Thursday, 18 October 2012

Wonders of the modern world, 13: caviar and Apple

Two signs of the time, one in Brent Cross, the other in Primrose Hill. Both food-related, possibly. Both consumption-related, certainly.

Brent Cross. The Apple store. They have taken the prices off everything. You no longer know what you’re in for without asking someone. Once upon a time, toney restaurants had ladies’ menus — ones with no prices on them, to protect laydeez from the stink of commerce or from bothering their pretty heads with finance or relieving them of the anxieties of responsibility.

Now Apple are doing the same. For different reasons and with different motivations, though, I guess. As dedicated brand-builders, they must think it adds to the mystique somehow. If you have to ask, you clearly can’t afford it: that kind of thing. There are no prices in church, after all.

More than ever, as a former Apple-tiser, I feel I’ve wandered into a foreign land, from one of evidence-based conviction to one of faith. I believe therefore I Apple, that kind of thing. Or perhaps, to rephrase Descartes, I think therefore iPhone.

Primrose Hill. A fish shop. My fish shop. Not that it’s been there for that long, just a couple of years, but it was an extremely welcome arrival to an area which was turning into a cafe.

Last time there, though, I noticed a price list on the wall. For caviar. There were four or five different types of caviar, each priced differently. Now, I’ve got nothing against caviar. Some of my best friends are fish eggs . . . Nor have I have anything against the shop. But . . .

Again, I feel like I’m in a strange land. A price list for caviar. I can’t help read it as a symbol that represents consumption. That is, its presence is more a signifier than an actuality. Customers might or might not buy caviar. No one did while I was there. But they — or at least some of them — take succour from living in a world where their local fish shop has a price list for the stuff, on the wall.

No prices at Apple, caviar prices in a local fish shop. Same thing, I guess. Veblen got it right all those years ago. I buy therefore I am.

Bye. Buy.

PS Yes, I know Primrose Hill is not exactly the city’s bleeding edge but, scratch it a little and you can find its own dysfunctions and social issues. Gosh, you know, just the other day, I saw a piece of gum on the pavement.

Next Filthy Argentinians — to Chilean minds anyway.


Lo Jardinier said...

I enjoyed reading this. You could fill another book with the swearing coming from my partner as she batters away against the iMac’s idiosyncrasies –sorry, intuitiveness. Even beyond the curious godless church of Apple – isn’t there something monastic about all that black and white and grey? It’s always successful marketing when they get you to do the opposite of what you think you’re doing: consuming as renunciation, luxury as everyday, pollution as ecology etc

Peter Silverton said...

marketing as renunciation has been around as long as consumption has, i reckon - it's there in greek stuff - tartuffe, too, of course - i'm reminded also of the success of the prius - people trade in perfectly good old cars which put out little pollution except maybe some water in favour of a new car that used a whole load of carbon etc to make - there is evidence prius outsells other hybrids not because it uses less fuel etc but because it looks so restrained - sometimes less is not just more, it's also more expensive - i wonder if someone somewhere is collecting relics of steve - toe nail clippings, bits cut out from his operations etc - it would make a great museum