Catchy title to this article, eh? Yep. I thought so. I’ll bet there are more than a few women who read that and felt just a bit more indignation towards yours truly than usual. I’ll also bet that there are quite a few guys who read that title and thought, “Gee! I’ve got to read more about this!” Well, for everyone, I can guarantee you that this article will actually be a very useful tool in preventing divorce. Preferably yours.
Guys, never, but never, buy your girl a ring. There I said it again. I’ve made my choice and I stand by it. Now some of you reading this might think, “Yeah, but what does Mike know about the subject?” Well, folks, I’d like to state that I am an expert on marriage, divorce, and junky jewelry. I do know what I’m talking about here. I make a promise to each and every one of you that I will show you why, without a doubt, that men should never buy jewelry for the lady in their life. I suppose I should also add that men should never buy cars, houses, clothes, any sort of fashion-related items, appliances, etc., either. Men should never buy any of these things for their lady — it’s against common sense, natural law, and just plain stupid for men to do so. Think about it, ladies, do you actually want your man doing even more stupid stuff than he already does? No! Right? Like I said, I’m sure many of you ladies might disagree at the moment, but read on, and you will come to see the light. I’m very sure of that.
A typical Shichiya has this Noren (hanging cloth) across the doorway.
In Japan, we have shops called Shichiya-san. Shichiya-san translates into “Pawn Shop” in English. And, since Japan’s economy has been in the doldrums for over 15 years, these Shichiya-san are popping up everywhere. Just like in the States, they sell all sorts of junk from TV’s to guitars to diamond rings… Chuckle. That one gets me every time. I just have to snicker about that “diamond ring” part. I laugh when I walk by one of these shops and see those rings in the display window.
I’m not saying that the diamond rings are fake. They usually aren’t — the Pawn Shop owners aren’t stupid — they know a real ring when they see one. They also know a piece of junk when they see one too. That’s where the funny part comes in.
Several years ago, my wife became the exclusive Japan distributor for a company in Thailand that manufactures costume jewelry — Please take note that this business has nothing to do with me. If you ever go to the zoo and see those little cute jewelry bears, giraffes, and zebra pins, key-chains, etc., those are theirs.
The middle-man between the factory and my wife is a good friend named Bob. Bob and I went drinking once and he taught me all the ins and outs of costume jewelry. Basically, costume jewelry breaks down into three classes as I can remember: Junk metal with “foil” around it; Junk metal with paint around it; and junk metal that is even junkier than the other junk metal. The final category includes outrageously expensive designer trash, er, I mean, jewelry that costs and arm and a leg just because it says “Christine Door” or “Change the Chanel” or something like that on it. If you just bought jewelry like this for your lady-friend, please ignore this paragraph.
So, my wife gets this distributors license and enters into a select group of snooty world-wide diamond, rare gems, finished jewelry and other used coin dealers. Every year, in Japan, they have an International Jewelry fair. Company and factory reps come from all over the world to gather and sell their goods to a still wealthy Japanese market. The only people who are allowed into this Jewelry fair are licensed dealers and reps — the general public is not allowed. There’s a good reason for this too. If the general public were allowed in and they found out what was really going on, no one would buy jewelry anymore. At least not from jewelry shops and departments stores. That’s for sure.
The fair is interesting for guys, I suppose. Once. Maybe twice. I’ve gone along a few times — something to do, you know? So from my industrial-international jewelry espionage escapades, I’ve learned a trick or two about how this entire jewelry racket works.
Anyhow, we get to the fair and my wife wants to buy some incredibly expensive watch. Dumb mortals, like me, think that Rolex is the best watch made. Nope. Wifey tells me, with a touch of disdain in her voice, that a Rolex is a “Sports Watch.” Hrrump! Well, I never! She wants a Carati watch. What’s a Carati watch? I’d never heard of it. She tells me it’s the best watch made in the world. Whatever. She controls all the money, what do I care? And what’s a few hundred for a decent watch, eh? Oh, how I was in for a surprise!
Carati watch — 18 k. Pink gold with diamonds and ruby face.
A Carati watch is a real watch. They are made in Italy and the factory only produces sixteen of these hand-made wrist-watches a month — there are only eight of each model produced. And since they change models and each one is hand-made, they are all one-of-a-kind. People like the Queen of England, the Empress of Japan, Arnie Schwartzneggar’s wife or Michael Jackson owns one of these watches. Like I said, mere mortals like me, have never even seen one. Well, you don’t want to see one when your wife wants one, because they sell for, are you ready for this? Thirty-eight thousand dollars a watch! Yes, you read correctly; that’s a dollar sign, followed by a 38 with a big five zeros after it. This stuff is so exclusive that Carati Italy doesn’t even have a web-site (at least I can’t find one)!
My jaw drops down to my knees.
I think, "You must be out of your mind, crazy wooooman!" But I take the diplomatic approach and I calmly ask, “You aren’t seriously thinking of buying that are you, honey?” fully aware of the impending doom.
“Yes! I’m going to buy one.” She bubbles. I force a smile and go and sit down in the concession area and console myself with a $12 Coke. Jeez. I am definitely in the wrong place. After a while, I go back to where my wife is haggling with this factory rep. She can’t decide which one of two watches to buy: The $36,000 watch or the $38,000 watch. Hell, what difference does it make? What’s a few thousand dollars among friends? I do politely bring up one more minor detail to my wife though:
“Uh, honey, where are you going to wear that watch? I certainly don’t ever take you to any places where you could wear that. Heck, I don’t even own a proper suit and neck tie.”
“Well, you’ll have to dress up if I wear this watch.” She smiles as her words hit me like a left upper-cut flush on the chin. I go down for an eight count. Good point, I suppose. No sense in arguing about it.
Well folks, having learned from my previous divorcerial experience(s), I tell her to buy the most expensive watch. You see, guys, if you don’t let her buy the best one of whatever it is that she wants, she’ll always regret it later and you’ll never hear the end of it. Every night, over and over, “I should have bought that one.” Or; “I should have done this or that.” Or; “I should have listened to my mother and never married a cheap-skate loser like you.” You don’t want to hear that all the time, do you? Let her buy the best one. Then she can’t complain. And it works out good for you fellas too! When she wants the best jewelry, you say “OK!” When you want the best Harley Davidson, she has to say, “OK!” (Let’s face it, though, that’ll never happen.)
So my wife opts for the better watch. The sales rep tells her that she will own only one of two of this particular model in Japan. The other one is sitting in a display case at the super high-class Akasaka Prince Hotel. It’s been there for years and no one is crazy enough to buy it. It figures. Generally speaking, I’ve found that most rich people are usually not too crazy or stupid — government administration officials and their children notwithstanding — to throw money away.
When the deal is done, my wife happily skips towards me and we’re out the door. I try to erase from my memory all traces of this horrid place — Especially $38,000 for a stinkin’ wrist watch. But how wrong I was! The watch did not cost 38 grand. No! That was the suggested retail price. My wife, with her distributors license, got it for about $8000. Sure, eight grand for a watch is still mega-bucks (she didn’t buy it with money I earned, that’s for sure). But when you think about how this system works you’d realize that almost all the jewelry sold at retail is, well, junk.
My wife tells me that high-end jewelry is usually marked up 300—400% percent at retail. That’s why she got the watch for so much less than the tagged price. Then she goes on to tell me that “cheap” jewelry is marked up 900 to 1000% percent or more at retail. That means, guys, that the $2000 dollar ring you just bought for your wife at Jewelry-O-Rama sold for maybe $200 at wholesale. The distribution company has to get paid. Then there’s over-head, storage, etc. And the factory had to profit too. Which means that, including labor, that $2000 ring you bought is worth about $14 and a couple of used baseball cards.
That’s why when you take the jewelry to the Shichiya-san, they’ll only give you $15 dollars for it.
So you see, ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn’t work out. Guys, by themselves, should never buy jewelry, fashion, or any other important items for that matter. Us guys have terrible fashion sense (no argument there, right?) and what we buy for you ladies, you won’t like or use anyway. So what’s the point? If this kind of stuff is going to be un-fashionable or useless, I think it’s best if we guys let the women do the shopping. A really good husband or boyfriend will tag along for the shopping and not complain. So if you have a guy like that, you should keep him. And that goes for you guys, too. You should go shopping at least sometimes. And when doing so, don’t be whimpering like a little girl the entire time — nobody wants to hear your constant whining. It’s just like going to the dentist: Just be patient, be quiet, suck it up, and it will be over before you know it. If you folks both do this, then I can assure you that just one more little item that irritates you about that special person in your life will be alleviated.
That way, when the inevitable divorce does come, and the rings are taken to the Pawn Shop, she won’t be able to say, “I should have listened to my mother and never married a cheap-skate loser like you.”
Oh, and about the Carati watch my wife bought: it’s still only one of two in Japan. The one still sits at the Prince Hotel, locked up in a case. And my wife’s watch is locked up in a safe deposit box at some bank somewhere. I haven’t seen it since she bought it and that’s been years ago.
So it all works out in the wash. I don’t have to hear her complaining about what a cheap-skate I am; she doesn’t ask me if she can buy expensive jewelry anymore either. I still don’t own a decent suit and tie and I never have to take my wife out to fancy places where I would feel out of place. Heck, I still don’t even have to comb my hair! When you stop to think about it, guys, that’s a pretty fair deal in the long run. Wouldn’t you agree?
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, goes on sale in July.