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#87 - Doormen

#87 - Doormen

Doormen
Price: Confused By Push Signs

If you are like me you grew up in a city where people learned how to do things for themselves. In places like Winnipeg it means knowing how to dress for sub-zero temperatures throughout the year. Native Australians can protect themselves from kangaroos, great white sharks and hide their offspring from wily dingoes. Meanwhile, growing up in Mumbai teaches people to effectively operate a call center or program in C+ without the need to outsource this skill to other countries. The rich, unlike those without money, don’t take kindly to having to perform tasks themselves. Menial annoyances like blow drying their hair, cleaning their home, landscaping their estates, looking after their own offspring or sculpting their good looks can all be delegated to under-appreciated professionals…opening doors is no different.

We are all familiar with the difficulties that opening doors can pose. There is the tiresome task of finding one’s keys and the mentally exhausting struggle of push vs. pull. This may be simple to you but you likely are not rich and cannot understand the challenge that ingress conventions cause. As such they look to others to solve the wealthy equivalent of Schrödinger’s cat. Interestingly, while most everyone that works for the rich is at the beck and call of those with ample Ben Franklins in their Prada wallet, the doorman is a special breed of help. Equal parts security, concierge, confident, sycophant, gossip snitch and stanch union member the doorman can make a tenant feel welcome or thoroughly ignored. While the rest of the world world bows to the fancies of the wealthy, even agreeing with a milkaholic’s whimsical dream of launching a clothing line, an NYC doorman is protected by the Local 32BJ and needs not bow to the fickleness of the upper crust. In fact, if the right of the doorman to deliver sardonic humor and unsolicited advice to their pedigreed counterparts is compromised swift strike action is threatened which throws the city into turmoil. The result of this unlikely relationship is that the doorman is privy to Upper East Side indiscretions, SoHo secrets and Tribeca trysts.

Naturally, if you would like to wriggle your way into the lives of the fabulously wealthy a doorman may represent Prometheus waiting to share the secrets of the Gods. While discretion is the better part of valor, if gossip columnists can break these vaults of secrecy surely you can find a way to eke out a sound bite or two and gain familiarity with their wealthy patrons’ likes and dislikes. Perhaps the couple in 15B enjoys the thrill of meeting new people over Manhattans and dinner at a Gramercy Tavern barstool on Tuesdays while 12D loves sailing in the Maldives and 14C has a weakness for custom oxfords from John Lobb on Madison. If you can’t turn these nuggets into sparkling conversation over grilled sturgeon there is no hope for you to impress the well-heeled. Succeed and there may be enough wind in your sails to solicit an invitation to enjoy lunch in a stunning co-op overlooking Central Park in spring. Land ho you scallywag.

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#83 - Flying First Class

#83 - Flying First Class

Flying First Class
Price: Your First Born, Their Pocket Change

Flying isn’t natural. As they say, “If God had meant you to fly he would have given you wings”, Icarus learned this the hard way. Of course, when they said this, they were probably referring to economy class where the masses are crammed into uncomfortable seats with sweaty, broad shouldered, obese individuals who want to talk to you about their 2-star vacation or persistent skin rash that is likely contagious. If this situation is the bookend to your holiday or business trip, you are probably inclined to agree that mankind is better off on terra firma. While the rich certainly prefer the comforts of a private jet, when push comes to shove, a lie-flat seat with noise-reducing headphones, personal media players, fine dining, full bar and a curtain to separate you from the plebs makes commercial flights tolerable.

For the masses that feel they have won the lottery because they managed to “score” a seat in an emergency exit row, there is a belief that the seats on the other side of the curtain are prohibitively expensive because of the roominess and luxury. Rich people know that, while 40” of seat pitch is comfortable, the real reason to sit in first class is that one does not have to associate with people that can’t afford the finer things in life. After all, the food, personalized service and comfort are table stakes in the lives of the wealthy. First class seating is one of the few places that legitimize class segregation, making it extremely attractive to the rich. Having a boarding pass that reads 2B with a flute of champagne in hand is a wonderful reminder that while money can’t buy happiness, it can help you choose your misery which does not include spending time with individuals who think a timeshare is a good investment.

Naturally, if you want to make good with the wealthy the first option is to secure yourself a seat in first class. This can be done in a few ways; buck up for the extra few thousand dollars every time you fly, try to sweet talk the ticketing agent into upgrading you on every flight or start sleeping with a flight attendant. Of course, if you could pull off the latter two options with any level of consistency, you would likely already be on the road to success and riches and able to execute on option A. As back-up,the art of conversation to kick start a discussion with your wealthy counterpart will work wonders. Give your new friend an opportunity to dazzle you with their in-flight experience. Use informed inquiry about flying Emirates or United’s P.S. service while jet setting between the left and right coast and sit back and listen. Make this work and you may never have to hear the question “fish or chicken” again. Enjoy the friendly skies!

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#80 - Rare Books

#80 - Rare Books

Rare Books
Price: Disdain For Big Bookstores

James Bryce, nineteenth century British politician, diplomat and historian, said “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” Bryce was referring to knowledge, ideas and imagination. These are all well and good if you are a card-carrying member of the public library but to the rich, books represent culture, sophistication and a civilized acquisition. Visit homes of the wealthy and you will discover beautiful libraries that prominently display first edition classics bound in leather, steeped in tradition and occasionally encased in glass. To the uninformed it may appear that the rich are voracious readers, but the books are too valuable to read. So they must be great investments, but they mean too much to sell. What then is the rationale for books you can’t open and objects you won’t part with?

Rare books reflect an owner’s interests and measure how stimulating one’s host is without having to engage in conversations that may betray their depth of literary understanding. Guests are expected to unquestionably accept that rare book collections accurately represent an owner’s knowledge and taste. Shelves displaying Twain, Verne, London and Kipling show a sense of adventure that may manifest itself through sailing or drinking tap water while abroad. Libraries housing biographies of NASCAR drivers and paperbacks made into Hollywood films likewise speak volumes about your host. Think of this like perusing your friend’s iPod and finding nothing but Yanni, Vanilla Ice and John Tesh or looking through your boyfriend’s DVD collection and discovering Mariah Carey concerts and Patrick Dempsey films…it says a lot about them; they will never be in charge of entertainment and likely require therapy.

To capitalize on rich people’s love of rare books requires little more than the ability to act impressed with their collection. The trick is to let them do all the talking which will leave them feeling that you are an exceptional conversationalist. Starting their monologue is as simple as saying, “This is an extraordinary collection, which book is your favorite?” By nodding attentively and occasionally interjecting a well-timed “how fascinating”, your host will impart a surface level knowledge of their collected literary works of genius. As a warning, the worst thing you can do in this situation is to flex your own literary muscle as a means to impress. Asking their thoughts on “Hemmingway’s unique ability to convey themes through a succinct writing style that mirrors life” is more likely to result in the sound of crickets than an invitation to join them for an afternoon on the yacht. Likewise, mentioning that your father has collected every copy of Soldier of Fortune magazine published since 1987 is also unlikely to impress and may be perceived as a veiled threat culminating in an introduction to Rambo, their personal protection German Shepherd. Should you make it past the aforementioned hurdles, rare books are outstanding cocktail banter and an opportunity to tantalize and arouse those with literary leanings; little is as stimulating to book lovers as discussing the rising action, climax and denouement of a classic novel. Good luck and Godspeed!

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#79 - Black Credit Cards

#79 - Black Credit Cards

Black Credit Cards
Price: Compulsive Spending

Every month Americans buy a few thousand dollars worth of toys ranging from plasma TVs to designer handbags. These are important to the average person because they symbolize another step towards achieving their five year plan one luxury item at a time. Thanks to the magic of financing and low APRs, these same people pay only a small percentage of what they charged to their credit card, roll over the remainder and promise themselves that they will pay off the balance next month. That might be true if it weren’t for the semi-annual sale at Neiman Marcus or the twenty dollar Crate & Barrel gift card that morphed into a new couch, throw, cushions, coffee table and rug for 40% off, justified by the personal promise to take lunch to work and only drinking one latte a day for the next six months! As a result the average household carries about $8,000 in credit card debt. For the rich, things are a little different. A black, invite-only credit card is a subtle, yet effective, plastic symbol of status and success and like they say, “once you go black you’ll never go back.”

Depending on the card, the wealthy consumer elite are invited to apply for a black, sometimes carbon woven, card that offers numerous benefits that an average Visa, MasterCard or American Express just can’t provide. These include concierge services, personal assistants, financial solutions, airline and hotel upgrades, personal shopping services and while you won’t find it listed in the Benefits Booklet, using a Visa Black Card or American Express Centurion card in any retail establishment means rich people are greeted with “I want to know you” eyes by stunning men and women who would gladly accompany them to the Waldorf for lunch. Ultimately, this is why exclusive, invite-only cards were created. They are the 21st century equivalent of smoking cigars indoors and wearing jewel encrusted pinky rings and tie clips. For rich people, the concurrent introduction of anti-smoking legislation and the ability to flash exclusive credit cards meant not having to accessorize their outfits to showcase their outlandish wealth although ascots remain remarkably popular.

For the average person, there isn’t a hope in hell that they will ever meet the criteria for garnering such an exclusive piece of hologram embossed ABS plastic card. For starters, only 1% of Americans have a black card and the Centurion, as an example, requires spending in the range of $250,000 per year after the $5,000 one-time fee and $2,500 annual fee! Fortunately, there are numerous ways to creatively clear these hurdles; the simplest solution is the DIY method. Materials required; one can transparent black spray paint, one credit card, one roll transparent tape and one copy of the Wall Street Journal although any daily newspaper will suffice. Lay the card on top of the paper and spray one coat of paint every thirty minutes until your card appears invite-only black. Flip card, apply tape to the magnetic strip and signature area and repeat. In no time you will be using your homemade black card and well on your way to impressing your wealthy friends. As a warning, if you plan to use your new black card as a retail pick-up line, check the return policy before  impressing the well proportioned clerk at Saks by purchasing that Rolex and asking her to dinner. While membership does have its privileges, faking it will do in a pinch!

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#75 - Prenuptial Agreements

#75 - Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements
Price: Ask Tiger Woods

If you find yourself entering a state of eternal bliss with the man or woman you will forever love, life is rose petals and champagne kisses. Should you find yourself sitting across from that same person in a room full of divorce lawyers and bankers you know what marriage looks like after it has been beaten with the ugly stick. That is, unless you entered the union with a little insurance policy called a prenuptial agreement.  Rich people love prenuptial agreements even more than they love custom shoes and trophy wives because it kills two birds with one stone; first they can rest assured that their fortune is safe in the event that their union “goes south” and upon their untimely demise their remaining fotune will pass to the Swiss accounts of their heirs.

For many people, the thought of a prenuptial is despicable since love conquers all. Knowing that divorce is Latin for bludgeoning a man with his own wallet, there are a few problems with this train of thought. First, people who think this way likely don’t have any assets, think their Rock & Republic jeans are an asset and despite living their lives by the wise words of Deep Purple, have forgotten that all is fair in love, war and banking. For those that do know how far the smitten can fall when the heart grows absent, there is nothing wrong with asking the love of one’s life to sign on the X, initial here, initial here and sign there. With a few strokes of the pen, both man and wife have shown that their love transcends money and that they truly have fallen for each other’s hearts rather than their numbered accounts.

The most successful way to befriend the wealthy when it comes to prenuptials is to indicate that you asked your mate to sign one, have signed one yourself or share a story about calling off an engagement when your true love was incensed at the thought of drawing up such an agreement. This works on many levels, most important it shows that you have a fine head on your shoulders and have amassed enough wealth that a prenuptial is sensible. If possible, poke fun at the one person in the room without such an agreement in place by offering them half a cigar or half a drink. Expect chortles and mumbled guffaws as most rich people have forgotten how to laugh or their Botox treatment restricts smiling. From here you can engage in scintillating conversation around custom tailoring, an analysis of intertemporal tradeoffs in macroeconomic policy or which model of Maserati is most appropriate for the children leaving for boarding school.

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#71 - Professional Blow Drying

#71 - Professional Blow Drying

Professional Blow Drying
Price: A Keratin Intervention

A notable difference between upper class fabulous and soccer mom drab is perfect hair. While men are oblivious to their better half’s new hairstyle, all women know to the minute how long it has been since a member of the sisterhood has had her hair professionally washed and blow dried. For most, working or tending to the children gets in the way of paradisiacal hair; for the wealthy a trust fund or a sugar daddy, a nanny, a housekeeper, a chauffeur and a personal chef keep responsibilities to a minimum providing ample time to stay perfectly coiffed. The rich do face a conundrum of sorts; given that hair grows approximately 4mm per day it is hardly justifiable to dip into the salon for a daily trim. Fortunately, the geniuses at the Global Council for Beautiful Hair, a lesser division at the UN, deemed it appropriate to sanction salons that offer professional blow drying for roughly the same fee as leasing a BMW.

Daily “wash and blows” are a godsend for the rich and a potential addiction although they will claim that they really can stop anytime. Not to be confused with a rub and tug, these niche salons are a destination for sophisticated women and remarkably flamboyant men hell bent on flawless hair. The artists that operate these luxury in-and-outs are seasoned veterans that have delivered countless blow jobs and therefore have an aptitude for delivering style that far exceeds even the most accomplished trophy wife. It isn’t only experience that plays into the equation; these experts save the taxing, physical strain of blow drying one’s own hair. The wealthy know how tiring it is to point air straight down the shaft when operating a blow dryer. Thanks to the hair-dressing equivalent of clean-shaven or lightly bearded blond Jesus, the couture flock is provided for and such exertion is a distant memory.

By now, you should be asking how this can help you befriend the fabulously wealthy. An invitation to the blow-and-go is simplicity at its finest. If you face resistance, tell them you have always envied their style and would love their advice on your hair. In a hop, skip and a jump you’ll be racing to the salon district in their freshly waxed Bentley. There are of course other benefits that these salons provide. The sheer volume of the blow dryer will make it impossible to hear your wealthy companion wax on about their most recent “hardship” but the absence of scissors makes it safe to nod attentively as though you can understand every important word they are saying! The blow dryer will mask their hot air, they will appreciate your attentiveness and in thirty minutes you will look and feel fabulous with your new BFF. Cappuccino anyone?

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#70 - Personal Chefs

#70 - Personal Chefs

Personal Chefs
Price: Saving the gratuity

If you are like most people, you know that dinner can be as simple as boiling water, opening a box of macaroni, adding milk and butter then mixing orange powder to creamy perfection. At worst, choosing fancy ketchup is as complicated as any meal gets. Sadly, rich people do not have the luxury of simple meals. They must choose a restaurant that is posh, exclusive and on the cusp of becoming trendy. While menus are often ignored, it is important that the restaurant be well-stocked with obscure ingredients so the chef can begrudgingly whip up their wealthy patron’s fanciful whim. All this is complicated by choosing the right car from the fleet in the garage and deciding whether the chauffeur will accompany them. If this sounds like a nightmare, you are not alone and it is the reason that 4 out of 5 rich people recommend retaining a personal chef at their estate.

If you have watched Hell’s Kitchen you already know that ego and incredible kitchen skills go hand-in-hand. It may be a surprise to learn that personal chefs are a special breed of culinary genius; they are talented and patient. Without these key ingredients the chef is as useful to the rich as a mistress with herpes. Fortunately, while money can’t buy happiness it can help choose one’s misery and there are plenty of suitable ginsu masters ready to create mouthwatering menus. They endeavor to provide the wealthy with the nourishment needed to lounge poolside and inform their broker about how to do his job.

Of course, just because rich people have a personal chef is no reason for David Chang and his staff at Momofuku Ko to press the panic button. Rich people will still dine out but knowing that they don’t have to is a paradigm shift. Now, when the hostess at Masa or I Sodi informs that there is a three week wait the wealthy can set aside andger and resentment, casually accept the reservation and enjoy homemade coniglio in padella in the comforts of their quaint 7,000 square foot residence in the Hamptons thanks to their chef’s outstanding talents. Just be sure that the only sampling going on in the kitchen is related to the meal! It would be a shame to have to choose between one’s spouse and one’s chef…good help can be so hard to find. Bon appétit!

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