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2:09 PM Tue, Sept. 18th

Around the Bluhmin' Town: If shopping for a purse, bring your own mint

I went purse shopping. Yes, my eyes have been opened (and wallet almost emptied) because I have seen the Purse Promise Land. Husbands, please stop reading this column right now, because what I am about to say might be alarming.

Ladies’ handbags cost a King’s ransom. Why? Well, I am not an investigative reporter so have no idea why so many purses start out at around $350 ... and then head north into the thousands. And of course, the sky is the limit. I have a girlfriend who is an attorney and has a Hermes bag that cost $10,000. Oh yeah, purses are insanely expensive.

Oh, and she makes no excuses for spending a pile of money on a handbag. She simply says, “I like excellent quality.” Ha! I told her I thought 10K should be “illegal” to spend on a handbag.

A colleague in Phoenix took me into the Michael Kors shop, where I thought I might be in a purse museum. The lighting was bright, spotters shining on racks of perfectly stacked leather handbags. Was I in an art gallery? The displays, purses artfully sitting on glass shelves, and an almost devout group of women standing and staring, with such joy and awe that I was wondering, “Am I in the Louvre?” Oh, did I mention you better have $350 to $700 to even consider buying one of these “masterpieces?” My friend, not able to decide on which bag to select, said, “Let’s go to the Coach store.”

Okay, I have good taste. I like fine things. But one thing about Coach bags is this: They All Look the Same! Uh oh, now the emails will come flying my way. Sorry Ladies, but Coach purses all look like they have been cut from the same cloth! Boring! AND they cost a few hundred bucks or more. I mentioned this to my friend and she just stared at me and hissed, “It is called brand recognition. Like McDonald's golden arches. Of course they all look alike!”

While she spent an hour weighing the pros and cons of which (overpriced) exquisite handbag to buy, we moved on (escaped) to go have lunch.

Oh, and my attorney friend with the Hermes bag? Well, she has a bigger problem. It seems that it smells like a skunk! That’s right, about 15,000 customers are freaked out because their coveted bags that cost an arm and a leg have a really strong, disgusting odor. If it sits in the sun for a few minutes, the stench is unbearable.

My friend has sent it back to France and she is insisting on a refund, or will wait several months for a new handbag. When I told her that maybe it doesn’t always pay to be “stinkin’ rich” she was not amused.

What’s in your wallet? Okay, I meant to say what’s in your handbag? Because some of these purses I saw on my Purse Expedition are large enough to pack for a week! In fact I did go to Australia for a month with a smaller backpack. Ladies, what are we carrying around in these suitcase size bags? I am shopped out. Although I didn’t buy anything, I have seen the Fantasy Land of purses. And I probably will never go there. But one can dream. Leather as soft as butter, handmade clasps of 24-carat gold, or better yet crocodile skin with 10 carats of white diamonds! The Red Crocodile Birkin bag sells for a mere $200,000. At that price, the purse should be laying golden eggs.

If clothes make the man, then handbags must make the woman. Americans spend around $1.6 billion annually on purses! The average woman has 21 handbags and buys three a year. One in ten women spend more than a thousand bucks on their purses and the average price is for the average gal is around $150. That’s a whole lot of dough going into the sack that carries our dough. Which if we keep spending on purses we may not need them!

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.