Well, Saudi King Abdullah made a recent visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and his trip was apparently just what the doctor ordered to help boost the local economy.
Unlike those of us who visit the hospital with a loved on or two in tow, King Abdullah likes an entourage, and this one included a cast of 500-1000.
Now, if I were to create a list of people who would be interested enough in my hospital stay to accompany me, and I expanded the list to the very maximum possible number of people who might conceivably want to attend me during my time on the catheter, I can generously come up with a nose count of twenty. And that's if I do a bit of rounding-up (of both the numbers and the nose count).
Then again, I am not a beloved monarch, and I don't need body guards, and my friends and family have enough personal freedom on a day by day basis that they don't need to hop onto a 747 and jet off to Rochester, Minnesota, to be able to have wine with their dinner and shop 'til they drop.
Did I say drop?
Well, drop the Saudis did, spending - according to the Rochester PostBulletin - anywhere between $1M and $2.5 M during their visit. It is suggested that their spending "in the past week [is enough] to offset the impact of the nation's economic woes for the year."
"It was great to see everybody collaborating with one another. We had businesses from caterers to fuel providers to transportation to courier services, hotels, you name it. People really came together on this one, and hopefully hit a grand slam," said Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, who says a conservative estimate of the economic impact is $1 million to $1.5 million for an eight-day visit by 500 people.
"I have heard anywhere from $1.5 to $2.5 (million), so clearly the visit had a major impact on our community, and we look forward to many more future visits," said John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.
Don't you just love that word "collaborating", especially in conjunction with a regime that doesn't have the best of human rights records and that more of less promotes radical Islamists as a way to keep the hoi-polloi's minds off wretchedly excessive behavior like million dollar family outings to The States. Not to mention that the whole Saudi operation puts our country in the shameful position of turning two blind eyes to their abuses because we crave their oil.
Ah, but back to the shopping spree.
It's not clear what all they bought - the storekeepers aren't providing much detail, although one did use the words "cleaned us out."
This photo, from the PostBulletin, shows the shopping caravan heading to the airport for the return to Saudi Arabia. Is the dollar really that bad - and the shopping in Rochester that good - that it's better to trek to Minnesota than to settle for London or Dubai? Or is it that, given that all 500-1000 couldn't possibly sit in the uncomfy chair by King Abdullah's bedside all day, they might as well do a little shopping.
My favorite part of the article was the comment posted that said:
The Royalty from Saudi Arabia are truly welcomed and loved by all.My question is, Why is it important to RPB to publish how much money was spent here? Do the Royalty appreciate that? Just wondering...My point is, it is a private matter.
Kudos to the flak from the Saudi Royal family for getting with the social media, but "The Royalty from Saudi Arabia are truly welcomed and loved by all"?
Yes, Midwesterners are nice and all that. And the Royalty from SA may be truly welcomed, but "loved by all."
According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Royals shopped at Macy's, Chico's, and New York & Co.
No Neiman's, no Tiffany's, no Saks in Rochester?
Some of them are also a bit fussy.
At the upscale Chardonnay restaurant, owner Mark Weimer said four members of the Saudi royal family inspected his establishment closely Saturday night as they decided whether to stay.
"People were checking to see if the silver was good enough quality," Weimer said.
Apparently it did, because some of the Saudis supped there. I personally hate, hate, hate if the silver isn't up to snuff, don't you? And don't get me going on restaurants that don't have - at min - Villeroy and Boch china. (Don't tell me you've never turned over a saucer to look!)
Frankly, I'm a bit envious of Rochester, and a bit put out that the Saudi Royals snubbed Boston.
It's not like we don't have good hospitals here. Why fly all the way to Rochester, Minnesota, when Mass General is 1000 miles closer to home? (And we do have a Neiman's, Tiffany's, and Saks - plus plenty of Macy's and Chico's, too.)
Maybe they fear that, in snotty and cold New England, they won't be loved by all.
But they might be surprised by how much love you can buy if you're willing to spread a little green around, especially in a down economy. All that spending! Sweet, sweet charity!
Hey, big spender! Spend a little time with me.