RIP Coupons

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Felix Salmon: This Ad Free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.

Felix Salmon: Hello and welcome to the R.i.p Coupons episode of Slate Money. Your Guide to the Business and Finance News of the Week. I’m Felix Salmon of Axios. My colleague Emily Peck is also here.

Speaker 2: Hello. Hello.

Felix Salmon: Elizabeth Spiers is also here. Hello, Elizabeth. Have you used a coupon recently?

Speaker 3: No, not. Not and not since I was in college.

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Felix Salmon: Have you bought anything on sale recently?

Speaker 3: Yes.

Felix Salmon: This is what we’re going to talk about, the move away from coupons and towards things being on sale, partly because there’s more inventories, which we’ll talk about in the slate. Plus, we’re going to also talk about Jean-Michel Basquiat fakes because, you know, I’m an art market geek, so I love talking about that kind of thing. There was a font angle and we’re going to talk about the implications of the Roe versus Wade overturning at the Supreme Court. It’s all coming up on Slate. Money. Last week, we had an amazing episode with Steph and Al all about skyscrapers, which was great, but it did mean that we couldn’t talk about the big news of the week, which was the Roe versus Wade overturning by the Supreme Court. And I’m kind of glad that we waited a week on this one because, Emily, you’ve basically been spending the past week actually reporting this story, and you can answer all of my questions on this.

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Speaker 2: Uh, well, so the Supreme Court overturned the federal constitutional right to abortion, and the news is moving really quickly and states are reacting and different all different kinds of ways. So I can answer some of your questions, Felix but some questions are quite literally not answerable at the moment. Only time will tell.

Felix Salmon: So let’s start with the ones that we can on. So at least I hope that we can answer. There’s been a lot of talk about. Big companies who self-insure and they’re preempted by federal regulations. And so basically, if they want to keep on covering abortion as health care coverage, they can do so. But for smaller companies who actually buy health insurance from health insurers, that’s not the case in the states where abortion has now been outlawed, was about to be outlawed. Those companies now no longer offer abortion as part of their health insurance. In fact, they’re not allowed to. Am I right about that?

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Speaker 2: I mean, it’s a really crazy I’m going to use the word crazy. It’s a really convoluted landscape. Broadly speaking, with health insurance, you already mentioned big companies. Most of the Fortune 500, if not all the Fortune 500 is self-insured, meaning they like pay the cost of health care for their employees and then they just outsource the benefits management, but they’re actually paying for it. And that means the federal government is in charge of regulating them so they can go ahead and pay for abortion coverage. And many of them do. They’re not out there advertising it, although some have made these big statements that they’ll pay for abortion travel. And that’s a whole other can of worms that I’ve reported on.

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Speaker 2: Okay. So then shifting to the smaller businesses that you mention, Felix, that actually just buy insurance and are more closely regulated by the states. Most of those states already had laws in place prohibiting insurance companies from covering abortion. So the short answer is, I don’t know if a lot of small businesses have made a big change lately. They probably do what they do already. And I suspect, though I have not nail this down, that many probably weren’t covering abortion and that the bigger picture is you might hear all these companies making great statements like Tesla or Facebook or Amazon saying they’ll pay for abortion travel. No, no, no, no, no. But at the end of the day, one study found 69% of women are getting abortions and paying out of pocket for them. So the insurance piece really doesn’t matter.

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Felix Salmon: Because those women tend not to work for big companies with benefits and they just don’t have employer provided health insurance anyway. Or is it because, as you said, in many states, small employers who buy insurance aren’t even allowed to provide that?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think it’s because most people who get abortions are low income and are probably covered by Medicaid if they have insurance at all. It’s probably Medicaid. And in most states, Medicaid isn’t going to cover your abortion because the Hyde Amendment, which is a federal law, prohibits federal money being used to pay for abortions. A few states override that and pay for the abortion care of state coffers. But tldr if you’re a low income women, you’re not going to be able to get health insurance that covers abortion. You weren’t able to before and you certainly aren’t going to be able to now. Does that make sense?

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Felix Salmon: It does. It sounds to me like in terms of, you know, health care and access to care, kind of not much has changed on the sort of overnight basis in terms of what’s covered. What has changed is just like whether there are abortion clinics in your state that are open.

Speaker 2: Yes. And I guess what’s changed those announcements from the companies saying, you know, we’ll cover the travel benefits and things like that. But I think that is marginal considering how many women get this care without insurance anyway. And another thing maybe that’s changed is the calculus that employers are making when they consider whether or not to offer this coverage because soon, you know, there could be potentially the lawyers I spoke to, really no one knows anything. Don’t think that anyone knows anything. But it’s not clear, like employers could be criminally liable for aiding and abetting care in some of these states. Texas legislators have already threatened, like Lift, for example, and any other company doing the travel benefit, you know, paying for women to go out of state to get care. So I think there is a little bit of fear, too. And I’m very curious what Elizabeth has to say.

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Speaker 3: Yeah, well, I remember, you know, we talked about this when the Texas ban went into effect and Citibank said they were going to pay for travel if employees needed an abortion. But, you know, now you’re really going to see the systemic effects of this. And there are a lot of cases where you need an abortion because you’re having a medical emergency, an ectopic pregnancy, your personal abruption, in which case being able to go out of state to travel is sort of irrelevant because you need to get care immediately or you could die. So I feel like when the Texas ban went into place, it was part of, you know, Citigroup trying to reassure employees who were based there that, you know, they were prepared for what was going to happen. But, you know, it’s clear now that I don’t think anybody really knows.

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Speaker 2: I saw some sort of like cynical takes that were like, well, companies are offering these travel benefits so they can stay where they are. In other words, the more extreme thing to do if a law like a Texas law gets passed in your city by. Or Tesla is say, well, we’re out of here. We’re not we’re not going to stay in the state anymore. It’s not safe for women. But instead, you know, they’re doing this travel benefit. I think that’s really a cynical way of looking at it. And I don’t know, I’m cynical, but I’m not that cynical. But there is a question like, if you’re an employer, are you going to have your female employees travel to a state like Texas? What if they’re pregnant? What if you don’t even know they’re pregnant and something happens and they need care and they can’t access it in these states?

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Speaker 3: Dick’s Sporting Goods said that they would pay for abortion travel. And somebody tweeted, You know, if you’re working at Dick’s Sporting Goods, how horrible is it that you might have to tell your manager that you need an abortion?

Felix Salmon: Is that necessary? I mean, again, we don’t know what the protocols and we don’t know, like, whether you need to tell your manager, whether you need to tell each other, whether it can all be done through the health insurance company. All of this is a big question mark and the big unknown, I think.

Speaker 2: For the travel benefit up to a certain amount that can be handled through the insurance provider and you can have a relative expectation of privacy. If the money they reimburse you for exceeds a certain amount, then that might be handled as income. So then more people inside your company are going to know that you did it, if that makes sense. So it really depends on how much money you’re going to spend on the travel. I think you probably can have some expectation of privacy in a larger company to just say, like, I need two days off and you don’t have to say why.

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Felix Salmon: And you mentioned about sending people to states. This is the other thing that people have been talking about a lot, what happens to in-person conferences in these states and people mentioned South by Southwest a lot, which I just noticed is having a conference in Sydney, Australia, which might be a harbinger of things to come. You know, I mean, conferences do move, right. The big web summit conference moved from Dublin to Lisbon. It is not inconceivable. The conferences, you know, who don’t want attendees to put themselves at risk if they happen to be pregnant will just move, especially out of states like Texas.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think South by Southwest had said after the SBA law was passed, they made a statement like they don’t like the law, but they’re going to stay in Texas and fight or something like that. And I don’t think they’ve said anything about the Supreme Court case yet, but it does seem like a natural question to ask.

Felix Salmon: I guess the reason I’m going down this road is because I’m trying to work out like, where are the first ripple effects and consequences of this in the business world that we’re likely to see? You know, is there going to be something visible or is the counterfactual going to be so unknowable that we’ll never really know how much of an effect this had?

Speaker 3: I think it’s going to be visible pretty quickly because people are going to die, especially in larger companies. The likelihood that somebody you know is affected by it is pretty high. If you’re in one of these states.

Felix Salmon: Let’s just run that forwards a bit. So let’s say that happens and you’re in one of these states and you know someone who, you know, dies or you’re an employer in one of those states or one of your employees dies, are you saying that is going to be a sort of forcing mechanism of that that is going to end up forcing companies to move out of state or something like that?

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Speaker 3: I think it could. I think if they begin to view it as a real liability to be in those states, I think the incentives to relocate parts of your company are pretty high.

Felix Salmon: So when you say you think that we’re going to see these effects pretty quickly, like I’m going to sort of like push you for a prediction. What kind of effects do you think within what kind of time frame are we going to see?

Speaker 3: I think it’s going to be more of a gradual response. You know, when people when recruiters began finding that, you know, women who they want to recruit are telling them, you know, I can’t relocate to Texas because it’s Texas and I’m childbearing age. I think eventually those things are going to filter into corporate policy.

Speaker 2: I actually don’t think so. I think most of the places where you’re going to see abortion, you know, outright banned or even more severely restricted, had already made it really hard to get abortions. There was one clinic in Mississippi right before this ruling, and now that clinic is going to close. It was already there are a lot of these trap laws that made it really hard to get access to care. And women were working in all of these places already. And in a way, it’s not much is going to change for a lot of women in a lot of those places.

Speaker 2: And I think the long term effects, too, like women’s labor force participation, might be interesting to watch, but I think that’s going to take time to sort of roll out, you know, over the years and a lot of places in the United States are already really hostile to women. Women get fired for being pregnant or their jobs are made so uncomfortable they wind up leaving for getting pregnant or they don’t get paid leave or I mean, I don’t know, like it’s already a pretty hostile environment. So I don’t see how this. Causes some kind of like corporate sea change, except for it might make companies more reluctant to cover certain benefits. But that’s, again, like at the margins, because most women aren’t using those benefits to get this kind of care anyway. You know what I mean?

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Speaker 3: Yeah. But I think this also affects other types of care that are sort of adjacent to repro rights. And the courts have said or Thomas has said that he is interested in going after contraception next. I don’t think that this is the end of what’s going to happen.

Felix Salmon: I will go on the record saying there’s no way anyone who’s banning contraception, that’s just not going to happen. You can have a whacko Catholic on the Supreme Court, but the fact is that these laws, these anti-abortion laws are all promulgated by Protestants, not by Catholics and Protestants. Don’t give a shit about contraception.

Speaker 3: Well, I hope you’re right. But, you know, go back to Emily’s point about abortion clinics in the emergency situations that I’m describing. You’re not going to an abortion clinic to get an abortion if you have an ectopic pregnancy. When Roe was still in existence, there would be no debate about whether you would be treated. And now, because the rules are unclear and there’s new liability for medical professionals who do perform abortions, you know, even a delay can be the difference between life and death. So I think that has some ripple effects that we’re not really prepared for.

Speaker 2: Yeah, maybe. But at the corporate level, though.

Speaker 3: I don’t know, I think at a societal level and I think that does filter into corporate life to some extent.

Felix Salmon: To some extent. But I look at Poland, you know, which has banned abortion in a very extreme way and has caused deaths and is, you know, causing a major societal upheaval. And I’m not sure how much that those ripple effects have made their way into Polish corporations.

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Speaker 3: Well, I’ll be the the alarmist. I think it’s going to be bad.

Felix Salmon: Let’s switch gears here, Emily. You found a wonderful story about coupons.

Speaker 2: Yes, I discovered an obscure publication known as The New York Times.

Felix Salmon: Oh, my hometown newspaper.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Your local rag. Yeah. A wonderful story by Lydia DePillis about coupons and their decline over the years. They were declining in use before the pandemic, and the pandemic seems to have really nail in the coffin for these things. The percentage of people who redeem coupons has gone from 3.5%, 2.5%. There’s less, I think. Felix has a chart. He did you run the chart?

Felix Salmon: Let me just be a bit more clear on that statistic. It’s not the percentage of people who redeem coupons. It’s the percentage of coupons that are redeemed. Back in the eighties, if you’re a supermarket and you printed out a bunch of coupons, you would expect about three and a half percent of those coupons to get redeemed. About five or six years ago, that was about 1%, and now it’s about half a percent. So the benefit to you as a supermarket of even printing the coupons has been evaporating because so few of them ever get cashed in. And so then you just stop printing them and it becomes this sort of death spiral. So yeah, we’re down to like a mere 159 billion coupons a year, meaning they’re going to die. But it’s going to take a minute.

Felix Salmon: But yeah, it used to be a massive business. There used to be this huge subsidiary of News Corp called News America. This is the Rupert Murdoch company. You know, everyone knows about Fox News and The New York Post and that kind of thing. But the most profitable part of his empire was News America, which was the company that printed coupon inserts, and that was just a license to print money until it wasn’t.

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Speaker 2: I love that part of the story of the decline of coupons is the rise of women in the workforce, which I can connect back to our first segment because with abortion illegal, there’ll be fewer women in the workforce. So perhaps that will bring back the coupon. But essentially when there were more stay at home mothers, they had more time to like clip the coupons, save the coupons, remember to bring the coupons with them when they go to the store. But the economist that Lydia quotes in her piece are saying, you know, people just want no friction. They don’t want to be bothered with coupon clipping. They just want to get to the store, get their stuff and get out.

Felix Salmon: This is the thing that Lydia didn’t get into. And I really want to find that the friction is the point, right? The whole point of coupons is that they’re a pain in the ass that you have to, like, read the fliers and clip the coupons and hand them over and annoy the people behind you in line and all of that kind of stuff. You make it deliberately difficult for people so that the people who are relatively price insensitive don’t bother doing it, and the people who otherwise wouldn’t buy that product end up buying that product. So you wind up selling extra product to the people who wouldn’t otherwise buy it, but you wind up not giving the discount to the people who would otherwise buy it. If there is no friction, there’s no point in having a coupon. It’s just like you may as well just discount the price.

Speaker 3: I agree with that. But I think, you know, some of the shift is just that people have been acculturated into, you know, a sort of digital environment where they get everything instantly and don’t have to make very much effort. My mom was a prolific coupon clipper and she was the kind of person who would remember if she had a five cent off coupon that was 30 years old and she’d dig it out of a drawer. And for her it was like, you know, part of it was this is just built into her shopping routine. And the supermarket inserts were also just marketing, straight up marketing. They weren’t necessarily you know, I agree with Felix, they’re mostly not designed to be redeemed. But now I’m not even sure it’s cost effective to put coupons in the marketing insert just for marketing purposes. There are so many other avenues to market to people.

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Speaker 2: Yeah, there are kind of apps now that you can use when you buy things and there’s like club cards at the supermarket that people use. You know, we.

Felix Salmon: Have a colleague at Axios called Kelly TYKO who seems to be like the queen of all apps and discount hacks and stuff like that. And she’s like, Oh yeah, I use this app and they save thousands of dollars on my grocery bills and I’m like, Wow, that’s amazing.

Speaker 2: I used to clip our coupons all the time and then I would just leave them in my apartment and go to the store and forget that they existed. But the act of clipping them felt really virtuous because I was like, I’m going to save $0.50 and I buy that anyway, so it’s good on me. But then I just didn’t I didn’t do it. It takes a lot of like planning and I don’t know, mental, mental work that like who has time for.

Felix Salmon: The price sensitivity thing really does work. When I was a student at Glasgow University, The Guardian newspaper would send me these books of coupons, which would give me like $0.20 off a copy of The Guardian. And I would like assiduously make sure that I had my Guardian coupon whenever I bought my daily paper. And it was an amazing like. Brand loyalty thing. It really made it much more likely that I would buy the paper any given day, and it was a pain in the ass. But it was also something that because I was a student and I had lots of time and, you know, I really cared about that type, you know, I was perfectly willing to put that time into making sure that I saved that money. And then, you know, you start actually earning money, you know, like, I really don’t have time to save tape.

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Speaker 2: The article does point out that during the Great Recession, there was sort of a coupon resurgence because people lost their jobs and indeed had time to cut coupons, an incentive. And then there became some people for whom couponing was a hobby and a pastime and almost an extreme sport. I remember running stories and have posts like back in the early 20 tens where people would brag that they got their whole grocery bill was covered by coupons because they like planned it out strategically and like they got $100 off or something. But it seems like there’s potential for them to come back in style now, not just because of how, you know, more women will be forced to have babies and stuff like that and be home with them. But because, you know, inflation is pushing up food costs so much.

Felix Salmon: And I think the lesson of what we’re seeing is that inflation doesn’t do it. You need unemployment.

Speaker 2: Well, we get the jobs numbers next week, so we’ll see.

Speaker 3: I have a bunch of people so we can bring back coupons that the.

Speaker 2: But I mean, Felix has a point because if the last time couponing was in was during the Great Recession, when unemployment is high and it’s been declining for the past decade, as unemployment’s reached like historic lows, then maybe that’s that’s the missing ingredient.

Speaker 3: I think that could be true. But don’t you think like you have to get into the habit of doing it and, you know, devoting that mental energy? Yeah. Yeah.

Felix Salmon: As a society, we’ve lost the habit and it’s not coming back. And I think coupons are dead and, you know, sales are not dead. Like you still have price promotions, but those don’t have that like lovely sort of targeting aspect to them. If you put something on sale, then everyone who buys it gets a discount. It’s like, shit, I’ve lost all of that potential revenue from all of the purchases.

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Speaker 3: In high school. I was a cashier at Wal-Mart in an area where people did use coupons a lot. So maybe like every third customer who’d come through my line would have just a big stack of coupons. And the only time I ever remember getting screamed at by customers and somebody would whip out a coupon that had an expiration date that had already passed, and then I’d scan it and machine went take it and customer would get mad. So I feel like there are probably a lot of retail workers. You’re breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t have to do that as much anymore.

Felix Salmon: The other data point this week that points to the death of the coupon is the insanely bad financial results and Bed, Bath and Beyond. His share price is like almost negative at this point, and there is a store that lived and died on the strength of its coupon. It was great when people were using the coupons and then they stop using the coupons and then the store died. I’m not sure it’s a complete causal relationship, but I like to think that it’s part of it.

Speaker 2: Thank you Felix. I’ve been thinking about that all week myself, especially after reading that Bank of America analyst visited some Bed, Bath and Beyond stores where they claim that the air conditioning wasn’t on. And that became a big story in the business press this week. Is Bed, Bath and Beyond turning off the air conditioner because it’s hot out? The store said absolutely not. But the Bank of America analysts, they don’t lie. So I don’t know what’s going on. I can tell you that this morning I was on the Bed Bath and Beyond website and they’re having like a really big sale. So if you haven’t already bought everything you need over the past two years, 50% off and you don’t need a coupon.

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Felix Salmon: I feel like that’s a nice little Sleep Love segment, actually, we can talk a little bit about Have we bought everything we need and is that why the screens are going up?

Felix Salmon: But before we get to sleep last, we have to talk about fake Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings in Orlando, Florida, which is just the most glorious story. And we had a listener request to talk about this glorious story.

Speaker 2: It involves fonts.

Felix Salmon: There is a fun aspect here. And so like obviously if there’s a font story and the Basquiat story then and then the authentication story, then I’m all over this one. So yeah, the story goes that a bunch of Basquiat paintings were found in the storage locker, and they used to belong to some guy who lived upstairs from Basquiat or something like that, and he bought them for $5,000. Anyway, he is on the record. He gave like an affidavit to the FBI saying, I’ve never met the guy in my life. I said he never bought any paintings from him. The person who used to own the storage locker. It didn’t stop, but the person who bought the contents of the storage locker from going around a bunch of Basquiat experts and getting them authenticated as Basquiat.

Felix Salmon: And then and this is the really weird bit persuading the Orlando Museum of Art to like run an exhibit of all of these paintings. One thing that is very common in the art world is for people to, quote, unquote, discover some artwork. That they claim is a Basquiat or a Warhol or Leonardo or Velasquez or you name it. And then everyone just more or less rolls their eyes and says, Yeah, whatever. Once in a blue moon, it turns out to be real. And then it sells for a gazillion dollars at auction.

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Felix Salmon: But most of the time, you know, it’s people just ignore them. In this case, it was harder to ignore because there was a large museum show involved and the museum director was adamant that these things were genuine and seemed to have a major dog in the fight for reasons that no one entirely understood and would send me an email to the authenticators when the authenticated started saying Actually, yeah, this is a bit weird, I’m not sure about this. He’d send the email saying like, Shut up, stay in your lane. Do you want me to go public with the amount of money we paid you?

Felix Salmon: You know, this kind of stuff. He wound up getting fired after the FBI raided the exhibit and confiscated all of the paintings, which, by the way, are clearly fake. And this is where the funds come in. They were painted on the back of like cardboard. And one of the pieces of cardboard that they were painted on the back of was a FedEx box. And one of the FedEx boxes had a printing on it saying like a fixed label here. And the font used to say a fixed label here didn’t even exist until six years after Basquiat died. So that’s pretty cut and dried.

Speaker 2: What’s crazy about that is I was reading the story from February about this exhibit of Basquiat exhibit and how people are questioning if they’re real or not. And in the story, the February one, they say one of the paintings at least, isn’t real because it’s on this cardboard that appears to be, you know, more recent. And like the guy his name is, De Grafts, the one who was now fired is like, yeah, we can’t explain that part, but the rest of them are totally real. And I’m like, How did this go on? I mean, that was February. What is it now, June like? What took so long and why is everyone so shocked? It was all right there in the article.

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Felix Salmon: Well, so no one’s shocked that they’re fake. Everyone thought that they were fake except for, like, the guy at the museum and the guy trying to sell them for $100 million. The shock, I think, is that the FBI raided the show and confiscated the paintings. This is the news is that you actually had like federal law enforcement getting involved at this point because they were like, this isn’t just good faith, people getting swindled or persuaded that something is real when in fact it’s fake. This is actually a criminal conspiracy going on here. Well, that seems to be the subtext. And so that’s why the director got fired.

Speaker 3: Even for the art world, that’s that’s a lot of drama.

Felix Salmon: The interesting subtext to all this is that for most contemporary artists, modern and contemporary artists, up until relatively recently, none of these controversies will ever happen. Because if there was any artwork that was purportedly by an artist, you would just take the artwork to the artist’s estate for authentication. And then the artist’s estate would either say, Yes, this is genuine and put it in the catalogue raisonné and you know, say to the world and all the auction house is like, this is a genuine word. Or they would say, No, this is not genuine. And then that was the end of it and.

Felix Salmon: That was a pretty efficient and effective way that the art world worked for many, many years up until, I want to say like ten, 15 years ago, when what happened is that a bunch of people who would take paintings to artist estates and then be told they were fake would sue the estates and they would be like, I had this million dollar painting. You said it was fake and now it’s worthless. So you owe me $1,000,000. And these lawsuits very rarely went anywhere for obvious reasons, but they were very expensive for the estates to fight, and sometimes the estates actually lost. And so as a result of this, the estate’s pretty much en masse over the course of a few years, all just stopped authenticating anything. So instead of being able to just go up to the Basquiat estate and say, can you say whether these are fake or not? And just sort the matter right there.

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Felix Salmon: Now, the Westgate estate, like most estates, no longer offers that service. And because they no longer offer that service, it’s like the Wild West out there and anyone can find some random art history professor somewhere and say, like, can you authenticate this? And that piece of paper is worth as much as anything else. And so that’s how it’s even possible that these controversies can come up in the first place.

Speaker 2: Is Basquiat’s work more susceptible? I think in my reading there had been some other dust up over fake basquiat’s in the recent past. Right? Is his more susceptible? Is that any artist really that’s well known that this happens to now.

Felix Salmon: Yeah, I mean, it’s really just a function of how valuable your US is. The Basquiat auction record I think is in the region of $100 million. So, you know, basquiat’s inherently very valuable. So if you fake a Basquiat and people believe that it’s real, you can make millions. And so that just makes it much more enticing to fake a Basquiat than to fake some artists no one’s ever heard of. And you can sell it for ten bucks.

Speaker 2: There’s got to be a middle ground where you fake something like a middling artist that won’t be as controversial because they’re not as well-known, but they’re still somewhat. You can get a good price for it, but you won’t draw as much attention. I mean, there’s got to be like, don’t get mad.

Felix Salmon: Doesn’t happens. Every museum in the world is showing fakes. It’s totally, absolutely.

Speaker 2: Every museum in the world shows fake art. We’re all going to see fake art. And now it’s fun at the Met.

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Felix Salmon: Yeah, well, the price of admission is now up to $30, and yet it’s 100% certain that there’s something in on exhibit in the Met right now that’s a fake. We just don’t know what it is.

Speaker 2: Does it matter? Maybe it’s fine.

Felix Salmon: Who cares what the mic cares?

Speaker 2: If people enjoy the army, maybe it’s.

Felix Salmon: Fine. Yes. Long as you don’t know that it’s fake, it doesn’t impinge on your enjoyment. Friends of my grandparents were big art collectors and had a little Paul Clay painting that was in their bedroom for many years and they loved it. And then at one point they had their art collection authenticated and it turned out that the Paul Clay was a fake and it was very sad. And they said, We still love this painting, but we don’t quite love it the same way anymore because it’s not real.

Speaker 3: Folk artists from Alabama named mostly. It doesn’t sort of very bright paintings. They’re kind of simple in their structure. And when I was growing up, people had forged mattresses on their walls all the time. Like people would just go out and find somebody who was a halfway decent painter and they would just try to replicate it. And I don’t I’m not sure that there was like a secondary market for it, but it was a thing that people would do to feel like they had something resembling a piece of recognizable art on their rolls. It was like, what we.

Felix Salmon: See, I don’t think that was a fake. I think that’s like a replica, which is different. I used to do that. I used to have like a fake forsooth and the fake to real and the fake send back. And there’s a lot of sort of conceptual art, which is quite easy to replicate and it’s fun to sort of make your own version of it. But as long as you don’t present it as being real, it’s no harm, no foul.

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Speaker 2: This interesting. This week, Margaret Keane died. They made like a Tim Burton movie based on her. Right. Her husband allegedly had been painting these paintings of children with like big eyes that people really liked, but like art critics thought were kitschy and bad. But it turned out all along this man wasn’t painting the paintings. It was the wife was doing it. She was like locked up in the basement, painting the paintings, and he was passing them off as his own. And it seemed to me reading the obituary that once it came out that she was the one doing the paintings. Everyone was like, These paintings are amazing. And like, all of a sudden the paintings were kitschy anymore. So there’s more to the paintings than the actual paintings.

Felix Salmon: Absolutely. Authorship matters. Anyone who tells you that the only thing that matters in the painting is like what’s on the canvas and not like who’s hand painted. It has no idea how the world works. But we should have a numbers around. Emily do have a number this week.

Speaker 2: Uh huh. Uh huh. Do you wanna know what it is? Okay. No.

Felix Salmon: All right, tell me then.

Speaker 2: I’ll tell you. It’s $2.3 million. That is the amount of money and streaming royalties estimated that Kate Bush has earned from her 1985 song Running Up That Hill, which is popular again.

Felix Salmon: I’m so happy about this. It is the happiest, happiest story of the summer. Kate, Bush is suddenly rolling in cash because Netflix.

Speaker 2: Netflix, her song is in Stranger Things season four, which is like Netflix’s biggest show right now. And it like it’s, I think the most streamed song for a while or it has been it’s on the Billboard charts. And Kate Bush happens to own the copyright to the master recordings. So like almost all of the royalty money is going right to her. And one estimate I read, she made $1,000,000 for just from streams between June 16th and June 23rd, which is a week. So good job, capers.

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Felix Salmon: Also, it’s a banger of a song. I love it. And the only thing I don’t like about it is the zoom is the kids coming out and saying, We discovered this song. No one knew about this song before we discovered it on Stranger Things. It’s like, No, everyone knew about this song. This is a great song. We all know it very well, but we’re very happy that it’s back.

Speaker 3: It’s the continued erasure of Gen X.

Speaker 2: That’s true. Well, we didn’t give Gen X didn’t give us the $2.3 million. That really was the zoomers. I think I.

Felix Salmon: Will tell you that I my wife and I flew to London to see her show at the Hammersmith Apollo a few years ago. And, you know, the ticket sold out in 5 seconds. But a friend of mine in London wrote the script to grab the tickets as soon as they came on sale. We had amazing seats and it was just absolutely batshit and wonderful and brilliant and yeah, I mean, I feel like a bunch of my money has made its way into Kate Bush’s pocket, you know, probably more from me personally than any Zoom has paid by streaming her song. But collectively, you’re right, the zoomers have come through for Kate Bush. And thank you. Zoom in.

Felix Salmon: So doing that, my number is 51%. That is the proportion of murders that were solved in 2020. It is now basically a coin flip if you get killed that the police will work out who did it. That was 61% in 2014 has come down a lot and it was 83% in 1965. So there’s just a long secular decline in the proportion of murders solved and no one really understands why.

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Speaker 2: So are you telling people to go out and do murder? They have like, yeah, absolutely.

Felix Salmon: Go out and do a murder. You only have a 50% chance of getting caught.

Speaker 3: The timing is good for the moment.

Felix Salmon: Elizabeth Lucky number.

Speaker 3: My number is two numbers, 299 and 899. And that’s the range of what you would pay for a battle in Chicago. Hoodie and murder right now.

Felix Salmon: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. All right. We need to we need to massively, massively rewind here. First of all, what are the units here? Are we talking dollars or talking Bitcoin? Ethereum bit dollars.

Speaker 3: And just a digital hoodie, not a real.

Felix Salmon: Over. So a Berlin C hoodie in the metaverse costs somewhere between three and $9, depending on who’s selling it.

Speaker 3: Yeah, well, the price thing I found were four Balenciaga products, Tom Brown and Prada, and I couldn’t find the individual pricing, but that’s the range of stuff you can buy in the Nutter Avatar store.

Felix Salmon: Is this sold by the companies themselves?

Speaker 3: Yes.

Felix Salmon: Do you know anyone who has purchased one of these items? No. Listeners. If you know anyone who has purchased one of these items, please write in and tell us what you’re doing in the metaverse that requires a Balenciaga hoodie.

Speaker 3: Just for reference, an actual real world bell in a hoodie retails for 1250 dollars cheap. You could afford luxury goods in the metaverse.

Felix Salmon: This is definitely an aspect of the metaverse that is superior to the real world, right? In the real world, you need to pay thousands of dollars to get a genuine Balenciaga hoodie. In the metaverse, you can get it for like less than a tenner, and it’s got the same branding, which is the main point, and it’s legitimately digital. It’s genuine. So yeah, that’s we’ll just move to the metaverse and the cost of our social signalling goes way down.

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Speaker 2: What does a Balenciaga hoodie even look like? Does it look like a regular hood?

Felix Salmon: Yeah. What color is.

Speaker 2: Special on it?

Speaker 3: There’s more than one, but they’re all designed to be kind of oversized. Like they have a certain look, or at least they’re real rolling. Still, I’m not sure that it’s that distinguishable in a matter of attire, though.

Felix Salmon: On which note, I think we will wrap up sleeve money for this week. Thank you very much to Jessamine Molli of Seaplane Armada for producing. Thank you to all of you guys for writing in on sleep money at Slate.com and we will be back next week with another sleep money.

Felix Salmon: We also need to do a sleepless on this whole question of inventories, because that was one of the economic data points that came out this week was that inventories are up, which is a sign that companies aren’t selling as much stuff as they used to be. And. Here’s my hypothesis. Elizabeth, you can tell me if I’m right or wrong about this is the. Over the two years since the beginning of the pandemic, we have bought all of the stuff that we could possibly use and there is no more stuff that we need or want. And that’s why we’re not buying any stuff. And even if they put it on 50% off, you’re like, I already have that stuff. There’s no point in me getting another stuff, even if it’s cheap.

Speaker 3: I mean, I think there’s something to that. There are certainly things that I bought during the pandemic that I’m not going to go buy another one of. I have a desk that I bought because I had not been working at home historically. But also, I think people got used to not spending during the pandemic. So they’re still probably a little reluctant to make big purchases, especially.

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Speaker 2: Yeah, I think people are. You’re seeing a switch now in the data from stuff to services. People are stopping buying. They’re not buying patio furniture anymore. They’re buying plane tickets. They’re going to restaurants. They’re not buying like new cast iron cookware. They’re, you know, going out to eat stuff like that, I think is all. Yeah, exactly.

Felix Salmon: Cast Iron Cookware is a really good example because you buy a cast iron pan and that thing lasts for centuries. Someone makes a new course. I am going to be like, Oh, I need a new cast iron. No, you don’t. Because the one you have is perfectly good and it’s probably better than new. And anyway, it’s better seasoned.

Speaker 3: What stuff did you permeable during the pandemic that you’re definitely not going to buy again?

Felix Salmon: I’m going to make a little plug here since we’re in the safe space of sleepless, a cast iron pan, which is ludicrously expensive but absolutely wonderful. I constantly have. The great thing about them is that dirt cheap and they work great, right? But if you’re weird like me, you get one from this company called Lancaster, which is so much more expensive than like a standard lodge pan. It’s really hard to justify, but the thing is, it’s smoother, it’s nicer, it’s much more natural, nonstick, and most importantly, it’s lighter. So you can pick it up much more easily with one hand. And I love that pan so much. It is wonderful. And it’s going to, you know, I don’t know who’s going to inherit it, but that thing is going to last, as I say, centuries.

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Speaker 2: You know, we had Le Creuset this is the most boujee conversation of Slate Plus ever, but we had a Le Creuset cast iron pot and it chipped on. The bottom.

Felix Salmon: Was it was enamel.

Speaker 2: It was cast iron in enamel source in the enamel.

Felix Salmon: Yeah. The enamel can chip.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So I feel I after that I was large all the way. I was like, I’m just getting cheap ones. Like, why would I spend more for something that falls apart, you know? So I’m all about the lodge and I am not convinced I can handle the heavier weight of the pan Felix. I don’t need a lightweight.

Felix Salmon: That’s because you’re stronger than me.

Speaker 2: Oh, that’s probably it. Yeah.

Felix Salmon: I’m very weak wristed and weak.

Speaker 2: Excellent. But yeah, I think the stores have too much stuff and it’s so interesting to read stories about that in the business press because the business us is like, it’s so bad, there’s too much inventory and it’s so bad for the stock market and blah blah. When I read it, I’m like, Well, there’s going to be sales. This is great. There just needs to be a shifting of perspective sometimes in those stories, don’t you think it’s not all about the stock market.

Felix Salmon: Yeah, no. This is the problem with much financial journalism is that everything gets written through a lens of if stocks go down, that’s bad. But that’s not always bad. So is good.

Speaker 2: Yeah. You get like money off on duvets.

Felix Salmon: If you’re a young person who’s saving for retirement, you want the stocks to be cheap.

Speaker 2: Right? Because the stocks are on sale, as are the cast iron pans and the sheets and the bed bath and beyond.

Felix Salmon: And in the televisions. If you are the last person in America who needs a new television, then now’s a good time to buy it.

Speaker 2: But it should say good bye. That’s it.

Felix Salmon: Pass by fitness.