Ten years ago, I became a bag lady.
After finding myself face-to-leather with the most exquisite Marc Jacobs mini-satchel, I entered a new phase of my life that I now refer to as my Leather Period. I grappled over the purchase, given a price tag that equated to over half a month’s rent. But once I went home with my new bag, there was no turning back. And in the decade since, I’ve fed my addiction (Michael Kors and Francesco Biasia galore) and supplemented it with shoes.
So when I fell in Love! with a friend’s Gerard Darel 24 heure bag—the Midday Midnight in brown—I knew I was doomed. You just can’t buy this bag in the U.S. except online—and even then, the selection is limited and the prices are a little frightening. I combed eBay. I Googled and Yahooed and Binged the bag for several days straight but couldn’t find the one I was looking for. And even if I was willing to “settle” for a color I didn’t love, it would cost me … (gulp) … $750.
This is when the friend whose Darel started me off on this obsession chimed in. “Doesn’t the exchange rate kill your desire to buy one in Paris?”
“Au contraire, mon amie!” I cheerfully replied. “You forget two things.”
With calculator in hand, I explained that, sure, one euro is equal to $1.48 (at the moment), but a French-made bag will always be less expensive to buy in Paris. That 490 euros translates to roughly $728.
“But that’s only $25 less than the bag you can buy online,” my friend replied, not yet buying into my logic.
That’s when I shared a little math trick with my friend. “Yes, but don’t forget about the VAT refund.”
“The what refund?”
“No, the VAT refund.” I reintroduced her to the calculator. “You see, all goods in France have a 19.9 percent value-added tax placed on them. But as a person who doesn’t reside in France or the E.U., I’m entitled to a VAT refund if I spend more than 175 euros in one store. So if I buy that bag in Galeries Lafayette, which offers a 12 percent VAT refund, the cost of my new Darel is actually $640.”
My friend’s eyes lit up. “Now that’s the kind of math they should teach in school.”
Of course, unless your last name is Trump, Rothschild or Oprah (does she still have a last name?), $640 is still a bit more than most people consider reasonable. But that 250 euro bag … it’ll look really nice with my new Michael Kors boots.