BECAUSE OF the uncertainty of the economy, everyone seems to be buying things today "as a good investment."
My wife is no exception. The other day she came home with an Oriental rug the size of a postage stamp.
"How do you like it?" she wanted to know.
"It's beautiful," I said. "what's it for?"
"The hallway. I got a fantastic buy on it."
"Oh. Would I be out of line to inquire how much it was?"
"Six hundred dollars."
"You paid $600 for a rug that two people can't stand on at the same time?"
"It's a very good investment. Liz Stevens bought one just like it three years ago for $400 and it's now worth $3,000."
"You told me the dining room table you bought five years ago for $800 was a good investment."
"Well, it was. That table is now selling at Sloane's for $4,000."
"Okay, let's sell it then."
"Are you crazy?" she said. "Why would we want to sell our table?"
"Because we bought it as an investment and you never know when the market is going to drop through the floor on dining room tables."
"Then what do we do for a table?"
"We could buy another one for $800 and sell it in four years."
"You can't replace that dining room table for $800."
"Then why is it a good investment if you never intended to sell it? I might also ask the same question about this Oriental rug."
"The longer we hold on to these things the higher in value they'll go. We won't sell them until we need the money."
"Yes, but when that time comes, everyone else will also be broke, and there will be nobody to buy the rug," I said.
"The man in the rug store said he'd buy it back from us any time we wanted to sell it. That's how good an investment he thinks it is."
"Men in rug stores always say that. So do art dealers, and come to think of it so do jewelers. But have you ever tried to take something back to the person who says that?"
I could tell I wasn't getting to her.
"If you want to know the truth of the matter," she said, "I would rather have a small Oriental rug that will go up in value every year than a shag rug that will worthless in a decade. Almost everything we own is worth five times what we paid for it."
"I say we liquidate, take our profits and run," I said. "That's what good investors do."
"Not on your life. The way inflation is going," she said, "the only protection we have is to invest in good things. Then we at least have security."
I called up Liz Stevens' husband George. "Would you be interested in buying a $600 Oriental rug for $1,000?"
"No," he said, "but I'll sell you a $3,000 rug for $400."
"That's what I thought," I said and hung up.
I sat on our $300 sofa which was now worth $1,200 and tried to figure out some other way to pay our gas bill.