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Electronic Cigarettes As Status Symbols?
Wikipedia, the source of all mankind’s knowledge (LOL!), defines ‘Status Symbol’ this way: “A status symbol is a perceived visible, external denotation of one’s social position and perceived indicator of economic or social status.  Many luxury goods are often considered status symbols. Status symbol is also a sociological term – as part of social and sociological symbolic interactionism – relating to how individuals and groups interact and interpret various cultural symbols.
So, using that characterization, can an electronic cigarette become a status symbol? Even more important, should they become a status symbol?
Back when I first began vaping I don’t think 24 hours had passed before someone mentioned the name “ProVari”, as in the ProVape ProVari, as being the finest electronic cigarette in the world. At first, not knowing a ProVari from a eGo, I didn’t know if I was being told this by someone who believed the ProVari was a status symbol, or if it was indeed the best electronic cigarette in the whole wide world. I suspected the status symbol explanation because the person telling me this was holding one and he had this ‘air’ about him that reeked of ‘trust fund baby’. That’s being unfairly judgmental, I know, but that is how I felt at the time.
For a while I had an unfair, and undeserved dislike for the ProVari because I suspected that the evils of “status” had permeated this community as it had in so many others, judged by the very limited number of people I had had contact with. It wasn’t until someone close to me owned one, and that I was able to use it on several occasions, that I realized status symbol or not, the ProVari is the best electronic cigarette in the world.
Where I grew up, in the family I grew up in, and the college I attended and the people I was pressured into hanging out with, status symbols were everything. From the car your drove, to the street you lived on, to the clothes you wore, especially the jewelry and shoes, to just about everything else, the brand was all that mattered.
You were considered an outsider, or at the very least a rebel, if you went against the collective thought of these shallow human being if the ‘things’ you owned weren’t the latest ‘in’ thing.
Seeing as how I was an outsider anyway because of my sexual orientation, I always made the conscious decision to wear no-name clothes and no jewelry at all. Showing up on prom night wearing torn jeans and a tee shirt was my way of saying I wanted no part of their shallow lives. That was an incredibly immature thing to do, but I was an immature brat for most of my teen years. Because I felt zero attraction for boys I was often called names, and derided over my “choice”. I fought back by being a real…’bitch’ I believe the word was.
The nice things that I owned, and still own, are things I don’t show off. I don’t buy them because they are well-known or accepted in my old life, I own them because they will last forever, they will hold their value, and in the long run they wind up costing a whole lot less because I’m not out replacing them when they break…because they don’t break.
Status and Quality
Somehow the ‘quality’ of certain products has taken a backseat to the ‘status’ of the product. It used to be, so I’m told, that only the very best products even had the chance to become a status symbol. Over the years that quality has been lost and now status symbols are based on the price. In other words, quality doesn’t make it a status symbol, the outrageous price does.
There are Vapers that own a ProVari because it had become a status symbol, and there are people that own a ProVari because of the quality. I own one because it was gifted to me, but to be honest I would own anyway because of the quality construction, the accuracy of the voltage regulator, and the fact that no matter how old it gets it will behave as if it were brand new.
Even though the ProVape ProVari is a status symbol for some and a quality purchase for others, it is, among electronic cigarette status symbols, one of the least expensive ones, and I find that confusing. There are many esoteric e cigarettes being made and sold around the world. Many of them are super high quality devices, but they are also purely mechanical mods. These devices fit the same mold as the ProVari, status symbol for some and quality devices for others. And they are expensive. Would any of you really save up $3500 and spend it on a mechanical mod? If so, why? Unless of course you were a millionaire, then it would make sense…in a way. I mean I would probably by an Otto Carter if I had millions. But it wouldn’t be for status, it would be an investment in art, sense I’ve heard his older mods actually go up in value, not for being a better mech-mod but because the engraving as his and his alone, and each one is different. That is not the same as spending $300 for a stainless steel and brass mech-mod that is made on the assembly line. In those cases it the brand that makes them a status symbol.
Initial Cost vs. Long term Value
I hear or read people everyday talk about how one day they would love to own a ProVari. Many of them truly believe the ProVari is much too expensive to actually buy one, but in the long run it makes a lot of sense to spend $180 upfront instead of replacing your $80-$100 APV every year, or less. I may own a dozen electronic cigarettes in the coming 4 or 5 years but that same ProVari will continue to function like new. If you’re on a budget and you want to save money then owning a product that will outlast the cheaper ones by a factor of 10 to 1 makes all the sense in the world. Anyway, that’s what I think….
And from there… nothing. So I tossed it into my Documents folder and never looked back.
The One That Got Away
Next, there was this idea that I would write about the time I met a woman at a club in Boston and I talked her into throwing away her analogs and switching to vaping.
I met Claudia while I had left a club one night to go out to my car and grab my camera. I had gotten permission to shoot inside, in a tiny section of the club, so I went to grab my stuff. She was stunningly gorgeous and obviously played for “my” team so I stopped to talk to her. Who wouldn’t?
When I had gotten about 10 feet away I could smell the heavy cigarette smell, she was holding an analog and was trying to hide it as I approached. There’s no mistaking that smell, so before I knew it the following words escaped my lips: “Oh, you’re a smoker.” And the look on her face was a combination of utter embarrassment and sheer despair. I quickly recovered and apologized, which then gave me an opening to tell her that I too was a smoker, long ago, and that I “vaped” now.
One thing led to another and before long we she hitting off my Johnson Creek Vea (I always take a Vea when I go out to clubs) and loving every minute of it. I guess we talked about 30 to 40 minutes, I really didn’t know, and Keira came out to look for me. I’d completely let the time slip away and she was worried that I hadn’t come back.
Well, as you can imagine things didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped, but I did manage to give her my name and phone number, not for any other reason than to help her get set up with her vaping supplies, and to be a sort of “sponsor” in case she had trouble staying off analogs.
A month later she was still vaping. She gave up analogs 100% and she believed she would never ever go back to them. Anyway, the idea was to write about this in detail and maybe include a bit of an interview with her, friend to friend. It fell to pieces when I ran into her at a bagel shop across from Berklee. She had a very jealous girlfriend who I thought was going to beat me up and leave me for dead on the side of the street. I gave up on the idea of completing the column… I haven’t seen her since.
Buy Me, Buy Me!
An idea for column came to me while I was reviewing The Vapor Chef. It was during the period where I was spending a great deal of time with Fluffy Cake, this sweet, buttery vanilla cake eLiquid that tasted so good I wanted to pour the liquid into cake batter and bake it up, or at the very least drip it over a stack of pancakes. Yum!
But, it had nothing to do with The Vapor Chef.
I can’t even find my original notes that I had written while vaping the Fluffy Cake. To the best of my recollection it concerned Vaping Budgets and how to set a budget and stick to it, no matter how excited we might get about an upcoming eLiquid or a new APV. I wanted to do it, I wanted to write it up, but the next morning I woke up, grabbed my laptop and before I could begin writing I saw an email from Dave marked “urgent”. I read the email, which was not urgent by the way, and there was a link to a new mod that I’d never seen before. It was under $100 so without thinking I clicked the Buy Now button and ordered the damn thing. Thankfully, when I launched Word and began organizing my thoughts I made the decision to cancel the order seeing as how I was writing about abstaining from such impulse buys, but still, it proved to me that I had no business about writing a good vape budget until I had my own spending habits in check.
Lastly, there is this…
In 2013 I have seen 3 vendors go out of business, one local brick and mortar and two online vendors.
Vape Street Is NOT Lined With Gold
We all know that the electronic cigarette industry is exploding. Billions of dollars are being spent by millions of people who are giving up tobacco and switching to electronic cigarettes. It seems to me that there are too many inexperienced people trying to come into the industry and make a ton of money.
For an industry so young the number of online vendors are in the high four digits. Brick and mortar stores are popping up in almost every town in America. Some towns have three or four shops all catering to the Vaper. While I am excited to see the industry come alive like this, I feel so bad for the people that really have no business trying to make money in the industry.
A lot of the time I see young married couples decide to jump in and risk their life savings in order to open up a shop and attempt to establish a thriving business. Then reality sets in and the cost of running an inventory, shipping, advertising, and paying taxes hits the new business owners like a sledgehammer and before you know they are going broke and wishing they had never seen an electronic cigarette.
Let’s be honest here; there is a lot of markup in all this vape gear. I know this because being involved in Spinfuel eMagazine means I have seen wholesale price lists and I know how cheap this stuff is when you buy in 500 or 1000 pieces at a time.
Anyone can get a hold of these price sheets and when they do they are tempted to go into business. “I’ll make a killing!” They seem to forget that when you order 1000 Innokin iTaste 134’s you have sell a 1000. If you find a wholesaler that will sell you a lower number of units, say 50 or 100, you’re going to pay about 70% of retail. Suddenly that profit margin just got a whole lot smaller. That doesn’t even matter though because even if you ordered 50 134’s you still need to SELL 50 134’s. Not only that, but you have to stock a lot of different products, and you have to sell enough to carry your bills and your own cost of living, plus have enough left over for quarterly taxes, payroll taxes, and buying products that are coming out the next month of month after…there are always new products coming out.
If you’re a small business, just starting out, you better have a huge cushion of money to carry over bad choices, slow sales, advertising, and a hundred other things or before you know it you’re going to be scrambling for every penny, and wind up stuck with a lot of stock you can’t sell.
And let’s not even think about the month of February. This is the month that the Chinese work force slows to a crawl. Big, multi-million dollar vendors run low on stock, and they buy huge amounts of products in December and January to get ready, yet by the end of the Chinese New Year they too are running low. Imagine being a small vendor with little money trying to stock up for February. What do you buy? What if you guess wrong? What if you don’t have the extra money to buy extra stock in the first? You’re screwed, that’s what. –
It was at this point that I realized this was going to be way too involved, and boring, so I stopped writing…
These topics are (probably) good enough to write about, and maybe I should have pursued some, or all of them, but the well went dry and I couldn’t. Besides, by the time I found myself needing to write a column something always came up that was better than these ideas anyway. Then the holidays came around and I had very little time to do anything. Now I’m back at work shooting stock and living life, so what time I do have I spend writing reviews.
2014 is, I believe, going to be a great year for the industry, and for the Vapers that make up the industry’s customers. There are a lot of great products heading our way. Hell, it’s already happening. I picked up an Aspire Vivi Nova 3.5ML tank, which are a lot like John’s X.Jet’s and let me tell you, if you haven’t experienced these new coils that are in the Aspires and Vision’s X.Jet’s you don’t know what you’re missing. I’m helping out on an a couple of reviews for these new clearomizers and I can tell you right now, they are game changers. I dislike that term ‘game changer’, but in the case it’s true.
So, until next time, this is Julia (and Keira) Hartley-Barnes, have a great weekend!