The hand-held camera jumps and jerks in an adman's dream of cinema verite: The CEO is asleep, tucked between his Ralph Lauren sheets, but he's awash with sweat as he grabs fistfuls of night air screaming: "Come back! Come back!"

It's every retailer's nightmare: The yuppies are dead.But it's a reality, the era of the yuppie is clearly over, says Marissa Piesman, an attorney and co-author of "The Yuppie Handbook."

The high-profile consumer and retail darling who once was obsessed with career climbing has been transformed into a creature Piesman calls the "schleppy" - a person off the fast track who is "living with less grandiose expectations and accepting . . . limitations."

Those limitations include exterminating the bug to buy, she said.

"Just as we don't sit around getting stoned and listening to music all day, we can't go out and spend money all day," said Piesman, 39. "It's just a natural evolution of getting older."

The evolution began as yuppies began to take inventory of their lives.

Here's what they found: food processors, pasta makers, espresso-cappuccino makers, portable telephones, humidifiers, telephone answering machines, faxes, air cleaners, computers, exercise machines, massage tables, and remote controls for the television, the VCR, the CD player, the stereo receiver and the garage door.

It took about a decade, but the yuppie finally had discovered the meaning of an old maxim: You can't buy happiness.

"They were trying to find some meaning in their lives and they weren't finding it in department stores," said Karen Meredith, founder of the American Association of Boomers, an advocacy group for members of the huge demographic bulge born around the years 1946 to 1960.

Instead, the yuppie, really just a baby boomer armed with a Gold Card and the will and the means to abuse it, is looking for solace in other places, chiefly in home and hearth, trend spotters say. And when it comes to spending sprees, those spotters say, the thrill is gone.

"A lot of people have acquired a lot of stuff," Meredith said. "How many VCRs and TVs do you really need?"

It's been called the new simplicity, downscaling, cashing out and "America's fatigue with excess."

It's also been called a recession.

A Commerce Department report in January confirmed the nation's bleak buying mood. The department reported that in 1990, consumers spent at the slowest annual pace since the last recession eight years ago. Sales actually dropped from October through December, usually a boom time for retailers.

Those who once were single with few economic responsibilities now are getting married, having children and buying real estate for the first time. Just as they are becoming saddled with serious bills, the economy is slowing, making them doubly wary of careless spending.

"The small voices (of fiscal restraint) are turning into raging bullhorns saying `Save! Save! Save!"' Meredith noted.

This new philosophy marks a major shift in buying habits, and retailers say it's no joke: Yuppies, their wallets pinched by heavy debt and a lackluster economy, just don't have much mad money anymore.