Dear Not Dear

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. -- Ladies!! A note of caution.

Some dork -- one to whom you may or may not be married -- shows up with real silk stockings, a fistful of flowers, a pound of chocolate and something jewelry.

He tells you he's smitten, he's in like, he's infatuated. He's pushing the goods toward you in such a way that they're clearly meant to be bagged and tagged as proof of the love he professes.

It's silly to cast doubt on his intentions -- the motive here is pretty clear. But do look upon the evidence with raised eyebrow.

Check out the table of cost increases and decreases above. Jewelry prices just fell for a third straight year, and lingerie was the only portion of the standard V-Day package to post a price increase that even

Scrooge

himself would have a tough time calling prohibitive.

Those who have only recently trapped their prey should probably be happy to get such gifts -- period. But the long-termers ought to look at it this way. The average guy made 3.7% more money in 1998 than he did in 1997. Yet this year, owing to the presence of a Y chromosome, he's bound to show up with exactly the same things as always -- and he'll have had to spend a lot less (averaging all prices) than 3.7% to do it.

In other words, ladies, you're being cheated -- even more so if your guy is better than average.

So this Sunday, act accordingly. Demand more; send him back out. Tell him you want something that really says something, something flat-out expensive -- and that reflects the value of his raise. A bottle of bubbly hardly impresses (up only 1.8% from last year), and an appliance certainly won't do (up only 0.2%). Or, better yet, ask for something that is a cinch to appreciate -- something like Internet shares.

And then ask him this:

Where's the rest of that purchasing power been going?

Side Dish

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