Rich people get caught in self-created scam; hilarity (and legal fees) ensue

My, my, my.

This headline and subhed are hilarious and really brightened my morning: “These Millionaires Tried Turning a Yacht Into a Tax Break. The IRS Sank Their Plan: The Ridingers donated Utopia II to charity and ended up paying $3.5 million in taxes and penalties”

JR and Loren Ridinger wanted a new yacht. First, they needed to get rid of the old one.

The 116-foot Utopia II wasn’t selling, so the Ridingers and their lawyers hatched an alternative plan: Donate it, and reap a big tax deduction.

Lots of charities take shoes and clothes. Some take cars (often selling them for cash). Yachts, not so much.

What followed was an odyssey now approaching its eighth year. Audits, lawsuits, a midsea collision. The lesson: Think very, very carefully before you donate your yacht.

The tax filings of the super rich—and the Ridingers, who made a fortune recruiting people to sell antiaging creams and vitamin supplements, are very rich—are enormously complicated affairs. Wealthy taxpayers rely on a bevy of accountants, lawyers and financial advisers to navigate them.

All that advice is no guarantee of a flawless return that passes muster with the Internal Revenue Service, especially with the agency poised to hire more auditors to patrol the tax filings of the top 1%.

The Ridingers thought the 2016 donation would save them about $2 million on their taxes. Instead, they ended up paying $3.5 million in taxes and penalties.

Mr. Ridinger died suddenly last year, but the fight over Utopia II continues. In a lawsuit against their former lawyers, Mrs. Ridinger says the couple was misled into a transaction that ultimately benefited the attorneys. Their onetime lawyers say the couple and their companies misrepresented the yacht’s value and that the transaction didn’t personally benefit them.

See pic below of the couple.

Loren and JR Ridinger, who made their millions selling anti-aging creams and vitamin supplements, in happier times.

Influencers who status seek with an insulated water bottle

More evidence of how deeply effed-up some corners of our society are: status-seeking with a large plastic insulated drinking bottle:

Stanley, a century-old brand that you might associate with Grandpa’s camping gear, reports the waiting list for its 40-ounce drinking vessel peaked at 150,000 customers earlier this year after millennial women with large social-media followings helped repopularize it. Sales this year are up 275%, compared with last year, the company says, a figure that doesn’t count resales on websites like Poshmark.

Rhonda Jarrar, Google’s head of talent-outreach partnerships in North America, says Instagram led her to covet a sold-out Quencher. But she couldn’t bring herself to spend the $100-plus commanded by people trying to flip theirs for a profit. She waited for a restock, pounced on one at face value and now relishes the admiring banter that ensues when she takes a sip on video calls.

“I’m fully remote, so sadly I don’t get the chance to status-signal to co-workers” in person, she says.

The notion of a status water bottle, laughable just a few years ago, is a product of the new work order.

Many traditional markers of style and success—think designer handbags and Swiss watches—are either off-camera during Zoom meetings or seem overly dressy in offices that are more laid-back than before the pandemic.

What’s the point of buying Italian-wool trousers if denim is the new uniform, or an $800 pair of heels if you aren’t going to strut onto the company elevator and savor envious glances?

I’ve had a lot of fashion-conscious people in my orbit over the years, and they break mostly into two camps:

  1. People who are genuinely fashionable and generally wow you with aesthetics which show how much they cherish well-made designer clothes (and other purchases) that bring them joy to wear and own.
  2. People who are hangers-on (we now call them influencers) who buy things because they think it gives them status. They are often terrible dressers and have minimal design sense themselves. They purchase things because the Kardashian told them to.

It’s not reassuring that Google’s head of talent-outreach partnerships in North America is such a poseur she falls into the first category.

As far as the Stanley water bottle goes, every one of them shown in the WSJ article quoted above has what I consider the death knell for an insulated drink container: a plastic straw. Or, rather, what ends up being a pathogen-encrusted mess unless you buy a special brush to clean it regularly.

For my money, if you want a super sturdy stylish insulated drink container that is also efficient at keeping things hot and cold, buy Takeya sports bottles at this link. They require a little loving care in terms of upkeep on the removeable/washable rubber O-rings in the lid (you can buy replacements), but it’s minimal. This thing does not spill or break no matter if you drop it or carry it all day laying on its side in a backpack or briefcase. You will still have ice at the end of the day.

I discovered Takeya this summer for my iced coffee, and I will never, ever use anything else.

Takeya insulated bottles are better than Stanley in every way.

“This is a Bernie Madoff-size scam for the sneaker market”

There are so many telltale signs of the corroding effects of capitalism on society that I’d hardly know where to start (or end) in presenting the evidence.

But this Wall Street Journal article about the reseller market in high-end sneakers is right up there.

Mr. Malekzadeh’s apparent success afforded him the kind of insouciant, gold-plated lifestyle that luxury sneakers are thought to reflect. On Instagram, the 39-year-old showed off his Ferraris and a six-figure Girard-Perregaux watch next to a hamburger. He also posted shots of himself riding a $29,000 Louis Vuitton bicycle inside his million-dollar home in Eugene, Ore.

The business, in real life, was collapsing under the weight of unfulfilled orders, late payments and customer complaints. In May, Mr. Malekzadeh’s fiancée—also the company’s finance chief—pushed for both of them to come clean, according to people familiar with the situation.

Federal prosecutors a few months later charged the couple with bank fraud and Mr. Malekzadeh with wire fraud and money laundering. Customers claim they paid millions of dollars for shoes that never arrived. A court-appointed receiver is sorting out the remaining inventory of the entrepreneur’s company, Zadeh Kicks.

Early last year, Mr. Malekzadeh collected orders for about 600,000 pairs of Air Jordan 11 Cool Grey sneakers months before they hit stores, netting over $70 million, according to prosecutors. He priced the sneakers between $115 and $200 a pair, cheaper than their expected retail price of around $225, prosecutors said.

Mr. Malekzadeh was able to get only 6,000 pairs.

Prosecutors allege he collected preorder funds from customers while knowing he couldn’t fill all the orders. Since at least 2020, he spent more than $10 million of the company’s preorder proceeds on luxury goods, including watches, furs and handbags, they said. In a seizure warrant affidavit, federal authorities allege the couple also used customer money to help make a down payment on a house and complete about $600,000 of work to remodel it.

Seriously, man, Yeezy and Travis Scott are both terrible human beings. The evidence has been out there for some time that they are not the kind of people you’d want in your social circle unless you are a hopeless social climber.

Yet someone people still pay thousands for sneakers with their names on them.

Of course a business like that would be ripe for con artists. I don’t feel a bit of sympathy for anyone who gets swindled in this maelstrom of greed and status-seeking. You’re stupid enough to pay more than $100 for a pair of sneakers, you deserve to get cheated.

Malekzadeh in his empire that was apparently largely smoke and mirrors.

More people willing to wear used workout gear, swimsuits and shoes

This is an interesting change:

A selection of Lululemon Athletica Inc.’s coveted leggings is available at a big discount, but there is a catch. Someone has sweated in them.

Workout gear, swimsuits, bras and other items once taboo for the secondhand racks now are widely available, as shoppers get more comfortable with wearing what someone else once did.

Not everyone’s tolerance is the same. One person’s great find is another’s grossout.

“We call it the “ick factor,” as in how much “ick” does a particular item have?” said Sarah Davis, founder and president of Fashionphile LLC, a marketplace for previously owned luxury shoes, handbags, jewelry and accessories.

Shoes have a high ick factor, leading to elevated returns by buyers who initially thought they were OK with walking in someone else’s footwear, Ms. Davis said.

Fashionphile stopped offering used shoes for a while but has sidestepped the problem. It carries only the most gently worn ones—no toe marks or scuffs—and hand-cleans them with shampoo, baby wipes and antibacterial spray.

“We get rid of all the things that remind you the shoe was worn by someone else,” Ms. Davis said.

That isn’t enough to tempt Ryan Bullock. “Your feet sit inside them all day,” said the 26-year-old real-estate investor in Philadelphia.

Yet he has no issue with secondhand workout gear, a concept he got comfortable with in high school when he played football and donned the team’s repeatedly reused jerseys.

“Most of the clothes I buy for the gym are secondhand. I feel no reason to spend big bucks on clothes I will be sweating in,” Mr. Bullock said.

I don’t see the problem with any of this.

You can read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article by Suzanne Kapner at this link.

Because who doesn’t want a product in your shower when you’re naked that can burn your skin?

A friend sent me this product called Shower Steamers by Cleverfy, the idea of which is that you put one of these round disks into the hot shower with you and it dissolves slowly, sending wafts of aromatherapeutic fragrances into the steam for you you enjoy.

The instructions are, more or less, put it into your shower with you. Not under the water but so that water drips on it. Enjoy.

Then I noticed these words, in bold, “Do Not Pick It Up With Bare Skin.”

That seems odd for a product you’re standing next to naked, but I did as the instructions said and started my shower.

Except when I was showering, as often happens, my water suddenly turned unbearably hot. So I jumped to the back of the shower and stepped on the no-bare-skin bath aroma disk.

Water temp returned to normal, so I stepped back to the front of the shower to rinse off the foot that came into contact with the disk. I noticed the bottom of my foot has already turned red and started to feel numb.

That was fast.

I decided this product contains things to which I should NOT be coming into close contact, much less breathing into my lungs with steam.

I threw the rest away.

BTW I took a closer look at the instructions and it says if you are pregnant, you should consult a doctor before using it.

However, in the marketing blurbs on the manufacturing web site, it contains a testimonial from one Kimberly, 30 years of age:

“Oh, My, Gosh! For all those baby mamas there – you NEED them! I keep stocking up in fear of running out, as these are the only thing that help me relax after a busy day with my little ones! Sometimes mommy really does need some de-stressing and these are bomb!”

I dunno, Kimberly. Did you consult your doctor about this?

I checked the company’s web site. You can’t find out who’s behind the company, only that its founder (see below) loves New Age BS-speak.

From the back of the package.
Wiser words have never been spoken. From the company founder. I love that she’s holding a Vogue magazine and wearing a chain so big if could hold an anchor.