What’s the Deal with Coach Bags?

I first heard about the expensive Coach bags over at a blog that has since been taken down – Jim over at My Debt Blog last year mentioned his wife wanted another Coach bag for Christmas.

Then at church a couple of weeks ago, one of the young ladies there was talking about her new Coach bag that her Grandma was giving her for her birthday. This is all she wanted, and it was the only thing Grandma was going to buy her. Then I find out it’s a $300 bag.

I asked what is the big deal about these bags?  Another lady began to tell me how they are such high quality and made so well that they last forever. She said her husband took her to an outlet store that sold Coach bags and she picked out her favorite. But she refused to buy it when she found out it was $800!

I told her my understanding is these these bags aren’t actually being purchased for their high quality since the ladies who want them need multiple Coach bags. She seemed to agree with that assessment.

I don’t think I would ever be able to bring myself to buy a purse that cost $300. I’d get mad at Mr. A if he spent that kind of money on me, period, let alone for a purse.  We’d be taking it back, pronto. I don’t care how well it’s made.  I’m just not a shoe and purse person.  I do carry a purse, but it’s small and has a long strap so I can carry it across my shoulder.

Today Big A had an appointment at our asthma specialist’s office.  We got into town early and needed to kill a few minutes, so we stopped into Savers. I had hoped to find a few pairs of shorts for Big A, but ended up getting him a pair of Van’s sneakers that cost $5.99.  The shoes were by the purses, so I looked for a new purse for myself. I’ve been carrying my current one for a couple of years, and it was used to begin with. It’s been starting to look raggedy and the strap has a bunch of cracks in it.

I found a perfect replacement for two-ninety-nine.  Two dollars and ninety-nine cents that is, not in the hundreds. Here’s my old purse:

My Old Purse

Here’s my new one:

My New Purse

So can anyone explain to me what’s the big deal about Coach purses?

Thanks,

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14 comments to What’s the Deal with Coach Bags?

  • If you ever figure this out, please e-mail me the explanation. I’m just mystified by the idea that you could spend more on one purse than some people clear in a week (or a month).
    My last purse came from a thrift store. I rarely use it, preferring a backpack. At this rate, they may bury me with the damn purse.
    I wrote an essay about this for Smart Spending,
    http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/archive/2007/10/04/how-bout-them-apples.aspx
    in which I noted that “As long as the rich people who make this stuff can convince the rest of us that we need this stuff, then the rich will get richer and the rest of us will get nowhere.
    “There’s nothing wrong with wanting things. But there’s plenty wrong with letting someone else decide what you should want. Other people’s notions of the luxe life are turning us into a nation of indentured servants shackled to credit-card debt. Buy now, pay for years.”
    Like I said: I’m mystified. I’m also not particularly stylish. But I *am* solvent. That’s worth a lot more to me than a purse stamped with some logo.

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Donna, I LOVED your article over at Smart Spending! I agree with the whole thing. Thanks for visiting and commenting! Oh, and I’ll definitely get back to you if anyone gives me an answer. LOL

    [Reply]

  • Sheila

    I’m a little hesitant to post a comment, because I do see your point, but I want to show a different perspective. I carry a Coach, and I do like it. I’m also just fine with less expensive purses. Here’s the thing – each of us have things that we are willing to spend more money on than others. I’m shocked over a $1,000/month food budget, and we buy a lot of what I would consider to be ‘luxury’ items in our family of 4 (sports supplements, etc). :) The important thing, in my opinion, is that you decide what is important to you and be conscious in your decisions, and never spend beyond your means. At this point in our lives, we are debt free other than our mortgage, have quite healthy savings/retirement balances and good income. We are currently saving about 30-35% of our income. A $300 purse may be a splurge, but doesn’t have much impact on our bottom line. My husband and I have worked very hard to get into this position, have done things we didn’t enjoy and haven’t done a lot of things we would have liked to, and now we occasionally we enjoy the fruits of our efforts. I carry a Coach because I like it – it’s not anything I ‘need’. It was a gift from my husband who wanted to show his love for me by buying me something that he knew I would like and not buy for myself, which is probably the most important thing about my purse. It’s not a ‘status’ symbol, but a symbol of my husband’s love for me. That’s the ‘big deal’ for me. :)

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Sheila, thank you for responding to my post. Let me reiterate my point in making the post: I can’t comprehend the fascination or desire for such an expensive purse. It wasn’t my intention to make anyone feel guilty for having or wanting one, or feel they should defend why they own one. Sallie’s Niece mentioned that her friends and coworkers would judge her “harshly” and I honestly can’t fathom that. I can’t imagine anyone I know that would care even a little bit about what kind of purse I carry. Okay, I take that back. Maybe my coworker from Mass. She did initially try to get me to spend lots of money on one item from Dillard’s. It was the first Christmas I was there. She gave me a $25 gift certificate, hoping I’d find a sweater or something for $50 or more and have to add some of my own money. I foiled her plans when I came back with four brand new beautiful office quality dress suits on clearance for $5 each. :-) I guess after that she figured I was a hopeless case and gave up trying. You are certainly in a financial position to be able to easily afford and even deserve a Coach bag. I both admire and envy the position you and your husband are in, and it was very sweet of your husband to buy a Coach bag for you, especially since you did want one.

    Alas, I still don’t understand the desire for owning a Coach bag in the first place. Like I said in my post, I’m not into shoes or purses. Maybe that’s why I can’t understand. Maybe I’ll never understand.

    [Reply]

  • I miss Jim’s blog and wonder if he’s been able to curb his wife’s expensive taste. As for the $2.99 pocketbook you posted, I’m sorry to say if I carried something like that my coworkers and friends would judge me harshly. My mom has bought me several fake Coach bags that look just like the real thing for about $60. I prefer something in between, a nice, well made bag that doesn’t break the bank. Nine West makes great bags you can get for about $50.

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Sallie’s Niece, I can honestly say I don’t understand why your friends and coworkers would judge you on the kind of purse you carry. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I live in Arizona where everyone is so laid back. One of my coworkers comes from Massachusetts and she said when she first moved here she was shocked that people go nearly everywhere in shorts. I’m thankful that none of my friends or coworkers care about what kind of purse I carry. I… well, I have worked hard for many years to not worry about other people think, so maybe I wouldn’t care anyway. Thanks for the tip about Nine West, but I have to say I just can’t imagine the thought of spending that much on a purse. I can hardly stand the thought of buying a computer bag for $50. I have a hard time spending money on myself to begin with, so maybe that is part of the problem. Thank you for visiting and commenting, and shedding some light on the Coach bag question. It sounds like one of the reasons is peer pressure, would you agree? Thanks again.

    [Reply]

  • I guess I should also clarify to say I don’t consider myself so vulnerable to peer pressure but I also work in a professional environment where I’m expected to look polished and a nice bag helps in creating that image. Also I carry a lot of stuff! I guess it may be different in other areas of the country (I’m in New York) but how you dress is fairly important.

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Sallie’s Niece, I appreciate your coming back to clarify and I can understand that working in a professional environment can necessitate/require a certain type of dress and bag. You probably have to wear high heels, too. I would never make it in that kind of an environment. Also, I believe the difference between Arizona and New York has a lot to do with it, although there are companies here that require “professional” dress. At my job, the dress code ranges. Basically it’s dress for your position. Some people work outdoors instructing clients, so they dress in shorts and wear hats to protect themselves from the sun. Others work in the kitchen and cleaning bathrooms, so wear jeans. And then there are the goofy tech people who somehow think they can wear flip flops with cut offs and don’t need to wash their hair until it’s a greasy, stringy mess. When I first started, I dressed very professionally, I would say I was overdressed for the position. Over the years, as I’ve gotten more and more tired, I just don’t have the energy to put it all together, and even getting dressed wears me out. It’s a lot easier to throw the week’s worth of shirts and jeans, socks and under garments into the washer. I used to hand wash all my dresses and under garments and wear earrings and even panty hose and mid-heel shoes back then. I used to carry a huge bag with tons of stuff in it, weighing as much as 40 pounds at times. I was beginning to have problems with my shoulders so I forced myself to downsize to a smaller bag. During the years I was a stay at home mom, I didn’t even own a purse, I used a fanny pack. When I started working, it didn’t feel appropriate so I started using a purse again. So I guess I do go with the flow a bit, and it just so happens my friends and workplace don’t require a lot of dressing up. Even at church I’m regularly surprised that most of the women wear slacks and sometimes shorts and flip flops! I still can’t imagine being in a position to wear I’d want to own several $300+ Coach bags. Thank you for the conversation!

    [Reply]

  • pidgeon92

    I have 9 designer bags, and I absolutely love each and every one of them. Sure they are completely unnecessary, but I can afford them, and I enjoy carrying them.

    [Reply]

  • Melissa

    I own a Fossil handbag that cost approximately $150. Prior to this I scavenged the Target racks for handbags. While my Fossil bag isn’t astronomical in price, the difference I have found is the leather. The bag is approximately six months old and there is absolutely no sign of wear. There is no fraying, no sign of a crease where my bag tends to flop when placed on the floor. My Great Dane has trampled the bag on several occasions and there is no indication of scratch marks or paw imprints. The inside pockets where my phone, iPod and camera live are as effective as the day I purchased it. This bag has been through rain, snow, spilled ketchup, taco grease, yet you would never know it. Plus, the leather is soft, supple, and pretty. The interior cloth is smooth and cool, and doesn’t wear thin in the corners. Likewise, I have a Fossil wallet that is well over two years old. Again, there are no signs of wear in the credit card slots, coin pouch or on the edges where I slide my checkbook or cash. I used to purchase a new purse at least twice a year and a new wallet yearly. I forever looked for something that was functional, which is a major challenge. I am not the sort of person who changes my handbag with my outfit, so I need something classic that withstands time, and most importantly, life.

    I will never purchase a “cheap” handbag again, nor should I need to replace my designer bag anytime soon. The price I paid has delivered me quality, function, and style.

    Previously I would spend about $35 twice a year on a handbag. It will only take my Fossil bag two years to be just as cost effective. As a plus, I have saved myself the frustration of leaving a critical item in an old purse, as well as digging through the discount purse racks, which are a disaster. I don’t have enough hours in a day to waste my time.

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Melissa, your use of your Fossil bag I totally understand. I do agree that buying quality is worthwhile. And you are like me, you use the same purse all the time and have used this one for six months. My curiosity in the Coach bags is that women who carry them usually need more than one. One of my first experiences with buying quality was when I invested in a good leather checkbook back in my late twenties. Typically I’d been replacing the checkbook cover at least yearly, only to find they would crack and break. Even the plastic inserts were higher quality in the good leather one. So I can totally get on board with buying a nice looking purse that will last for years. Thanks for visiting and commenting!! :-)

    [Reply]

  • Julie B

    I think that Coach has a puzzling and intoxicating hold on young women, and I wish that more of them would stop to question their desire for these expensive material objects, rather than just helplessly giving in to peer pressure (be it subtle or overt).

    A young lady that I know receives public assistance and claims she cannot afford health insurance for her toddler son, and yet she has at least half a dozen of these ridiculous Coach bags which she and her friends fawn over. It makes me almost sick to my stomach.

    My purse? A 20-year old canvas tote bag. And yes, I’m making a statement with it, just as the ladies who carry Coach purses are making a statement with theirs.

    [Reply]

  • NoClutter

    I had a small leather Coach purse and a Louis Vuitton book bag decades ago. Both bags became dirty, and they were a waste of money. I now have a portable nylon bag for $33 which I can wash. I also hate clutter, so I prefer a simplistic, practical lifestyle. When I see women with truckloads of purses and shoes, I feel as though I have been sucked into a chaotic tornado with debris swirling around me.

    [Reply]

  • NoClutter

    Neither the leather Coach nor Louis Vuitton book bag enhanced my life. From a distance, the imitation bags look like the expensive versions. I actually prefer my travel nylon purse because it’s washable. Those heavy Coach purses would actually aggravate my sciatica.

    I hate clutter so much that I can’t even tolerate lots of jewelry. I flee from jewelry counters.

    I like Mrs. Accountability’s first bag because it’s smaller and more manageable. I was foolish to buy the Louis Vuitton decades ago, but now I have become wiser. I like stylish simplicity, and a simple black bag often coordinates with many things. I remember a lady years ago who had a large home and kids in expensive private school; but she bought the cheapest thrift store clothes. That lady was smart enough to figure out the most important priorities. The average middle class family simply cannot afford to splurge on these expensive purses. Donna’s article about the middle class being targeted to overspend on luxury items is very perceptive.

    [Reply]

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