Book Review – Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.


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Just so you know, the book is not all about IKEA – far from it. It’s about the culture of discount, or bargain, that we are creating for ourselves. At the end of the day, our need for lower costs/cheaper goods leads to lower wages for our neighbors and a lower quality of goods – and this is not a trade-off we should be willing to make. Check out this book if you get a chance and are concerned about the high cost of discount goods. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

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  1. One of my favourite quotes from this book:

    “We rail against exploitation of low-paid workers in Asia as we drive twenty minutes to the Big Box to save three bucks on tube socks and a dollar on underpants. We fume over the mistreatment of animals by agribusiness but freak out at an uptick in food prices. We lecture our kids on social responsibility and then buy them toys assembled by destitute child workers on some far flung foreign shore. The Age of Cheap has raised cognitive dissonance to a societal norm.”

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation! I’ve just added it to my Amazon wish list. Can’t wait to check it out.

    I cannot understand the obsession with cheap. People want to spend the least amount of money possible on things so they can save money and go out and buy more cheap things. It’s all about accumulating stuff, which is something I’ve been trying to avoid for years.

    A cheaper product just means that someone else is getting less money somewhere along the production/distribution chain.

  3. My dad was born in 1939 and remembers having shoes made, though he was one of 13 children (2 more were born after WWII) and his family was very poor. At Christmas, you knew you were getting *either* a hat, gloves, or warm woolen socks. Their shoes were made to last, and to be handed down. They were worn to church, school, and outdoors in cooler weather (in winter, newspaper was stuffed in the toes for added warmth). Summer was barefoot season.

    After WWII, in the early ’50s, shoes were made in Japan, and although they cost less and the family could afford to buy them more often, they did not fit as well, and they did not last. There were also cheap goods that came out of Germany.

    While this helped rebuild those countries after the devastation of war, the effect was a new devastation in the U.S. For starters, cobblers were put out of work. They may have gone to work for the auto industry in our area, but factory work is not the same as trade work, even if the pay was comparable or perhaps better. Also, American feet began to suffer. The pre-formed molds were just not designed to accommodate individual feet. Whereas the cobbler used to custom make shoes, imported shoes began to mold feet by forcing bones to grow into the shape of the shoe, often causing permanent damage, especially to kids’ feet.

    There were also wider possibilities for employment before WWII, despite events of the Depression. After the war, our area offered few choices other than manufacturing. Areas of the country began to specialize in economic output. This made localities less able to adapt when things go sour in their particular industry.

    Diversity is good in types of available work just as it is good in biology and the ecology, and for the same reasons.

    Discount stores have limited job diversity.

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