Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why We Need $10,000 Purses

The other day a friend was telling me about her experience with buyers’ remorse. She bought a $900 purse, but the guilt got to her and she returned it. Wait, wait, I confess, she’s not really a friend (no it wasn’t me). This was a random discussion in a group of women brought together by a kid function. Not friends, just acquaintances, but the $900 purse woman is real. Another woman topped that with her a story about her tourist trip to NYC where she observed a shopper spending $10,000 on a purse at Fendi.

Most of us regular people think that both of these women’s purchases were outrageous. But it’s all relative. Did they spend beyond their means? Do they generously give to the betterment of society--in proportion to their wealth? If they can afford it and they are generous then it doesn’t matter.

The $900 purse woman was probably spending beyond her means and not giving such amounts to starving children, thus her guilt. But let’s assume that the $10,000 purse woman never batted an overly mascara laden eyelash at the transaction. Society needs her. We don’t need her to flaunt her gaudy purse at us. We need her for what she shares.

Forbes just published it’s billionaire that lists over 1,000 billionaires in the world. The majority reside in the US, Russia and Germany. I haven’t read the issue yet, so my data is a bit behind but here’s a list of what billionaires gave to charity from 2006.

Bill Gates, $287 million, AIDS vaccine research

T. Boone Pickens, Texas oilman, $165 million to Oklahoma State University's athletic department

Dan Duncan, chairman of energy-services juggernaut Enterprise Products Partners $100 million to Baylor College of Medicine's cancer center

T. Denny Sanford, banking magnate, $70 million to science and engineering

Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, American International Group chief exec, $50 million to Yale scholarships

George Soros, $50 million to fight AIDS and poverty in Africa

Warren Buffett, $31 billion to global poverty, health care and education

Eli Broad, co-founder of KB Home, $25 million to stem-cell research

David Koch, co-owner of privately held energy company Koch Industries, $20 million to New York's American Museum of Natural History

Ron Perelman, leveraged-buyout tycoon, $20 million to culture and arts

Richard Branson, $3 billion to global warming

Oprah Winfrey, $3 million to hurricane relief

So let's not wag our fingers at that woman who treated herself to the gold brick with handles. Instead my acquaintance could have passed her an order sheet for her child's school fundraiser, allowing her an opportunity to fulfill her societal duty and her spending need concurrently.

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