Beware the Inevitable Cupcake Backlash

The bubble may be bursting

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Notoriously contrarian online newsmag Slate ("Remember Limp Bizkit? Not as bad as you thought!") is back with one of their trademark pieces about how conventional wisdom is wrong, accepted ideas are bunk and cupcakes are actually bringers of economic doom.

Writer Daniel Gross lays out what he calls "the cupcake bubble," which begins with him explaining how the cupcake store trend has reached ubiquity, even in the cultural backwater that is Washington, D.C. He then naturally progresses into analogies to legislation passed by former presidents.

I'm suspicious of the durability of the cupcake boomlet on economic grounds, too. One colleague says the cupcakes are "sort of the baked equivalent of Bush's tax cuts." Why? "Their economic rationale withstands any and all conditions. When the economy is going well, people can afford little extras like cupcakes. When the economy isn't going well, people can afford only cupcakes." Indeed, they are being pitched as affordable luxuries. In an age when discretionary, feel-good spending is at a nadir, cupcake bakeries are trying to persuade people to trade up from cheaper sugar-delivery vehicles (such as, say, a doughnut). It's telling, to me, that the Crumbs that just opened in Westport, Conn., is in the back of a Tiffany's that opened a few years ago. With employment rising and wages under pressure, the larger trend is for consumers to trade down -- not up.

That's right -- the cupcake market is saturated! Everybody panic!

If Gross is to be believed, Americans are all way, way poor and have to subsist by shoveling dirt in their mouths for basic nutrients. This must be the first time in recorded history that consumers have bought relatively inexpensive foodstuffs because they are part of a trend, or marketed as a luxury! That never happened before the cupcake craze.  What's gotten into these wacky funsters!?

Hold on a sec, though, Gross has to blather some more:

What's more, cupcakes aren't so cheap. With tax, many of these cupcakes run close to $4 a pop. Pair a high-end cupcake with a coffee and your snack costs the equivalent of a satisfying sandwich.

People being impractical with their money? Squandering cash on sweets when they could be getting healthy sandwiches? The nerve!

Thank you, schoolmarm Gross, I had no idea people did these things!

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