SCMP Saturday, November 10, 2001

$128,000 hamper 'sign of twisted Christmas'


The world's most expensive Christmas hampers went on sale in Hong Kong yesterday, priced at $128,000 and including tea once reserved for the personal consumption of Mao Zedong and coffee created for Napoleon.
One of the eight Imperial Hampers at the Great food hall in Pacific Place has already been bought and general manager Nick Reitmeier said he was confident of selling the others.
But welfare workers have described the luxury hamper, which Great claims is the world's costliest, as an insult to the less well-off during a tough economic period.
The most expensive item in the trunk-sized leather-and-brass hamper is a $30,000 bottle of 1996 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, which comes from a small Californian estate that makes less than 100 cases a year.
The wine is billed by Great as ''the most expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world''.
The items in the Imperial Hamper would cost up to $80,000 more if bought individually, Mr Reitmeier said. It has five other bottles of wine, including a 1959 Dom Perignon champagne. A bottle of 1928 Desmaurin cognac is also on offer.
Other items include Golden Beluga Caviar worth $4,700, Chinese Ming Cha tea once reserved for Mao priced at $3,750, a $19,000 handmade Victoria Arduino espresso machine and a pair of gold and platinum coffee cups.
Hong Kong Social Workers Association vice-president Chua Hoi-wai said the food basket cost 13 times the average SAR monthly salary.
''Rich people should respect poor people who are struggling,'' Mr Chua said.
''Hong Kong is lacking this kind of mutual help and respect.''
Hong Kong Christian Institute director Rose Wu Lo-sai said the hamper showed how Christmas in the SAR had lost its original meaning.
''I think Christmas in Hong Kong has been twisted into something very materialistic. It has become commercialised and [this is] a reflection of a distorted society,'' Ms Wu said.
''We have many poverty issues, many can barely survive and this just shows that people are indifferent.''
World Vision chief executive officer Kevin Chiu Wu-ming said there were ''a lot of materialistic people in Hong Kong'' and the economic downturn had meant many were reluctant to part with their money or donate to charities.
Mr Reitmeier said Great gave many hampers away to charities but Hong Kong was based on financial power and everyone wanted to keep the economy going.
''It is good if people buy these things because hopefully these people are in a position to hire employees, and if I sell a hamper it means I can keep my people in a job, so there are two ways of looking at it,'' Mr Reitmeier said.
''The economy worldwide is suffering but Hong Kong is a place where you see more Ferraris and Rolls-Royces than anywhere in the world.''
For those who are less extravagant, Great's hampers start at $150 but others costing $65,000 and $10,000 are also available.