Citigroup's monument to food preservation stupidity

How many luxury refrigerators does the CEO of a failing multinational banking colossus really need?

Published March 19, 2009 7:21PM (EDT)

Fitzgerald: "The rich are very different from you and me."

Hemingway: "Yes. They have better refrigerators."

It's never been my style to shy away from cheap populist rage, but when everyone starts doing it, including the president, ranting and raving about the gross lifestyles of the rich and famous loses its luster. After spending yesterday watching a procession of pompous politicians foam at the mouth on the topic of AIG bonuses, class warfare just isn't as fun as it used to be.

But all that was before I confronted the glory of the Sub-Zero Pro48 (with Glass Door) refrigerator. Like a sagging rutabaga brought back to life by "the ultimate in freshness technology," I am revivified. Show me a barricade! I'm ready to storm.

Bloomberg News is reporting that Citigroup "plans to spend about $10 million on new offices for Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit and his lieutenants."

Plans and instructions for the bank's contractors, on file with the city, specify the installation of at least one Sub-Zero Inc. refrigerator and icemaker in the renovated space, along with "premium grade" millwork and Madico Inc. "Safety Shield 800" blast-proof window film. The project encompasses 17 private offices, each with space for administrative assistants, as well as two conference rooms and open areas with "soft seating," according to the plans.

OK -- I can fetishize appliances as greedily as the next guy or gal. A sleekly designed matte-black coffee maker is always going to get me going and I'm prepared to drop a few extra dollars for some purely aesthetic payback. And although I'm embarrassed to admit that until today, I was completely unfamiliar with the Sub Zero brand, now, however, I am entirely ruined. I have lust in my heart for the Sub-Zero Pro48.

Born of 100 percent steel (and a good bit of bravado), the PRO 48 is a true masterpiece of preservation. Its sculpted metal, Dual Refrigeration, and advanced controls marry performance and design in a bold new way.

And only $14,000 a pop! It's a steal! Who wouldn't want one? But Vikram, dear Vikram, what were you thinking?

Possessing "a good bit of bravado" serves as an apt, if possibly overly polite, description for the thought processes of whoever imagined it a good idea to specify at least one Sub-Zero fridge in the office renovation plans for CEO Vikram Pandit. Although it is not clear from the Bloomberg report whether that particular item was specified before Citigroup started sucking down TARP money, what we need to hear now from Citigroup P.R. is an immediate declaration of a moratorium on the installation of new "monuments to food preservation." Let's get some damage control, stat, because this is really beginning to stink.

UPDATE: Citigroup's public relations departmetn is on the job!

From the Wall Street Journal:

[Citi spokesman Alexander Samuelson] stressed that the floor's new offices will be "simpler." He would not give much detail, but rebuffed Bloomberg's assertion that it would furnish the second floor "with at least one Sub-Zero Inc. refrigerator and icemaker." He conceded that Citi is buying one icemaker, but "we are moving older refrigerators downstairs."

That's more like it.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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