Most of the year, Neiman Marcus is just known as that one boring store with a restaurant that your grandma sometimes wants to take you to for lunch. It’s a place that’s classy, and elegant, and unashamedly caters to the very rich. The rest of us don’t think about it very often, until we get that call from gramme saying, “I’d love to see you, you know I don’t have much time left.”
But that all changes in November. Because November is when Neiman Marcus has the audacity to take all the most ridiculous things that money can buy ($66 collard greens, anyone?), stuff them into a catalog so heavy that it must be kept away from small children lest they be crushed to death by its punishing weight, and mail those glossy pages around the country, inspiring people by sharing the timeless message of, “Happy holidays! You can’t afford any of this s*it!”
While the entire catalog is an embarrassment of riches (literally), the most heinous objects of desire are lodged firmly in the center of the book, a little past the “imported from Italy” dresses that cost more than your computer and right before the pictures of happy children riding around in miniature luxury cars while inexplicably dressed as count Dracula (that’s not hyperbole, but a real thing you can see if you pick up this year’s holiday tome!). This section is venerated and revered, and an involuntary hush will fall upon you when you look at its title: Fantasy Gifts.
What are Fantasy Gifts (always capitalized!)? For the uninitiated, they’re the experiences that even the rich are unlikely to splurge on. CEOs and network stars may look through the regular pages of the catalog, cheerily remarking upon Christmas trees made of repurposed vintage dress forms and tittering over handblown ornaments and other amusing trinkets and baubles, but even they may find themselves hard-pressed to afford a walk-on role in a broadway show or a $700,000 tour of the most extravagant European villas.
Let’s be real: The venn diagram of people reading this and people shopping for Neiman’s Fantasy Gifts is insanely small. But you know what we can do? In the grand tradition of hating on Williams-Sonoma and Anthropologie’s christmas catalogs, we’re going to rank this year’s fantasy gifts in order of ridiculousness, starting with the gratuitous and ostentatious and taking ourselves all the way to “I need to put my head under the faucet for a few minutes because the idea that there are people out there who might actually purchase these things makes me want to fling myself out a window.”
And yes, we do realize that all the gifts do contribute to charity, but the contribution rate is often so low that it hardly needs mentioning.
For the Optimist: A bracelet that brightens the future, $25
For the Pessimist: A mattress with built-in lockbox, $25,000
What you get: Either a bracelet made of paper, glass, and hope (because that’s a physical material now, and of course it would be employed to make these particular bracelets) or a super comfortable mattress equipped with a lockbox for the paranoid millionaire in your life who somehow doesn’t have bodyguards or even a low-rent security system to keep their home and precious heirlooms safe. $10,000 to charity.
Why it’s ridiculous: We know you’re wondering, so we’re going to be real with you: Neiman Marcus doesn’t expect you to buy these items together. In fact, they mention that 90 years ago they sold this same kind of mishmash — either a fully stocked Noah’s ark for $558,000 or a sapling for $10 — and that people went crazy over one but not the other (guess which). This year, they’re trying to recreate that magic. And as much as we’d love the idea of watching someone gift the adult child they love a mattress with a lockbox that can sustain fire and ice while tossing the one they secretly call “hogface” a bracelet made out of a few pieces of metal and “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen,” we’re pretty sure that will actually happen is that people will buy the bracelet and then jokingly tell their friends that they’re now the proud owners of a Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift. If they’re particularly malicious — as some of us here would be — they might even provide the giftee with the catalog a few days prior and tell them to guess what they’re getting!
To be honest, though, there’s a reason that this is the least ridiculous item on this list. Because we know that no one is going to buy this handmade mattress that feels like sleeping on air and keeps all your valuables (and your important notes on #PizzaGate) safe from harm, we can focus on the bracelet, which is what people will actually purchase. Not only is it attractive (if you’re into that sort of thing), but it’s also made by the women at the Akola Project, which is “a nonprofit organization that empowers marginalized women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities around the globe.” Okay. Can’t even hate a little bit on that one.
What you get: A chance to shine on stage for a few precious moments while your friends and family watch from premium seats. Your $30,000 also gets you four tickets to the show, a meet-and-greet with the cast, who will be delighted to welcome you the The Great White Way because they’re contractually obligated to do so, and a pie-making lesson with the show’s “pie consultant” which is an actual job title, so forget teaching kids that they can be President because this sounds much better. $22,500 of the proceeds from your purchase will go to The Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation, so you can feel pretty good about yourself when people ask “you spent $30,000 on what?
Why it’s Ridiculous: Because it’s paying $30,000 to wander onto a stage and then excitedly tell people you were in a Broadway show. If the people who could afford this item actually had jobs and used LinkedIn, they’d probably put “Broadway Actor” on their resume and hope that their friends endorsed them as such. They’ll dine out on this story for years — under the guise of it being for charity, of course — and then, for the remainder of their lives, they’ll compare any pie they see (or eat) to the one they watched Waitress’s pie consultant make and lament that they had such few hours with her. “What a shame,” they’ll say, “that we never learned that pie consultant’s name. I bet she’d know how to make this crust moist enough to melt in your mouth.”
What you get: Legendary footballer Joe Montana will sped the day with you and three of your friends (or kids you’re desperately trying to get into football), teaching you how to play, signing footballs, taking pictures, and reviewing the day’s footage while going on and on about “confidence” and “the next step.” You want to bring along a five-year-old who probably won’t give a shit about who this guy is? Montana’s totally cool with that. According to him, the ideal gift is literally anyone who’s interested and also has that sweet sweet cash. $10,000 to charity.
Why it’s ridiculous: You know what the most upsetting part of every one of these gifts is? That even if you decide to split the cost with the other people attending, you’ll still end up paying something so outrageous that it will hardly seem worth it. And while you may think that Joe Montana teaching you about “the Xs and Os” will be a day so rife with unforgettability that you will think of it as you are taking your final breath — sorry, wife, husband, kids, etc. — the person who purchases this will probably spend so much time worrying about whether Joe Montana likes them or taking useless pictures that all they’ll really walk away with is the fact that the football legend used the phrase “confidence is the key” a whole hell of a lot. (No hate to Joe; we get it, buddy.)
What you get: A car that usually starts at $43,000 for more than $60,000 because you’re worth it and it comes with a leather of authenticity and also some branded swag. $1,000 to charity.
Why it’s ridiculous: Because it’s a branded car, so you’re basically paying Neiman Marcus for the pleasure and privilege (something you don’t need any more of if this is your idea of the perfect Christmas gift) of advertising for them. That’s like an entire college education. To gracelessly advertise a store for rich people. No one with old money would even look at you if you showed up in one of these, to be honest. The ladies on Rodeo Drive? They certainly wouldn’t let you shop.
What you get: A hideous car that’s absolutely impractical and not suited for any place but a tropical climate, which is great if you own a house on a Hawaiian island, but pretty useless everywhere else. $5,000 to charity.
Why it’s ridiculous: See above. No, not the description. The goddamn picture. This would be number one if it weren’t one of the cheapest items on the list. But it is. And for that we should hate ourselves and rethink whether capitalism really is as great as we all thought it was. Thanks, Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog, for making us woke to the class and economic issues plaguing our world today! (Says a lot that this didn’t even crack the top 5, though.)
What you get: An unforgettable night of sleeping in twin beds with 11 people who also think it’s totally fun to pay the national debt of some small nation for the privilege of sleeping inside a store. You also get dinner, a movie, make-overs, and a fashion show full of “buzz” and “trends” presented by the store’s fashion director, who is delighted to be there. $10,000 to charity.
Why it’s ridiculous: You can sleep in most stores for free if you move around enough and don’t stay in one location for too long. You could also invite 12 of your friends to spent the night in a fancy hotel for much less. But you know, it’s all about the charity isn’t it? (at least, it’s 1/12th about the charity). We’re going to be honest, though: Even if we were invited to one of these things (by someone else), and even if we went (everyone here is very polite), you can bet we wouldn’t tell anyone. Ever. It would go with us to the grave. It’d be like one of those movies where a young woman ends up in an old creaky mansion and learns that there are horrible family secrets hidden inside but that secret isn’t theft or murder, it’s the fact that someone (now long dead) once spent an entire night getting pampered at a Neiman Marcus store in Dallas like the absolute basic they were. Someone write this up, because it’s a good idea for a screenplay.
What you get: Eight people (who to choose, who to choose…) will spend one glorious week in three different villas that are usually only reserved for royals. Guests will be taken from place to place by helicopter, go on tours, and eat luxurious dinners all while enjoying the comfort of one drafty fucking ancient house after another.
Why it’s ridiculous: Actually, this one is pretty cool, if so expensive that it pains us just to look at the price tag. But the people who end up with this gift (and it’s one of the few that isn’t limited to only one purchaser) could also take luxury vacations — even with helicopters! — for a much lower cost. Safe to say, if your travel agent is Neiman Marcus you aren’t getting a prime deal.
We both know, also, that once you’ve flown from one estate to another via helicopter, the only thing you’re actually going to want to do is take a goddamn nap and have a drink (small aircraft are terrifying) instead of pretending to care as the Duke of Marlborough or one of his myrmidons (how do you even tell the difference?) waltzes you around the beautifully-preserved art collection and tells you all about “the poison garden” that you’re meant to take a “daring walk” through. None of these places probably even have wi-fi, let alone Netflix and HBO GO, and we’ll be damned before we sacrifice must-see TV for a drafty haunted bedroom. (Oh, sorry; probably not haunted, you’d have to pay extra for that.)
What you get: 36 timeless children’s classics. Fables and fairy tales are here, of course, but so are classics such as They Were Strong and Good and Duffy and the Devil, which wasn’t on any school library shelf we remember. The price reflects the fact that these books are actually priceless first (or early) editions that you’ll never find on Amazon. $10,000 of the proceeds goes to The Heart of Neiman Marcus foundation.
Why it’s ridiculous: If you have ever encountered a child — especially one at just the right age to enjoy Make Way for Ducklings — then you know that these lovable little mouth-breathers shouldn’t be anywhere near a first-edition of anything that costs more than $3. Imagine dropping 1/4th of a reasonably priced house on these, stepping away for a few minutes after leaving a child alone with them, and returning to find the books ripped, cut, or, worst of all, covered in snot because the child loved Where The Wild Things Are so much that they could not fathom any more perfect way to show their affection except by blowing their nose on the frontispiece and then smearing it around as a sign of deep gratitude.
What you get: A rose-god plane that even other people who have planes don’t have because it’s a Neiman Marcus exclusive. Unfortunately this one isn’t limited to “one purchaser,” so you should probably buy the entire fleet if you don’t want other people to enjoy living as ostentatiously as you do. $200,000 to charity.
Why it’s ridiculous: Please see the entry about the Neiman Marcus-branded car, then remind yourself that this piece of branded advertising costs more than a million bucks and quickly wander over to your medicine cabinet, which should have enough Benadryl to help keep your anxiety (and the hives that come with it) in check. There’s really nothing any of us can say about this. Instead, let’s politely choke down our bile (rising from our fury-filled stomachs) and hope that anyone who buys one of these loses all their money in the stock crash that is definitely coming once Melania’s husband takes office.
What you get: An exclusive trip to the Grammy Awards (tickets aren’t sold to the public), a stay at a swank hotel (you’ll be chauffeured by Rolls Royces), Two $1,000 Neiman Marcus gift cards (which may as well be Monopoly cash because you will never find anything appropriate to wear to the Grammys for that amount at NM), and hair and makeup “on the house.” You’ll enjoy rehearsals, a walk on the red carpet (which you will be rushed along on), and a ticket to the pre-show Gala hosted by Clive Davis. Also: a signed poster and, for some reason, a gold Les Gibson. $250,000 to charity (here, finally, the charity amount is at least 50%).
Why it’s ridiculous: Because if you have that much money to donate to charity you should donate it to charity instead of spending $500K on a trip which sounds like it’s going to be more exhausting than anything else. Even watching the Grammys on TV is tiring — and we fast-forward through the commercials — so paying that much money to have a brush with fame? We know you’re hoping you’ll somehow end up best friends with Bruno Mars and Adele, but the only person who’s even going to pretend that you exist (even as you’re standing right in front of them) is Meghan Trainor.
You: I’m really excited to be here at The Grammys.
Meghan Trainor: (Sassily) It’s all about that bass, ‘bout that bass, no treeeeeeble.
You: I mean, I mostly just wanted to give that money to charity, but you know if I can do something for myself while I’m at it, why the hell not?
Meghan Trainor: (louder) ALL ABOUT THAT BASS, BOUT THAT BASS, NO TREBLE!.
You: Ok. Great. I’m just gonna be at the open bar with these drink tick—
Meghan Trainor: (desperately) YEAH, MY MOMMA SHE TOLD ME DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR SIZE. SHE SAYS, BOYS, THEY LIKE A LITTLE MORE BOOTY TO HOLD AT NIGHT.
This is your night. This is your life.