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Much like Maxed Out did for me and my credit obsession, this book might cure me of my crap obsession I ve worked in retail for 10 years and have seen and experienced a lot of what she talks about in this book People will do anything for a bargain, and cheap crap MUST be better It s definitely going to change the way I shop and how I shop.The funny part so a couple of days before I started reading this book, my mom and I were chatting about the disparity of life between when she was growing up and working to now when I m an adult working Her handful of well kept and durable clothes vs my overflowing piles of cheap clearance stuff from Old Navy that gets holes Her durable furniture, some of which we still have vs the IKEA bed I had for 4 years and just threw out It s true, so true, all of it Nothing is made to last any and I m going to learn to save my pennies and buy durable, longer lasting items Yes, they ll cost , but in the end I ll have them for MUCH longer Quantity does not equal quality. Read this one in Kindle format Wasn t friendly because there weren t page numbers so I couldn t refer to the notes efficiently at all Had to do it chapter by chapter.Ok This is the kind of book that simultaneously makes me hate myself and makes the cynic in me jump up and scream SEE SEE and makes me feel both self righteous and guilty at the same time The idea here is that since the Industrial Revolution, our society has moved away from skilled craftsmanship in production to a mechanized model of inferior but cheaply hewn products put together quickly by people who have no particular skill set for making said products These things all sorts of things, like guns, clothing, housing, food, automobiles have been sold by retailers, and unsavvy buyers often choose price over quality which they cannot discern as the sole criterion in their purchasing decisions While this has, in theory, pulled many people out of poverty, it hasn t really, but it s made shoddy goods available to people of modest means However, it also forces people into poverty by necessitating extremely low labor costs in order to turn any profit.For specific examples, the author mentions IKEA, which is some Swedish furniture company that I have never patronized, and after reading this book, never will They re one of the largest lumber purchasers in the world, and while they claim to make sure their lumber is responsibly gathered produced, they re not willing to pay inspectors to verify its origins, meaning that most of it is illegally harvested in Russia and China and treated with toxic chemicals They also make chairs of out banana leaves in Vietnam, where the company claims that they re waste, but they are in fact an important local commodity, so the 70 chair is depriving a poor Vietnamese family of vital roofing material, or something I suspect the same sort of thing is true with coconut oil and acai berries, among other commodities that have been yuppified to the detriment of the poor She discusses factory farming, which is disgusting and horrific and promotes disease and strips food of nutrition This chapter totally changed the way I look at shrimp Thailand has ruined much of its coastline making artificial shrimp beds because people don t want to pay a high price for wild or natural shrimp In the food industry, quality goes out the window for the sake of low prices, sometimes even to the point of being nonsensical This was evident firsthand when we lived in the SJV but got almost all our produce imported from Mexico instead of from the megafarms within 30 miles of us Talks about how foreign governments collude with American businesses to allow labor atrocities and treat workers as almost totally expendable, paying them almost nothing and spending no money at all on health or workplace safety measures Apparently the Chinese government feels there are enough citizens that it s not necessary to protect any of them from workplace injury, since an injured worker can quickly be replaced.The solutions aren t simple, and she doesn t go into them at length She is in favor of giving clout to workers but realizes that s unlikely Nor does she advocate simply paying , since if the store marks up its wares, it s highly unlikely that any of the extra money will trickle down to the workers or the workers for the store s suppliers.As for me, I lean towards buying items of quality infrequently and taking care of them Buy food locally if possible harder than it seems and realize that value can be than three pounds of cheerios for 6.95 Don t buy from companies that make cheap crap in China or exploit their workers The problem though is that it means I m not an energetic contributor to the economy, since so much stuff is made abroad or is made of components that were made abroad Darn. Read it only if you can get a discount Ellen Ruppel Shell s cultural studies examination of the fixation on low cost doesn t really get going until long after you have likely lost interest Late in the book she finally gets to what she sees as the major downsides of modern global society s pursuit of low cost at any cost no for RD, the promotion of waste and the dumbing down of work This final section reveals some passion and a point of view which are largely missing from its predecessor chapters In short, read the last section and you basically get the point. If you have time to kill, the early chapters cover widely varying topics which only loosely relate to the central thesis They start with a prolonged history of discount retailing and despite its length the section is surprisingly shallow We learn a lot of facts about F.W Woolworth and his discounter brethren but not so much about why were customers so eager to buy the poorly made and mostly useless trinkets they peddled Shell repeatedly lets the consumer off the hook by saying they had no other options and would buy quality if it were available to them One can understand Shell not wanting to offend the reading public but surely Woolworth and Walton didn t just foist cheap crap on an unsuspecting consumer base but rather found a lucrative consumer desire for cheap crap and exploited it However, the major problem with this section is that a comprehensive history of discount retailing just isn t all that engaging.Another section focuses in on one discount retailer to be excoriated as a bane to the environment and society This company is responsible for deforestation, the growth of subsistence wage work, a culture of consumer good transience ultimately filling the world s landfills and the decline of good taste Of course, she is talking about IKEA To come across these charges leveled at a company that is not Walmart is sort of startling although the Bentonville Behemouth takes a beating in other sections The problem here is that IKEA s avoidance of taxes, gluttony of the world s dwindling resources and pushing of manufacturing to the lowest cost Southeast Asian countries are all legal, common and basically make up the strategic business plan of most organizations Hate the game, Ellen, not the Swedish playa Later on the book takes on cheap food railing against shrimp farming in particular but hitting all of in vogue local and organic touchstones The analysis is fine here but the discussion is covered in much better elsewhere by Michael Pollan Here Shell tentatively puts some blame on the eating public but only in the context of sort of suggesting that the 15.95 all you can possibly eat shrimp feast at Red Lobster is maybe a little responsible for vast tracks of Thai rice paddies being transformed into stinking, briny shrimp farms.In the late going she does start to find her voice and to fully suggest that consumers bear the burden of changing their gluttonous, hoarding ways before the whole world becomes one big Easter Island I seriously may never buy anything again.Ok, so that s not realistic, but after reading this book I m aware, perhaps even paranoid, about the statement I m making with each purchase I m definitely a bargain shopper, but I don t want my search for a great deal to mean that workers in Mexico don t make a living wage or that Chinese migrant workers are standing in vats of toxic substances for 14 hours a day.But how on earth am I to ascertain that It took Ms Shell, with her many contact and considerably greater resources than I have, months years to gather the information and interviews and data for this book.There is plenty of blame to go around for the lack of product quality, workers protections, environmental concerns, etc Manufacturers, retailers, governments, CEOs, suppliers, you name it, all shoulder part of the responsibility And this wide ranging book does not let consumers off the hook either We are complicit by our all too frequent lack of interest in questioning the origins of the items we buy due to our single minded focus on low, low price.Some of the information in this book was not new to me particularly the topic of food production has been dealt with by other authors recently, too Other topics, like reference pricing, were concepts I was somewhat aware of, but I now feel much better informed And I doubt I ll ever shop at an outlet mall again Ms Shell captures the dilemma for many of us perfectly when she says Consumers are left to choose between discount retailers whose practices they find questionable and high end stores whose prices they cannot afford Voting with your feet doesn t apply when your values are so completely out of line with your budget The one quibble I have with the book is that it makes the problem seem too big to do anything about I finished the book and my first reaction was to feel completely hopeless I ve always avoided the hordes packing into Wal Mart and I buy a lot of food locally Particularly with large purchases, I look for quality and craftsmanship at a good value rather than the lowest price possible But where do I go from here For book reviews, visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves. i was excited to read this, but found it to be a bit of a slog it s kind of like the first 200 pages are all introduction, the author finally gets to her point develops a point of view in the last thirty pages it wasn t necessarily boring, but it was certainly not revelatory or especially groundbreaking.the main thing i took away from this book appreciated was her exorciation of the argument that discount retailers help struggling families save money attain a higher quality of life she points out that shopping at discount retailers for household goods, clothing, toys, shoes, et al, may indeed save the average american family a few thousand dollars a year, that the advent of discount behemoths like walmart IKEA have resulted in a world in which the average american spends much smaller percentages of their disposable income on food, clothing, etc but she goes on to detail that some things are almost never discounted housing, higher education, health care these costs are taking a larger bite out of household incomes with every passing year, to the point that even the most frugal discount shopper is not going to be able to make up the difference buying discounted tube socks.reading this against the backdrop of all the occupy wall street stuffthis resonated so many of the people that are against occupy wall street protests but are not rich are like, i work three jobs never go out to eat live within my means these protesters need to stop whining the point that shell makes not directly in her book is that a person should not HAVE to work three jobs live hand to mouth in order to make ends meet, that people have been lulled into complacency by discount shopping are perhaps not even aware of the exploding costs of education health care these things have become so expensive as to actually be inaccessible to huge swathes of the american population shell, of course, also addresses the manner in which america s obsession with discounted everything is taking its toll on people all over the world, as well as the environment. Most of us readily understand that sex trafficking is driven largely by the demand for sexual services But what drives the equally odious crime of labor trafficking Is it possible that our appetite for all you can eat shrimp and our incessant bargain hunting has made us unwittingly complicit in child slave labor That is exactly what is suggested in the remarkably enlightening book CHEAP, The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell.Here we are treated to a breezily written yet cogent analysis of modern globalization We discover the many ways we are tied together in what Martin Luther King called an inescapable network of mutuality The author looks at economics, history and psychology as she unravels our present situation where quantity trumps quality and cost is valued above craftsmanship In examining the production of both food and merchandise she contends Technology, globalization, and deregulation have made competition a death march Along the way we are introduced to many remarkable and sometimes amusing personalities Ms Shell names names and uncovers than a few corporate skeletons The inner workings of chain stores and discount outlets are exposed We get the skinny on WalMart, Ikea, Whole Foods, and many brands that are household names We learn how many governmental agencies and international organizations act as little than lobbyists and enforcers for multi national corporations China comes under scrutiny, along with how we enable, while at the same time deplore, its labor practices Disturbingly, we are confronted with our acquiescence to this state of affairs Who, after all, does not love a bargain But the author argues convincingly that we are really getting much less than we think, and at much greater cost than we realize to our health and safety, to the environment, and ultimately to our own economy Marketing psychologists have gone to considerable lengths to learn how to manipulate our desires, our perceived needs, and the reward centers of our brains, all to the benefit of filling corporate coffers Many experts are quoted and many facts and figures are marshaled to eye opening effect The book is well annotated and does end on a hopeful note with solid suggestions about how we might do better.I whole heartedly recommend this provocative and enjoyable read to anyone interested in examining some of the root causes of slave labor and human trafficking, or simply wishing to know about where stuff really comes from and how it is produced. Read this book, and you ll never shop at IKEA again Never Ruppel Shell does a truly masterful job of dissecting both the historical underpinnings and the current intricacies of what she calls Cheap culture, connecting Americans penchant for low prices to the disappearance of the middle class, among other things While this book will certainly disappoint deregulation enthusiasts, the author does a good job of considering the different arguments and counter arguments in reaching her conclusions.My one wish for this book was for it to have practical advice With cheap goods exacting a high price in other areas, and mass produced expensive goods artificially price inflated and generally little better in terms of human rights or the environment, where is one to turn While this is the author s point, it makes for especially depressing reading especially for someone of already limited means in the current economic climate Nonetheless, a bit on where one can turn for example, Ruppel Shell singles out Costco as one chain whose plusses surprisingly outweigh its minuses would be useful. &DOWNLOAD ↴ Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture ⇙ An Atlantic Correspondent Uncovers The True Cost In Economic, Political, And Psychic Terms Of Our Penchant For Making And Buying Things As Cheaply As PossibleFrom 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 First off BOO and sit the hell down Whole Foods and IKEA I knew it That done, I ll concede that Shell doesn t get to her main points or solution oriented instructions until the final chapter, a bit after page 200 Cool because the countless streams of information she provided in the preceding chapters, made the answers all to be done by the individual reader obvious This was not just a book about discount culture this was a study, a friggin course, in the subject and so many psychological, sociological, economic, political and even physical attributes of low prices and even false luxury across industries than most could fit into 200 pgs That she turned so many conventional and worn out arguments about globalization on their ears and asses while also pointing out how some of the founders of said arguments would differ with those who leverage their words today was justlovely I m not sure how long she spent compiling this book, though her vocation certainly gives her practice at compiling huge amounts of info and events while weaving them together in a way that makes several points clear without compromising their complexity For me, this was a page turner much of one than I expected it to be I was turned off by how she monolithically presented America outside of class income disparities of the rich, middle class and poor for some communities, a record low 5.5% unemployment rate has never existed and the line about people not seeing themselves in the working class but just the middle class ummm, not for a whole lot of people especially, but not exclusively, those who are not white , but if you enjoy this work, you re clever enough to extrapolate I suppose It s worth it What s , I gave it a fifth star because I will no doubt reread large portions of it and definitely pull some titles from the bibliography while looking up several of the articles and speeches listed in the Notes section Brilliant work and damn..we are so beyond in trouble Books like this, as well as everyday life, make me glad I don t have kids. Cheap The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell argues that cheap stuff leads to many negative consequences The book starts slow out of the gate with a discussion of the history of retail followed by a few of the practices stores use to entice consumers into spending Though mildly interesting, the information is hardly a revelation and isn t terribly germane to the remainder of the book After a dalliance with the idea that cheap stuff is largely crap and stifles innovation, followed by an expos of the unsustainable business practices of the Swedish furniture giant Ikea, she finally gets to the heart of her argument that cheap stuff exacerbates destruction of the environment, lowers labor standards both abroad and in the US , hollows out the middle class, reduces quality of goods for consumers and results in products that are sometimes dangerous such as lead contaminated children s toys and contaminated food products This is by far the best part of the book and her arguments are strong and coupled with many illustrative examples The book ends on a weak note as she rather lamely proposes that consumers just need to choose to spend their money on quality stuff and the problem will be solved So, first of all, other than a few well intentioned liberals with ample disposable income, people will never, ever voluntarily choose to pay for goods when a similar product may be purchased much cheaply The very suggestion is laughable Second, it is extremely difficult for consumers to be well informed about of each of the hundreds of products they regularly consume Where was the cotton grown in the pair of socks you re wearing What kinds of pesticides and fertilizer were applied Was water used efficiently or wasted Were the workers in the fields given adequate protective equipment, health insurance, paid a living wage, or given job security Now multiply those questions throughout the manufacturing and distribution process The kind of protections Ellen Ruppel Shell desires can be accomplished, but they are not likely to occur any time soon given the economic climate in which we currently live.