

  12. jeff316 says:

    Same happened to us!

    We also registered there at the behest of my inlaws even though we knew we would get almost nothing from any registry anywhere (we also registered at Sears.)

    Picking out the plates was a pretty awkward experience – we could tell that the staffer thought we had too little on the registry – although truth be told they have a great and not uncompetitively priced kitchen appliances/gadgets section at the back that’s worth keeping in mind for its selection.

    In the end we got some salt/pepper grinders and two oil pourers from there and they’ve been really useless – the former don’t grind properly, and the latter leak! We bought some cutlery from them to complete a set we had (and to get over the minimum for delivery, haha!) and the knives are so bottom heavy they’re useless too! 🙂

    It was an awkward experience.

  13. Bev says:

    OMG you made my day! Have not laughed that hard in a long time. Thanks for that!

  14. Joe Q. says:

    Conspicuous consumption (which is what places like Ashley’s promote) really just a form of “signalling”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_theory … and it applies to homes and cars just as much as it does to fine china. It’s the human equivalent of a peacock’s tail.

    1. derek says:

      Do you think this applies to Toronto more than anywhere else in Canada?

      In Vancouver you can walk in almost anywhere in shorts and a t shirt, and no one bats an eye lid. Montreal is more laid back other than in Westmount. Kensington market is just about the only place I feel I can relax in over here in Toronto.

      What’s with fur coats to go shopping at the local supermarket? Valet parking at a supermarket?

      1. Joe Q. says:

        It’s all about context and I think you have to be careful not to compare apples and oranges. I’ve lived most of my life in Toronto and have never seen anyone grocery shopping in a fur coat. I can imagine that happening in Yorkville or Rosedale, but those neighbourhoods represent a tiny fraction of the city. Are there not supermarkets with valet parking in Vancouver? Or did you just never shop there?

        I’ve never lived in Vancouver, so I can’t comment on that. I have lived in Montreal, though, and I would hesitate to make a blanket statement about it being more laid-back than Toronto. In some ways it is, in other ways the opposite is true.

        1. derek says:

          Sure, I’m fairly new in Canada (3 years) and am trying to understand the country as a whole. Each province I have lived in and worked in (6 to date) is pretty unique.

          Fur coats are prevalent in the areas you mentioned as well as downtown and just above Lawrence on the Avenue. It’s not really relevant to the topic but it makes me shudder and thought I’d mention it. Re valet parking, you would expect it outside a high end Mall but not a supermarket. I guess the weather is a lot more agreeable out West.
          Westmount and Outremont are areas I rarely visited, they gave me the heebie jeebies.

          1. AndrewB says:

            You must be referring to the horrendous Canada Goose jackets.

      2. Nadine says:

        Toronto is definitely more formal than Montreal.

        I went to my brother’s wedding two summers ago in Montreal (sit-down dinner, evening, downtown), and was horrified to see people wearing jeans. In fact, the bride’s step-mother was wearing these weird parachute pants with a top – fine for a late dinner in trendy restaurant, but out of place for a wedding, in my books.

        When I got married here in Toronto, my brother called me the day before in a panic because his pants had a rip. He asked me if it would be okay if he wore his “dress jeans”. It’s not like I cared really what he wore, but he would be surrounded by men who would all be wearing suits, most of them with ties.

        1. jeff316 says:

          Within the caveat of agreeing with Joe Q’s comment on blanket statements a few posts up, I’d argue that it is possible that at events Torontonians may be more inclined toward formality, but in terms of everyday focus on being well-dressed Montreal is more dressed-up than Toronto.

        2. derek says:

          Montreal is indeed “Special” I was going to start a blog on the strange things I saw on a daily basis. I do have a huge catalogue of photos taken by my work iphone. Montreal had casual peeps and then those that resembled peacocks. The casuals were pretty relaxed.
          Admittedly over a few short sentences blanketing can occur, but my feeling is that in Toronto – even the hipsters or whatever they are known as, try to look laid back and relaxed but they try so damn hard at it. I think this goes back to the original point of the article that pressure is put on us in every department via TV and other media to stand out that people are getting stressed out about it, and of course spending money they don’t have.

  15. Bojangles says:

    I refuse to buy people shit from Ashley’s when they are registered there and I am attending their wedding. They get cash/cheque in a heartfelt card.

    Ashley’s is a tax on stupidity, full stop.

  16. George says:

    Most of this type of thing is centered around the pressure from others to not appear cheap. What it really is a form of classism, and I hate it.

  17. stringy johannsen says:

    I don’t see why you are complaining. This is the market price of luxury goods. This is the societal expectation that you buy these goods at this stage of your life.

    Is the expectation that young people saddle themselves with $500K-$1.5M homes a natural extension or an integral part of what you are talking about? OK, it is a stretch, but I got a “pot calling kettle” vibe reading your well-written piece on RE blog.

    Congratulations, BTW!

    1. jeff316 says:

      Well put. And it goes both ways. This has been a very interesting blog post, largely because of the responses. It is interesting to read the many comments of those who are proud to not shop there as if that feeling is any different from being proud to own one of the 20-grand glass rooster sculptures. It’s all about self-differentiation. Judging the people who shop there is just as bad as judging those who can’t afford to shop there. Either way, it’s snobbery. And none of it really matters.

      1. ScottyP says:

        Hmmm. Never thought of it that way.

        Ah, screw it — William Ashley sucks.

  18. Graham says:

    Rita Zekas at the Toronto Star seems to enjoy William Ashley…

    http://www.thestar.com/life/fashion_style/2012/11/06/william_ashley_intimidating_and_mostly_unaffordable_stealth_shopper.html

    Or not. Note: This article is subject to legal complaint by William Ashley.

    I wonder how long until you get a letter from their lawyers. I know how much you respect those letters. Fire up the shredder.

    1. @ Graham

      What merits did the legal complaint have? That article was nothing more than an opinion piece.

      Letters from lawyers are a joke. At $250/hour, any one of us can send “threatening” letters to anybody we want, for any reason.

      Shredder, indeed.

      1. Graham says:

        Who knows. The Star probably put that note up when they received the “legal complaint” and then forgot about it. I’m pretty sure Rita and the Star’s lawyers aren’t losing any sleep over it.

        Anyway, I enjoyed the Friday rant. Sounds like a place to avoid.

  19. Marina says:

    I went to William Ashley too, at the request of my new in-laws. I walked out after precisely 2 minutes.

    We registered at Mikasa.com for one of their “specials” – china dinner set for 8 people for $200 for the set (NOT per setting)! AND since we do have a huge family, we registered for another set for $250 that also included serving pieces.

    Oh, BTW, William Ashley had the EXACT SAME set – except it was $100 per place setting, and God only knows how much for the serving pieces.

    So for $450, we got 16 place settings and serving pieces – a pleasure that would cost over $1800 at William Ashley.

    For the record, my “stemware” was $16 for 4 classes at Kitchen Stuff Plus. It’s functional, AND when my friend’s toddler broke a glass, I could happily shrug it off and get her another. Now that’s priceless.

  20. AsianSensation says:

    David, your rant is spot on and eerily similar to my own with my a few months ago.
    I wanted Kitchen Stuff Plus, she wanted Crate and Barrel.
    Same stuff, double the cost.

    Drop an ‘N’ into ‘Fiance’ and you’ve got ‘Finance’. Ohhh the irony.

  21. Jeff Norris says:

    You’ve obviously never tried to eat bacon and eggs off a plate without hand-etching and platinum inlay. It’s nearly inedible.

    Seriously, though, I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned it would make sense to spend money on a “cool trip” as opposed to “stuff”. There have actually been studies which have shown that spending money on life experiences provides far more happiness than buying more consumer crap. Here is one example:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/10/happiness.possessions/

  22. Paully says:

    Did you cancel / not-complete the registration? Because it sounds like you should.

    From personal experience, I would suggest that you select a nice, but plain affordable stoneware that can be used for both casual or formal dining. Put out a nice tablecloth, some flowers and bam, you have fancy. We registered at the Bay, got nice simple stoneware and sixteen years of happy marriage later, it still looks great and works great. We don’t have to store some pompous china that we never use. We got one set of nice wine glasses. In fact, the crystal glasses that we chose were actually called “water-goblets” and they look great, are a bit bigger than red or white wine glasses and are perfect, especially given the small amount that we actually use them. They hold all liquids just fine, thank you.

    The whole wedding industry is cruel and makes young people spend way more than they should. The money that a lot of people piss away on a one-day event, would make a nicer down payment on the matrimonial home.

    I like how Dr. Laura says that it is criminal that young couples spend sooooo much time working on the wedding, but often don’t spend nearly enough time working on the marriage!

    1. MM3 says:

      I strongly agree. Go with what you’ll use. And go with something that will be easy to buy extras of in the future after a few plates or bowls break.

      I have a set of fancy china dishes inherited from my grandmother. I’ve moved twice and they’re still in the same packing boxes in the basement. If you can’t microwave it or put it in the dishwasher, it’s too much of a pain to use.

      And if you really do want the fancy stuff, you’d be amazed at how cheap it can be had second hand. There are lots of others who have no use for their grandmothers china now. Same goes for silverware.

  23. derek says:

    Sounds like the kind of place you would not find me dead in. Smacks of the nouveau riche.
    Now, could general principal not be applied to housing? My house is bigger than yours type thing. My house cost x, how much is yours worth?

    As a side line, I was watching a telly programme last night and Mr T from the A team (Yes I am that old) looked decidedly small, compared to the gorillas running around these days. Is this natural? What is the next step!? It’s another sign of insecurity – just like buying 1000 dollar plates.

    1. jeff316 says:

      No, quite the opposite – William Ashley is an old money type of place. Definitely not nouveau riche.

  24. Potato says:

    I can’t imagine — even with familial pressure — going in for that formal diningware scam. People these days don’t have china cabinets to store all that stuff, we’re lucky if our kitchens have the space to accommodate all the regularly-used stuff.

    1. JC says:

      I was going to mention this as well. I inherited some of my moms Mikasa dinnerware. I say some because I didn’t want (or need) all of it, but was damned if one of my siblings was going to get all of it. It’s been under my bed for 10 years. Never used once.

      We live downtown Toronto. Having 4 people over for dinner isn’t going to happen unless we’re on the roof having a BBQ – and I’m unlikely to use Mikasa for that. I suppose it would happen if I had room to sit more than 4 in my “dining area”.

      Seriously, anyone that has had both parents pass away probably shook their head in disbelief at the stuff that needs to be gotten rid of, and what ends up in landfill or places unknown.

      If you’re out shopping for a new construction home, you’ll likely never see a separate living AND dining room – unless you’re up past a lofty price point.

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