Penguin for your birthday party, sire? Quintessentially.
If I had a do-over for my career, I’d want to be a writer for The Economist, and come up with headers and subheads like:
Jeeves and Woosterovich
Posh Britons have built a growing industry around the foreign nouveaux riches, smoothing their way to high society and shaping their tastes
That Woosterovich was a nod, of course, to the Russian petro-garchs that populate swaths of money-bag London these days. (Dim old Bertie Wooster would probably be somewhat amused; Jeeves would be decidedly aghast.)
Most of the outfits serving the newly-arrived rich are small and discreet, with one big exception. Quintessentially was founded in 2000 by Ben Elliot, the Duchess of Cornwall’s [Aside: that would be Camilla Parker-Bowles, by the way; I was hoping for Fergie] nephew. Its core business is a concierge service, which sorts out a wide range of problems from getting tickets to sold-out events to sourcing penguins for the birthday parties of hard-to-please children. There are now 32 sister businesses finding art, wine, staff and other necessities. For new members, Elite Level membership, a global service, starts at £12,000. Its headquarters are in a mansion in Portland Place. It has more than 1,500 employees and 60 offices worldwide.
I guess we can be thankful for any growth industry but I was, needless to say, a bit dumbstruck by that mention of sourcing penguins for birthday parties.
Having seen The March of the Penguins, I am completely aware that the lives of penguins in the wild are grim. We march, we march, we march, we march some more. We find food. Some of us become food. We march, we march, we march some more back to our baby penguins so they can slurp a krill or two out of our beaks. And those are the lucky baby penguins. The unlucky ones lost their mothers to the maws of a sea lion. Oh, and this isn’t a nice, clement weather hike either. It’s 40 below zero.
So maybe the penguins who get to put in guest appearances at the birthday parties of spoiled rich kids - who are no doubt every bit as nasty, brutish, and short as the lives of penguins in the wild – are better off than those who spend their childhoods standing around in the cold hoping that their old lady has a gob full of krill for them. Maybe the party penguins get fed canned tuna. Or caviar, even. Maybe they get to use the pool.
But something’s wrong here.
If penguins are going to be sourced out of the arctic, I would think that, on penguintarian grounds, they’d be better off in zoos or aquariums, where a keeper comes by with a regular bucket o’ lunch and they get to dip into a nice icy cold pool without having to worry about some kid cannonballing on their skull. And where they don’t have to worry about being hugged, squeezed, bowled over, pinched, or slapped around by a bunch of brats. It’s just a matter of time before some birthday penguin gets run over by Rollo the Rich Kid who’s “big” present is a $10,000 mini-Lamborghini. Vrooom.
But penguin sourcing is by no means all that Quintessentially has on offer:
…covering every facet of the luxury lifestyle market…
…capable of sourcing a wait-listed Birkin bag, securing a last minute table for two at Nobu, or even finding a set of lost keys 1200ft up a snow-capped mountain, each individual has been handpicked according to their expert knowledge and their belief in Quintessentially.
Those Birkin bags can run you up to $150K, by the way, and that’s before factoring in the Quintessential fee. But the large ones are, I believe, capable of holding an adelie penguin, if not an emperor, if one were asked to source both a Birkin bag and a penguin. When money is not object, you never know what might come up. As I said, Jeeves would absolutely be aghast.