CHICAGO -- Forget cabbing it. Have the $60-an-hour limo sit outside the theater and wait until the show is over.
A $400 dinner-for-two at one of Chicago's trendiest restaurants after shopping? No problem.
Abigail Hart, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, has seen some big spenders in her 20 years on the job. But even she has been floored by the money she's seen dropped on special services in the last year -- a trend fueled in large part by the healthiest economy this nation's seen in years.
''You just don't get the sticker shock like you once did,'' says Hart, who's even watched some guests' pets benefit from the windfall.
A room-service menu for pets, for example, features the $6 ''Mighty Mutt,'' scrambled eggs and steamed rice topped with grated cheese, or the $6 ''Claw Cleaner,'' tuna and chopped eggs with sour cream. And some guests have even hired a masseuse for their pets.
''Usually it means the massage therapist pets the dog for an hour,'' Hart says, marveling at the $80-an-hour price tag.
The trend toward spending is catching the attention of entrepreneurs who are rolling out the red carpet on services that save time and create comfort -- or even an illusion.
Last month, a company in Manchester, N.H., had parents bidding as much as $400 to have snow made in their front yards in time for Christmas.
Meanwhile, a new Illinois company called Virtual Bellhop is offering to transport bulky luggage, golf clubs and skis nationwide -- from home to hotel and back -- for prices that can cost as much as an airline ticket.
Trendy day spas are also popping up everywhere from New York's Fifth Avenue to the Las Vegas strip, where the MGM Grand hotel recently did major renovations to cater to the crowds.
For many, a massage is just for starters, says Rachel Knapp, the MGM's spa manager. Among services that have doubled in popularity -- from about five to 10 a day -- are $150 body wraps with seaweed or mud imported from Italy or Austria.
For some -- including Tom Joyce, a 37-year-old businessman from St. Paul, Minn. -- the luxuries are closer to home, though sometimes just as expensive. Joyce and his wife are spending ''several hundred bucks a month'' to have someone do everything from house cleaning and driveway shoveling to grocery delivery.
''We have our dry-cleaning picked up and delivered and that still feels like, 'Oooh we're just crazy,''' says Joyce, a public relations executive with American Express.
He says he and his wife had been feeling guilty until their financial planner told them what good shape they were in -- largely due to the stock market's performance in recent years.
''We've sort of exhaled, is the best way to put it,'' the father of two small children says.
''At the end of my life, I'm not going to be thinking about the fun I had cleaning those gutters in '99,'' he says. ''I'm going to be thinking about the time I got to spend with my 2-year-old daughter.''
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