Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Bringing Home the Birkin"

In Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag, author Michael Tonello impulsively moves to Barcelona, after becoming enthralled with the city while working there on assignment. His new motto is, “Work to live, not live to work.” Unfortunately, soon after he signs a five year apartment lease, he finds himself without a job. To make ends meet he begins selling his possessions on eBay. Noting the popularity of a Hermes scarf he begins scouring European boutiques for Hermes items. This leads to a customer request for a Birkin (a pricey status bag that starts at $7,500 and is sold in limited numbers) and his discovery of the magic Birkin purchasing formula.

This is a must read if you ever dreamed of working from home in your pajamas as a full-time eBay re-seller. Michael quickly learns there isn’t much you need to know about eBay in order to use it successfully. He would set an opening bid for an item, and also a reserve (the lowest price he was willing to sell for). He was partial to either a 7- or 10- day action, timed to end on Sunday evening when most people would be at home. (I based these calculations on “eBay time” aka Pacific Standard Time, since the greatest number of eBay users are in the USA).

The job isn’t as easy as it looks. Michael discovers the more you work the more you make. He made a lot of money, which meant he worked a lot. In 2005, he says he spent 1.6 million purchasing Birkins for resale. His life became a series of shopping excursions, emails and trips to the post office. In the end, after losing his mother, he comes to the conclusion that traipsing all over Europe buying overpriced purses for spoiled Americans is a shallow way to make a living and gives it up.

The book is a delightful tale/travelogue. While recounting his experiences, he gives the reader a glimpse into his exotic lifestyle; the gourmet food, wine, expensive hotels and luxurious shopping venues he visits and of course insight into all things Hermes. He does all this in an engaging style and dry down-to-earth wit.

Here are a couple of unrelated items I’ve procured from the book:
~ Barcelona and the island of Capri are now on my list of places I’d like to visit.
~ The following items have been added to my reading list:
- Lillian Hellman's novel Pentimento”
- Truman Capote's novel “In Cold Blood”
- Somerset Maugham’s short story, “The Lotus Eater”

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