You want to buy a Hermès handbag? Fine, but you’ll need to buy a Hermès bicycle first.
As crazy as that sounds, it’s one of the best ways to get access to much-coveted bags like the Birkin or the Kelly. Walking into a showroom and asking what they have in stock simply isn’t an option. Instead, you must show some devotion to the brand by buying other items from their collection – which this year includes a bicycle priced at Rmb165,000 ($24,500) in China.
The bike – which costs as much as a bottom-of-the-range car – has now sold out, suggesting that consumer demand for the brand is strong despite the faltering economy.
The sales campaign has cast fresh light on the practice of “bundling” or peihuo as it is known in Chinese, with some customers saying that the brand loyalty test has become harder to pass in China in recent months.
In July, one shopper in Beijing was so annoyed by his inability to buy a bag – despite spending Rmb100,000 on other goods – that he staged a protest outside the Hermès shop. “Rubbish Hermès. Peihuo but no bag,” his protest placard complained.
Advice on how to win at peihuo – or better still, how to score a bag without buying other items – abounds on social media. Yet the only way to be sure of avoiding paying the bundling fee is buying second-hand – which has fuelled a resale boom in luxury items on apps like Paipai.
So what of the Hermès bike that has just sold out? According to the brand’s website the cream-coloured machine is inspired by Japanese compact bikes and crafted from aluminium as well as ash and spad leather. It boasts four gears and the Hermès insignia is hot-stamped on its brown saddle.
China has seen renewed interest in cycling in recent years with some enthusiasts forking out thousands of dollars for state-of-the-art bikes. But a ‘decent’ city bicycle can be purchased for around Rmb3,000, a huge amount cheaper than the Hermès newcomer.
It is also hard to imagine anyone leaving a Rmb165,000 bike in a cycle rack, leading 36Kr to claim that the two-wheeler is best-suited to becoming “a good exhibit in a big villa”, i.e. as a chic home furnishing for high-end homes.
For social media users in China, the idea of spending more on a simple bike than a standard car led to accusations that the rich have more money than sense.
“Even if you added another zero it would still sell out. This bike is about posing not riding,” one Sina Weibo contributor despaired.
“I fail to understand how an ordinary city bike could cost this much. But then poverty limits my imagination,” quipped another.
Others asked if the rich ever travel anywhere without their cars anyway.
“Quite frankly these people should be subject to an IQ tax,” rebuked another.
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