Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the Myth of Price: Sex and Wine

Eliot Spitzer, the soon-to-be-EX Governor of New York, provides an excellent reminder of the fallacy of "high price equals quality"...

A recent article on MSN provides the story, one which even Freud knew to be true and which still bombards us everyday via marketers who wish to present their product as superior: Charge more for it! (click on the photo for the link)

Where he spent $1,500 and upwards for the "company" of a woman, one has to wonder how much better the experience was than with FIVE $300 Vegas hookers - not that I would know...and I don't intend to get too graphic here, as this blog is about wine...although the similarities in how both products are positioned price-wise is tempting....
No. Must...resist...temptation...!

But really, what was he paying for - exclusivity? I mean a bottle of Chateaux Petrus will run you something in the $1,500 to $2,000 range, and that would be pretty exclusive as they're only 5 glasses worth in each bottle (so around $300 to $400 per glass). That's pretty exclusive. But the only thing exclusive about a hooker is...well...nothing really, by definition anyway...

The placebo effect mentioned in the article clearly demonstrates that price matters to us - subconsciously - and that it then colors the experience as we perceive it.
Could it really make a $20 bottle taste like a $200 bottle, if that's what we paid for it? Probably not, but we might THINK it does when we taste it, and therein lies the power of the price tag.

personally know of a past obscure winery which had several different labels of what was essentially the same wine, but placed in different price tiers. And you know what? The label with the highest price and most upscale presentation almost always sold out faster than the others. It's not a perfect example, because the wines in question were sold in restaurants where people are easily led down the path of price equals quality, and in the higher $$ per plate establishments is where this was reportedly happening. But what was weird was the fact that the wait staff seemed to prefer the higher priced wine when they were tasted through the wines by the distributor. Part of that can be ascribed to the spiel the marketer sold them at that time, but that the impression persisted even after the staff had time to taste the wines on their own later was most impressive. So not surprisingly they would then recommend that wine more often when asked by customers.

This is why I always counsel people starting into the wine tasting world to ignore price and focus on quality as YOU perceive it. This way the "overpriced" average wines that someone is trying to foist on you as quality product are lost in the shuffle if there's a better tasting wine to someone at a lower price.

For my take on Mr Spritzer, my thought is a quote I heard years ago..."there is no virtue so great as to be beyond all temptation."
Sadly that also applies to wine producers, aspirin manufacturers, car companies, etc...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Timely analogy and not without merit. However, one thing Spitzer was paying up for--but ultimately did not receive--was the discretion and "security" of a high-class operation.

March 12, 2008 11:35 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

While that may be true, the way he explicitly discussed "business" with the pimps in the matter (both verbally and via text messages) in a non-secure format is what sunk him.
(see the transcript on the smoking!)

And in an absolute sense, I'm not sure there can really ever be anything like true "discretion" when referring to someone who's affection and attention constantly go to the highest-bidder of the moment. That's part of the fallacy I think....

Thanks for the comment.

March 12, 2008 7:41 PM  
Anonymous whiskeysix said...

By the article's logic, Spritzer did enjoy himself more because he thought he was gettign something classier than he was. Price probably mattered to him, as he wasn't looking for fun on the streetcorners like Hugh Grant was here in LA., so obviously he was looking to go "upscale".

Regarding wine, Yeah, I've fallen into that trap many times in restaurants or been with people who have a certain "minimum" they want to spend on a wine selection.
The first reason is they want the people they're dining with to think the wine is special, and second they think that below a certain price all wines are plonk.

Call it snobbery, or whatever. If they are enjoying it who cares what they paid for it.

March 13, 2008 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Morton Leslie said...

I say, mix up a Spitzer Spritzer (One part Sparkling Catawba and Two parts Marcari Rose) and raise a toast to profession girls everywhere. We only had to listen to him, the poor girls had to service him.

March 18, 2008 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Morton Leslie said...

I say raise a glass of Spitzer Spritzer (One part Sparkling Catawba and Two parts Long Island Rose) and raise a toast to those professional girls. We only had to listen to him, they had to service him.

March 18, 2008 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MSNBC has the following:

"Ah, a new cocktail for bartenders in the Big Apple: The Spitzer Screwdriver: "No. 9" vodka and orange juice with a shot of schadenfreude. On the rocks ... just like his marriage."
MSNBC article


March 21, 2008 8:40 AM  

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