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December 07, 2009

Make me an offer I can't refuse, thou wanton childkiller?

Turns out I am a total sucker for a very specific type of very gendered-specific type of product.


Also turns out that I'm in desperate need for some dissertation motivation. Lou aptly picked up on my mood when she chastened me to "write the damn thing!" Along with other great advice. You're right. I must. Thanks for the talking to! I mean it: thank you. =)

And so I've decided to bribe myself.

I've decided, that is, to purchase a pair of diamond earrings and bestow them upon myself for Christmas if I finish the chapter I've been working on (and the last one before revisions!) by December 24. But only if I also get a spanking good deal on them. Did I? Didn't I? Will I? Won't I?

First, quick background:

I wrote about a similar endeavor here last year, when I embarked on a day long bargaining adventure at a local mall in hopes of obtaining a superior discount on a pair of superlative studs. The best I got was $120 off of a pair of $1200 earrings. I replied I'd think about it, and she suggested that if I returned she might give me an even better break.

For moral, financial and aesthetic reasons, I passed. I've never been into spending large sums of discretionary income on anything other than travel. I've never had a mass-produced or conventional kind of aesthetic. I've never been one to savor the thought of children perishing in Congolese mines.

After giving up on the design, I interrogated myself about why I so desired this. Was I foolishly asserting my 'female consumer autonomy' while falling into the same trap as those who shell out thousands for right hand rings? (Undoubtedly.) Was I attempting to give myself an allure of bourgeois stateliness when I am but a grad student with an affinity for alliteration? (Possibly.) Was it just a case of covetousness: several of my friends have such earrings, and perhaps that's where this wish came from? (I doubt that.) Was I attempting to plug into the aesthetic of an era when things were more codified, more glamorous, more stylish, easier to decipher but undoubtedly less favorable for intellectual, ambitious young women? (Very much so, I'm afraid.)

Sobered by these considerations, I forgot about the whole cursed project.

And then, when I was in Nice this spring with my mother, I noticed something winking at me from across a darkened terrace as we were eating, I recall, a platter of mediocre fried calamari. Diamonds, on a woman about 10 years older than me. Her hair seemed soft yet crisp, cut two or so inches below her shoulders, her was neck slender, and she was completely unadorned, save for her glimmering earrings.

I confessed to my mom I was still pining after them, or the idea of them, and she congratulated me for having abstained.

"You don't need diamond studs, honey. It's all marketing. If you really want to invest in a good piece of jewelry, get something unique, antique, something that really reflects you. Not studs. Those are a dime a dozen. Believe me, please. You already have a pair of earrings from your grandma. Those are more special than anything you could find in a store. Anyway, I'm glad you passed."

I sighed the sigh of righteousness and put it out of my mind.

And then, yesterday morning, I woke up with one thought: me want sparkly sparkles!

I did some rapid research online and found out that Macy's was discounting a pair from $2,400 to $800. Which brings us to

Diamond Quest the Second

First stop: Macy's.

The fine jewelry section was empty, and I had all three of the women working there helping me. It didn't do much good, because they didn't recognize the promotion I mentioned, and when I showed it to them on my cell phone the said they don't offer the online prices in the store. The manager did dig out a pair of that had the same original price and did some hocus pocus on a calculator, and said the lowest she could go was $1400. Period.

I left.

Second stop: Zales.

It was just a little busier than Macys.

The moment I stepped in I could tell I had been 'claimed' by two young men. One was very courteous and made steady eye contact. The other wore a thick gold chain under a shirt that had one too many buttons opened and his every gesture announced "compensating."

Every time his underling attempted to answer my questions or show me some earrings, the compensator helpfully enhanced or otherwise drew out the answer.

Underling: "Maybe you want to try these on. They're 3/4 carats total weight, but you'll get a much better quality for the price with this clarity, compared to the bigger ones. If we factor in the seasonal discount, they're also within your budget."

Compensator: "Show her the 1.25 carats. Those are nice and big. She'll want to see those."

I felt obliged to cut in.

"I'm here because I'm curious if you can beat this price." I took out my cell phone and showed them the Macy's earrings. "Those are $800. Discounted from $2,400. 1 carat total weight. Do you have any similar promotions?"

The Compensator made his pitch.
"Well, if you buy from Zales, for only $85 you can get the lifetime protection plan, which would allow you to trade in your diamonds any time for an upgrade. Right now this is what you can afford, but one day you may decide you want something bigger. Plus, if you have the plan and they chip or crack we will replace them."

"You mean I should expect your diamonds to chip?"

"It happens. Not if you drop them. Like, if something violent or crazy happens."

"Well if something that crazy happens that close to my cranium, I think the diamonds will be the least of my worries."

Turns out they don't have any dazzling discounts, and no upcoming sales. (So they claimed.)

I left.

Third Stop: Macy's.

Not the same one, but in a neighboring mall. I sensed the first store was a fluke and another Macy's might honor the online promo. Indeed, when I walked in I saw the $799 sale advertised loud and proud, on a little red sign next to an array of tiny bright white dots. Oh yeah, they were diamonds.

A saleswoman showed me a couple stones and together we inspected them under the light, to find the best possible pair.

"Your first diamonds! How exciting!" the woman said. "You'll wear them all the time, with jeans or a special night out!"

This time, it was my turn to make a pitch.

"They're amazing. I never thought this day would come. I've been saving up for them for so long!" Pause. "Is there anything you can do to get the price down a little more? Are there any other promos I'm not aware about, or some special magic you can do?"

"Are you my friend?"

"Excuse me?"

"Are you my friend? Say yes."


"Then you get the friends discount. That's 25% off of the sale price."

"Really!? Awesome!"

"And if you want to save even more, here's what you should do: open a Macy's card."

I did the math: It would come out to $120 off.

Getting 20 percent off a pair of diamond studs is a step up from the free Disney towel I received for opening a Visa card five years ago.

And that is how I ended up with a pair of gorgeous earrings, if I do say so myself, for under $500!

It still strikes me as odd that I would desire them, and that these sales teams would go through elaborate rituals -- 'friendship' discounts, upgrade and warranty contracts -- all so that their aspiring clients may participate in the even more elaborate construction of female middle class identity. We purposefully forget: how the rocks were obtained, how much of our monthly incomes they swallowed, how very obedient we are.

Anyway, I have to run. There's a chapter I need to finish. Because Mr. A promised to hide the earrings for me until I finish it, and I want them back. Bad.
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