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Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (2009)

av Ellen Ruppel Shell

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
5302045,610 (3.55)17
Business. Nonfiction. HTML:

From the shuttered factories of the rust belt to the look-alike strip malls of the sun belt---and almost everywhere in between---America has been transformed by its relentless fixation on low price. This pervasive yet little examined obsession is arguably the most powerful and devastating market force of our time---the engine of globalization, outsourcing, planned obsolescence, and economic instability in an increasingly unsettled world.

Low price is so alluring that we may have forgotten how thoroughly we once distrusted it. Ellen Ruppel Shell traces the birth of the bargain as we know it from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line and beyond, homing in on a number of colorful characters, such as Gene Verkauf (his name is Yiddish for "to sell"), founder of E. J. Korvette, the discount chain that helped wean customers off traditional notions of value. The rise of the chain store in post-Depression America led to the extolling of convenience over quality, and big-box retailers completed the reeducation of the American consumer by making them prize low price in the way they once prized durability and craftsmanship.

The effects of this insidious perceptual shift are vast: a blighted landscape, escalating debt (both personal and national), stagnating incomes, fraying communities, and a host of other socioeconomic ills. That's a long list of charges, and it runs counter to orthodox economics, which argues that low price powers productivity by stimulating a brisk free market. But Shell marshals evidence from a wide range of fields---history, sociology, marketing, psychology, even economics itself---to upend the conventional wisdom. Cheap also unveils the fascinating and unsettling illogic that underpins our bargain-hunting reflex and explains how our deep-rooted need for bargains colors every aspect of our psyches and social lives. In this myth-shattering, closely reasoned, and exhaustively reported investigation, Shell exposes the astronomically high cost of cheap.

.
… (mer)
  1. 30
    Barskrapad : konsten att hanka sig fram av Barbara Ehrenreich (grizzly.anderson)
  2. 00
    No logo : no space, no choice, no jobs, no logo : märkena, marknaden, motståndet av Naomi Klein (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Cheap and No Logo come at the consumer market from two distinct, yet complimentary, perspectives. No Logo examines the impact of the power and marketing of "the brand" while Cheap takes up the brand-less (except for the discount stores themselves) quest for discount "deals"… (mer)
  3. 00
    Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) av David Cay Johnston (Othemts)
  4. 00
    Till matens försvar av Michael Pollan (Othemts)
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» Se även 17 omnämnanden

Visa 1-5 av 20 (nästa | visa alla)
Deeep, enlightening, all encompassing. Covers all possible aspects: psychological, economic, political, social, ethical etc...
  Den85 | Jan 3, 2024 |
A great summary of the myriad ways we accept and even demand low prices, to the detriment of our economic and social well-being. Could be better-organized, but the book is extremely well-researched and easy to understand. ( )
  jeneralinterest | Dec 11, 2021 |
Food for thought. And I still cringe when I go to the discount store! ( )
  Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |
About a year and a half after acquiring this book I finally read it! The reason for my reluctance was that I feared learning too much about some of my favorite retailers, especially Ikea. I had heard an interview with the author on the radio and decided I should read the book, which is why I put it on my wish list. But I kept remembering the author's comments and thinking that I am like so many today - wanting to pay the least amount I can get away with. KNOWING that there are reasons this is not a good thing, but not yet ready to face those reasons. Finally the day came.

It wasn't as hard to read as I'd expected. Certainly it is written well and the clear style alone makes the pages fly by. It is thoroughly researched but the references are at the end. As I do with many other nonfiction works, I will be keeping this one in my permanent collection for the references especially, but also for the many tidbits I gleaned while reading.

I did not know, for example, that most of today's shrimp comes from Thailand, where it is farm-raised. Farm-raising wipes out the mangrove forests and pollutes the land and water so that it cannot be used to grow rice again. Shrimp has edged out the rice that used to be the main export of Thailand and rice has become more expensive for those who can least afford it. The shrimp is fed a nutrient mix, antibiotics, and chemicals. All this so that Red Lobster can offer all-you-can-eat shrimp.

I did not know that Ikea lives under the umbrella of a Dutch nonprofit! It isn't a Swedish company at all, even though its buildings are there. The nonprofit ruse allows it to skip paying taxes, of course. Ikea prides itself on insisting on sustainable lumber from its suppliers yet its inspectors do not begin to be able to inspect all of the locations - because it would be too expensive to hire more inspectors. Further, the furniture is so cheaply made that it can hardly be used for anything else and when parts break there is little recourse than to recycle. Buying new is not the way to sustainability. Ikea has been called the producer (although it does not produce most of its products itself; instead it encourages suppliers to undercut the prices of others...) of the least sustainable furniture in the world.

The lack of worker protections worldwide, Shell notes, threatens workers at home here in the U.S. What happens in China doesn't, in fact, stay in China. It emigrates here. Thus workers are let go when their wages get too high, and new people with no skills come in the door. Thus went Circuit City and see how much good it did them?

All across the board, the insistence on price as the most important attribute means we are cheating ourselves of variety, quality, and craftsmanship that was available not much more than 50 years ago. We are getting inferior goods, from our food to our furniture to our clothing. Only if we start to see our way toward supporting a fair price for a good product will we be able to make our way back.
( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Well, after reading this book you'll never shop at Target, Whole Foods, Walmart, Ikea, or eat shrimp or pork ever again. Shell offers some compelling insights in the psychology of why we as consumers are attracted to the 'deal' as well as chronicling the rise of our modern shopping experience. The author shows some occasional bias (bio-diesel is a 'fad', the two Ikea chapters are quite venomous) throughout, but it doesn't take away from the impact of her analysis of how manipulated we are by corporations. Certainly an eye-opening and even unsettling book. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
Visa 1-5 av 20 (nästa | visa alla)
A first-rate job of reporting and analysis.
 
A harrowing document of the pursuit of profit at the expense of our basic humanity.
tillagd av jjlong | ändraSalon, Stephanie Zacharek (Jul 12, 2009)
 
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I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor.

PRESIDENT WILLIAM MCKINLEY
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TO JO, ALI, AND MART ... PRICELESS
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This book is about America's dangerous liaison with Cheap.
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Wikipedia på engelska (2)

Business. Nonfiction. HTML:

From the shuttered factories of the rust belt to the look-alike strip malls of the sun belt---and almost everywhere in between---America has been transformed by its relentless fixation on low price. This pervasive yet little examined obsession is arguably the most powerful and devastating market force of our time---the engine of globalization, outsourcing, planned obsolescence, and economic instability in an increasingly unsettled world.

Low price is so alluring that we may have forgotten how thoroughly we once distrusted it. Ellen Ruppel Shell traces the birth of the bargain as we know it from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line and beyond, homing in on a number of colorful characters, such as Gene Verkauf (his name is Yiddish for "to sell"), founder of E. J. Korvette, the discount chain that helped wean customers off traditional notions of value. The rise of the chain store in post-Depression America led to the extolling of convenience over quality, and big-box retailers completed the reeducation of the American consumer by making them prize low price in the way they once prized durability and craftsmanship.

The effects of this insidious perceptual shift are vast: a blighted landscape, escalating debt (both personal and national), stagnating incomes, fraying communities, and a host of other socioeconomic ills. That's a long list of charges, and it runs counter to orthodox economics, which argues that low price powers productivity by stimulating a brisk free market. But Shell marshals evidence from a wide range of fields---history, sociology, marketing, psychology, even economics itself---to upend the conventional wisdom. Cheap also unveils the fascinating and unsettling illogic that underpins our bargain-hunting reflex and explains how our deep-rooted need for bargains colors every aspect of our psyches and social lives. In this myth-shattering, closely reasoned, and exhaustively reported investigation, Shell exposes the astronomically high cost of cheap.

.

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