Reuters headline: Piggy banks fly off shelves in freshly frugal U.S.

Let’s think about that headline for a minute. Piggy banks are a nonessential item, a luxury. Any part of U.S. society in which they are “flying off shelves” is, by definition, not frugal. The headline is a contradiction in terms (in other words, it’s nonsense).

Now let’s look at the actual article. Here’s how it starts:

Recession-wary Americans embraced the virtues of thrift this Christmas, with stores reporting a clear rise in the popularity of piggy banks.

“We have been selling coin banks really well,” said Laura Kellner at Kikkerland Design Inc. in New York City, whose stylish chrome pig is priced at $31.

The Reuters journalist is determined to shoehorn this story into a predetermined recession-thrift narrative. But it doesn’t really fit. As Kellner points out, spending $31 on a chrome piggy bank is stylish. It is not “frugal” or “thrifty”.

Later in the story is a quote that could have clued in the journalist to what is really going on, if he or she had been interested:

“We definitely noticed a trend with the piggy banks,” said Erin Mara at Homebody, a design store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC.

“People were very upfront about the need to save…the pig is very symbolic of that sentiment,” she said.

Yes. A $31 chrome pig is a symbol of thrift. There is a difference between symbols and reality. (That’s why creating wealth by just printing more dollar bills doesn’t work.) So this story has nothing to do with frugality or thrift. It’s about affluent people buying stylish accessories that are trendy and symbolic of the times.

Genuinely thrifty people do not buy $31 chrome piggy banks. They save their coins in a mayonaise jar.