BACK in 1964, Paul McCartney bawled that he didn’t care too much for money because it couldn’t buy him love.
The songwriter’s famous refrain has since become something of a rallying cry for romantics who would like to think that there are some things in life that can’t be touched by the dreaded dollar.
But is it time for them to stop singing? Even McCartney, who turned 70 this week as Britain’s wealthiest musician, might have difficulty with his own naïve notion. After all, in this day and age, doesn’t money buy you almost everything?
A cursory glance at Ebay, the world’s largest virtual shop, throws up the strangest of strange items. A roll of Barack Obama toilet paper, for instance, will set you back anything from $1 to $5 while an imaginary dog, which includes a picture of a dog’s bed is currently selling for $1.98. Old spells from a real witch are on sale for $9 and you’ll have to bid quickly if you want to get your hands on a can of unicorn meat from Radiant Farms.
The pick of the search, however, has to be that of ‘Beer Gut Man’. His service is simple. It allows you to write a message on his beer gut for $4.99.
The sales pitch includes a photo of the famous belly with a message from an apparently satisfied former customer which reads: “Ariel you are my boo boo baby girl please make my babies then a sandwich. Rob.” Sounds like every girl’s dream.
Had the man with the magic belly any business sense, he would follow the example of Karolyne Smith, from Utah in the USA who had the web address of online gambling outfit GoldenPalace.com permanently tattooed to her forehead. This set the company back a reported $10,000 after they outbid their rivals on Ebay. Smith claims she auctioned the space in order to get funding for her son’s private education.
Closer to home, the same company paid £422 to advertise on 27-year-old Scotswoman Angel Brammer’s 42GG size chest. Luckily, Angel’s tattoo is not permanent, and she is offering her cleavage as advertising space for a period of 15 days to any company that can supply her with a logo and, of course, cash.
So is this all just a bit of harmless fun or is the fact that everything is for sale gradually eroding people’s sense of dignity?
It may well begin with someone tattooing an advert across their breasts but where does it end? Are we really getting to the stage where we would, as the saying goes, sell our mothers to make a buck?
In Utah, at the end of last year, a 33-year-old mother was convicted of trying to sell her 13-year-old daughter’s virginity for $10,000. Earlier this year Saud bin Nasser Al Shahry from Saudi Arabia offered his son for sale on Facebook for $20m after his debt collecting agency was closed down.
Often these seemingly ridiculous situations come about because people are desperate and willing to do anything. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who pay ridiculous sums of money simply because they can.
This was perfectly illustrated back in 2005 by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary who famously bought a taxi plate for €6,000 in order to use the bus corridors around the capital. An indignant Seamus Brennan, who was then Minster for Transport, said that O’Leary’s move was “not in the spirit of public service as it should be”.
The country and Joe Duffy’s radio show was alight with indignation. But surely taxis are not in the spirit of public service either. Surely the mistake was offering access to taxis in the first place. We can’t always blame the buyer for buying if the seller is willing to sell.
In Ireland, everything from getting your passport processed to getting a hospital bed can be expedited depending how much cash you have. It’s no surprise to discover that wealthier people live longer and although access to healthcare is not the only factor it plays its part. A report issued in 2007 by the Public Health Alliance put it bluntly: “In the Republic of Ireland, the health system is fundamentally unequal, allowing those who can afford private care to get more rapid access to a better service.”
If all this buying and selling is getting too much for you, you could always do what 48-year-old Ian Usher did back in 2008. Usher had moved to Australia from England with his wife six years earlier. When his wife left him he was distraught. Everywhere he looked and everyone he met reminded him of their relationship.
So in an effort to start over he put his life up for sale. Included in the auction was his house, his car, his motorbike, his jet ski, his friends and a trial in his job as a rug shop sales assistant. He was given €240,000 for his life which he used to travel the world. He then bought an island off the coast of Panama. Not even Paul McCartney has one of those.