Chatterbox’s reader challenge to top doggie perfume as an example of the sort of useless luxury product whose emergence presages worldwide economic depression, bloody revolution, or punishment from God yielded many, many animal-centric responses. Either Slate readers are extremely literal-minded, or luxury items for pets are simply the most decadent consumer goods that an industrial society can produce. A few people wrote in to challenge Chatterbox’s premise–that is, to argue that doggie perfume is a useful product and one that isn’t especially new. Also, a few thick-skinned entrepreneurs wrote in to make sure that their useless luxury items for pets got a plug in Slate (which, Chatterbox is reliably informed, has a very wealthy demographic). We’ll start with the luxury items that aren’t animal-related, because these are what Chatterbox was really looking for:
1) Loafer socks. Jessica Chapel writes:
At $5.50 a pair and available at any high-end mall, these socks are essentially colorful versions of those free nylon feet they give you at shoe stores when you’re trying on shoes.
2) $70,000 turntable. Michael Connelly writes:
It was in the last issue of something like Popular Electronics. … If you had 10,000 records and played them each once on this, that would be only $7 per album.
Prodded to do a bit more research, Connelly reported back that the magazine was actually Stereophile. (Popular Electronics no longer exists. It merged with Electronics Now and was renamed Poptronics.) And as you can see, the price is even higher than Connelly remembered: $73,750.
3) Vegetable pre-wash. Slate editor Michael Kinsley writes:
There’s an ad running on TV for a liquid product–can’t remember the name–you use to PRE-WASH your fresh vegetables before washing them in water. Because water alone may leave residues of … something, and that’s not good enough for YOUR family!
According to Kinsley, Sail Q&S Pre-Pear Produce Wash isn’t what he saw advertised on television, but it appears to be the same sort of product. Note that the Web page fails to show a price for the 8-ounce and half-gallon bottles. You simply can’t place too high a value on cleanliness. [Update, 9/1: The pre-wash advertised on television is Fit, made by Procter & Gamble.]
4) Edible gold leaf. Michael Travers and Ted Mauro both nominated once-austere Japan’s gift to capitalist decadence. Mauro writes:
What could be more decadent than consuming precious metals? What, does it make your bowels sparkle? Do you watch it while it goes down the drain? I think we found one that is worse than the vomitoriumof Ancient Rome.
Actually, if the photo on this beer-lovers’ Web page is to be believed, the vomitorium is still with us. Gold leaf as food dates back to that earlier boom era, the 1980s, but the trend appears still to be going strong. Chatterbox, who has eaten it, found it had no taste at all. Perhaps this adds to its cachet.
5) Video sunglasses. Actually, Kirstie Baker nominated “pretty much anything at eLuxury.com,” but the Olympus Eye-Trek (a steal at $499) struck Chatterbox as particularly destructive to civil society.
And now, for the luxury pet products:
1) Prosthetic testicles for neutered male dogs. Carlton Vogt passed along secondhand knowledge of this. It’s real. Click here to check out the most frequently asked questions regarding Neuticles, which come in five different sizes. (You can also get them for cats, horses, and bulls.)
2) Bow-Wow Bagels. For dogs who keep kosher, apparently. Chatterbox found these on the Web site for Grand-Paws, whose North Carolina proprietors wrote in.
3) Fur coats for dogs. Chatterbox has no moral qualms about keeping Homo sapiens warm with the dead bodies of other animals. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for once, has a point when it argues you shouldn’t kill beavers to make doggies more comfy. Besides, er–don’t dogs have coats of their own? Reader T. Hunt flagged this item. Chatterbox couldn’t get the alleged beaver-killer cited in the PETA press release on the phone, but he did spot this $220 cow-killing suede doggie coat on eLuxury.
4) Louis Vuitton monogrammed dog leash. Also on eLuxury, retailing for a mere $135. Thanks, again, to Kirstie Baker.
5) Doggie aromatherapy oils. Flagged by Sevi Kay, who sells them and offered to send free samples. Chatterbox cannot be bought.
A question for another day is why, when it comes to anthropomorphizing pets, dogs bear a disproportionate share of the humiliation. Maybe it has to do with the craven behavior of dogs–the way they “fake orgasms of affection,” as Ron Rosenbaum puts it in a New York Observer column reprinted in his new book, The Secret Parts of Fortune. (See also Stephen Budiansky’s memorable Atlantic Monthly cover story, “Why Your Dog Pretends To Like You.”) Perhaps more standoffish animals, like cats and hamsters, don’t invite the same pampering.