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Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by…

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (2009)

by Ellen Ruppel Shell

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4341636,501 (3.57)17
  1. 30
    Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (grizzly.anderson)
  2. 00
    In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (Othemts)
  3. 00
    No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by 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"… (more)
  4. 00
    Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston (Othemts)

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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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 |
Cheap is an intriguing expose on the modern American desire for bargains fed by discount stores and discount ideology in more areas of commerce than one would realize. Ruppel Shell offers a fascinating history of discount stores from the late 19th-century to present. Interestingly, many of the originators went under by the 1980s to be absorbed by the more ruthless corporations of today. The hidden costs of inexpensive purchases are then detailed from environmental destruction, human rights violations of the employees who manufacture, distribute, and sell the products, the dangers of poor quality goods to the consumer, the erosion of the middle class, and the fact that a lot of this cheap stuff isn't even worth what we pay for it. Ruppel Shell makes the interesting point that we now live in a world where there are high-end goods and discount goods, but no reliable in-between. IKEA, Wal-Mart, and outlet malls are singled out as some actors in the discount culture, but the closing "hope-for-the-future" chapter also details companies like Wegmans and Costco that are thriving despite adopting strategies that go against the grain of discount culture. While the essence of this book is not likely to be surprising to most readers, it is still eye-opening in its details. ( )
  Othemts | Mar 9, 2014 |
This book had a strong impact on me. It presents a history of pricing and discounting and suggests that cheap products and discount pricing have a negative effect. Paradoxically, the cheapest price might not represent the best value, for society (cheap is built on cheap labour which can have negative effects) and even for the individual (maybe a smaller quantity of better quality items would be better). ( )
  KenFeser | Jul 9, 2013 |
A very interesting novel about the preoccupation so many of us have with bargains these days at the expense of quality, meaning that in the competitive business climate, quality goods are simply... dying out.

Ruppel Shell looks at the boom of outlet stores, the roaring success of IKEA, and the expansive exportation of Chinese products that we've come to find we can't live without, and her case studies bring informative interest and fresh insight. I was already recommending this to friends long before I finished reading it, it's fascinating, and will definitely become a permanent fixture on my bookcase (when I'm not renting it out, that is)! ( )
  kezumi | Jan 10, 2012 |
This is a well written, timely book that takes a look at the American obsession with low prices, and the impact that has had on our culture, on the environment, and on the global community. Well researched, and with enough humor and personal stories to make it easy reading, in spite of the numbers and statistics that turn some people off (though there are those of us who like them!). Overall, it should be a part of every library, and required reading for anyone who believes that cheap goods help make America great. ( )
  Devil_llama | Nov 28, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
A first-rate job of reporting and analysis.
A harrowing document of the pursuit of profit at the expense of our basic humanity.
added by jjlong | editSalon, Stephanie Zacharek (Jul 12, 2009)
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I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor.

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This book is about America's dangerous liaison with Cheap. (Note to Readers)
Airport Mesa is a popular spot to gather in Sedona, Arizona, especially at dusk. (Introduction, Gresham's Law)
American history is replete with tales of celebrated bargains. (Chapter One, Discount Nation)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159420215X, Hardcover)

An Atlantic correspondent uncovers the true cost-in economic, political, and psychic terms-of our penchant for making and buying things as cheaply as possible

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:54 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Spotlighting the peculiar forces that drove Americans away from quality, durability, and craftsmanship and towards quantity, quantity, and more quantity, Ellen Ruppel Shell traces the rise of the bargain through our current big-box profusion to expose the astronomically high cost of cheap.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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