How Does a Billionaire Shop?

“Shop like a billionaire.”

That’s the tagline that an autotuned voice from some netherworld sang in a Jujube-colored Super Bowl commercial for Temu, the Chinese-owned retail digital marketplace.

Filled with price tags jumping over a series of primitive video game scenarios with a woman dancing through them, and a refrain of “Ooh, ooh, Temu!,” the ad ran a staggering six times.

Unless it signaled something about an alien takeover, it was incomprehensible the first time, and never got better.

But it did make me wonder about how “a billionaire” shops.

What with tech and its online effects revolutionizing the economy, it seems we have more billionaires than ever, but there’s also a widening divide between the 2 percent and everyone else, who presumably would shop on Temu.



A glance at the home page shows amazing deals on pickleball paddles, if you’re interested.

Certainly, people with fortunes like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have redefined the billionaire image.

It seemed a lot simpler back in the 1960s, when rich people were called “millionaires” and references to their ways abounded in pop culture. The Beverly Hillbillies introduced us to “old Jed, the millionaire,” who hit oil but kept his mountain ways, save for buying the mansion, (another word that has lost its meaning) when he “loaded up his truck and moved to Beverly – Hills, that is. Swimming pools, movie stars.”)

A popular ad for Chock full o’ Nuts coffee in the 1950s and ‘60s had the business founder’s wife, Paige Morton Black, singing a ditty in her own cabaret singer turned dainty-rich-lady voice.

 “Chock full o Nuts is the heavenly coffee” she crooned, eventually getting to “better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy.”

Now that’s a sell. Pre-TV, when it debuted on radio, the lyrics were “better coffee a Rockefeller’s money can’t buy,” a more expressive line that probably spoke to Depression-raised Americans. But the Rockefellers were not amused and sued, so Chock was forced to change it. 

According to the Walmart historian, Sam Walton “paid attention to every dime he spent” and another old-timey billionaire, Warren Buffet, certainly shops off the rack, if at all. 

A real-live billionaire I know, who made his fortune in software, has a phalanx of managers and professionals to run his houses and do his personal purchasing. He and his wife have a wardrobe advisor and stylist, and that seems pretty standard these days.

So was Temu’s astonishingly confident media buy ($40-ish million) -and offer of $10 million in giveaways as tone-deaf as the spot’s bizarre sensibility?

Well, the answer isn’t good for advertising creativity, that’s for sure.

Even as it pounded a surreal message into our eyes and ears, the ad helped Temu rack up close to 430,000 downloads of its app over the course of the weekend, according to data from Sensor Tower. It also saw 2.4 million active users on its site and app during the game, Sensor Tower said.

Of course, if those downloads translate to actual shoppers, we’ll have to see if they become long-term converts, given reports of Temu’s shoddy goods and slow delivery.

But for the meantime, as one financial analyst put it, “Profitability is a concern. It’s just not a priority right now.”

And women’s fashion starting at $1.51 is?

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