Oprah does 'favorite things' on the cheap, even with freebies

Oprah's "Favorite Things" episode is one of the best tickets in town every year. The lucky members of the studio audience usually walk away with some very expensive gifts as the host talks up things to buy on the show. Last year it was a $3,800 HDTV refrigerator. This year? Coal. Or maybe, hugs?

Well, not exactly. A leak about the highly secretive show, which airs next Wednesday on the day before Thanksgiving, has made it to Perez Hilton, who reports that one audience member was sorely disappointed by the price tag of her swag. The Oprah Blog confirms that the gift list will be toned down this year, and that some of the gifts will even be free.

Is it because Oprah can't afford huge things this year? Hardly. Even though one of her spin-off magazines, O at Home, has folded, she's still doing quite well, thank you very much. And if there was room in Obama's new cabinet for a talk show host, she'd surely have a position in the new government. Her profile has probably never been higher.

But the people in Oprah's audience, and the core of the people who make her so popular all over the country, can't afford things like a $3,800 refrigerator. They never really could. Who buys such things? The key is, us regular folks can't even afford to aspire to buy those kinds of things right now. That's why luxury retailers are going down the tubes. They can't even get people in the door to browse anymore, and therefore aren't making money even on casual purchases or accessories.

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