Michael Tonello never planned to start a business selling Hermès on eBay; he stumbled into it when he began offloading his own designer duds to raise cash after he found himself jobless in Barcelona. This memoir about how his personal closet-cleaning lead to a lucrative career procuring and reselling Hermès' elusive Birkin bag is a highly entertaining, funny, and unexpectedly exciting read.
Though the book got off to something of a slow start for me, by the time he got to writing about sticker shock on his first visit to Hermès (on comparing a $4,770 leather jacket to his own "investment quality" Prada, he writes "…what more could this one do? Take out my f*ing trash for me? Shine my shoes? Maybe it doubled as a parachute…") Tonello had my attention and wouldn't let it go. Anybody who has ever gotten caught up in the thrill of an eBay auction will easily relate to Tonello's growing excitement as he discovers American Hermès collectors will pay big mark-ups for merchandise he can easily access from his new European location. He has a nice little business hunting down back stock scarves for his wish-list customers when he gets his first request for a Birkin, the ultimate designer handbag that has a waiting list of two years. Though it takes Tonello some time to crack the Hermès fortress, he eventually stumbles across "the formula" and soon finds himself the Birkin bag it-boy.
Though not written as a how-to manual, Tonello's book showcases the recipe he used to become such a big success in his luxury niche. Luck, and being in the right place at the right time, clearly had a lot to do with it. But it was Tonello's business savvy that really catapulted him into the big time; he took the niche he'd stumbled across and ran with it, learning everything he could about Hermès in the process. Reading about the strategies he employed to liberate the elusive bags from their gilded prisons is detective story fascinating, and only becomes more so when one of his $22,000 croc bags suddenly becomes the subject of what he referred to as an "international hostage situation."
Tonello's witty storytelling, combined with the addictive nature of quests and auctions, made this book particularly hard to put down. I can't say it made me want a Birkin, though.