Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What AP Wire on $910 Bunch of Grapes Missed

AP by way of CNN reports that a “new variety of premium grapes debuted in Japan on Monday, with a single bunch fetching as much as ¥100,000 ($910).” According to the report, a “Japanese hotel manager paid that amount, or about ¥2,860 ($26) per grape, for a 1 1/2 pound (700-gram) bunch of the Ruby Roman grapes to serve guests at an upscale hotel”. At that point, the reason for the acquisition should be clear. But AP mostly misses it, as the following quotes make clear:

Japanese are often willing to pay top prices for high-end fruits, especially for the prestige of owning the very first ones of the year.

"It could be a congratulatory price for its debut," Kato said of Monday's auction in Ishikawa. "Tokyo's largest fruit market is very competitive."

True, we Japanese love hatsumono, “the very first ones of the year.” For example, in July, the first fresh Pacific sauries hit the supermarkets at a little under 500 yen per fish. I assume that there are people who have tired of the defrosted variety (going for upwards of 100, 150 yen per) and can’t wait to snatch them up—why else would supermarkets stock up on them—although a saury can sometimes be had for as little as 50 yen deep into the autumn months. But those are small change. The priciest purchases are corporate decisions, as the ultimate destination of the $910 grapes indicates. It’s advertisement, media exposure on the cheap.

Actually, this is by far from an exclusively Japanese phenomenon. For example, the annual wool auction in Australia always brings reports of the most expensive batch of wool purchased that year. I’m sure that something similar happens every year, everywhere, that auctions are held.

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