Why pay less?
That appears to be the sales motto of the NYT Store, which continues to add to its inventory with all manner of high-priced trinkets and souvenirs.
But in many cases, its products are available elsewhere on the Internet -- and at only a fraction of the NYT's exorbitant prices.
We noticed this odd sales phenomenon -- we're not retailing experts, but we think it's called "markup" -- when we were pondering the purchase of a "Spicy Letter from James Buchanan," written in 1853 by the future 15th president (and our nation's only bachelor-in-chief) to a young woman named Eliza Wattstein.
In the letter, Buchanan writes that he's hoping to experience "the pleasure of a tete a tete with your ladyship." Spicy indeed!
The NYT Store offers this tasty slice of Americana for only $5,200, and describes it as a "rare one-of-a-kind document" and "a real piece of history."
But before buying, we did what any red-blooded American would do: we searched for a bargain. And within a couple of clicks, we found one. The same letter was for sale online through a document dealer named Seth Kaller, for only $2,950! (According to the Christie's website, the letter was sold at auction in 2006 from the Forbes Collection for only $1,800.)
Curious, we began perusing the NYT gift shop for other overpriced items. And quickly, we realized that our favorite newspaper was engaged in the business of marking up a multitude of expensive knick-knacks -- typically as much as 30 percent over other online stores selling the identical things.
A few examples:
You could buy "Steal Your Face Cuff Links" -- because really, who doesn't want sterling silver jewelry that commemorates The Grateful Dead? -- for $135 at the NYT Store.
Or, with a few clicks, you could buy the identical links from www.hippieshop.com for $99.95.
How about a 1901 black-and-white photo called "Keith's Bicycle Track," of four men riding bikes in a cylinder? Surely you're willing to part with $199 for an 11-x-14 image of such hijinks from the NYT Store.
But if that's too much, the identical photo is available from the Museum of the City of New York for $125.
Let's see, what other kooky crap does the NYT have to offer at over-the-top prices?
Well, we're always on the lookout for a framed, autographed Amy Grant album cover, because who isn't?
Turns out we're in luck! !he NYT sells an authenticated, framed, autographed cover of Grant's "House of Love" for $550.
Of course, we could always buy the identical item from the tias.com website, that sells authenticated autographs from celebrities at bargain prices -- they've got the same authenticated Grant album cover and frame for $358.80.
But really, we like handing the NYT nearly $200 in extra profit. It's our little way of saying thanks, for all those wonderful Tom Friedman columns!
Feeling romantic and rich? Then spend 20 percent more for a "Romantic Lafayette Pendant," on sale at the NYT Store for $59, even though the catalog mentions that it's created by the New York Historical Society.
Go to the society's online store, and you'll find the same pendant for $47.
We suppose it's only fair that the NYT Store charge what is sometimes referred to by retailers as "list price" for certain items -- say, for example, a NYT book that collects all its front pages in a large bound volume, with accompanying DVD-ROM, which the NYT store sells for $60.
But it's hard to resist buying the same book at Amazon, for $37.80 -- a 37% discount.