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Download Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppel Shell Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,140 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ellen Ruppel Shell Narrator: Lorna Raver Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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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Quotes & Awards

  • “This highly intelligent and disturbing book provides invaluable insight into our consumer culture and should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to figure out our current financial mess. As Shell proves, the hunt for cheap products has hurt us all. Highly recommended for smart readers.”

    Library Journal

  • “Diligent, useful cultural criticism, akin to Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jeff Free | 2/8/2014

    " Not bad. I think the overall premise of the book--that it's a bad strategy to make spending decisions based solely on price--is spot on. The science behind her assertions is slightly more rigorous than typical journalism, but not much. A brain is still required when reading this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Tiffany | 2/8/2014

    " Really well researched, and definitely made me pause and think. Made me frustrated with a lot of retail system, too, but I think that was kind of the point. I guess it's a little like "Fast Food Nation", only regarding the retail industry. Almost 4 stars... I need a half-star rating system! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Helen-Louise | 2/6/2014

    " Fascinating, depressing, a little scary. Shows clearly how the American [and increasingly world-wide] obsession with getting the best deal, the lowest price adversely affects workers, farmers, children. To be trite, it is like Dominoes - if I am only willing to pay $1.00 for a pint of strawberries, that affects the profit of the grocery store which affects what they pay their workers and also what they pay their suppliers. It is much more complicated than that - what effect does Wal-Mart really have locally and internationally? I would have given it 4 stars, but some of the data she quotes is 10 years old - though that may well be the most recent data that is available. And she really doesn't offer much in the way of solutions. For me, look harder for US-made products [good luck, Louise] and shop more at farmers' markets, as well as expand what I grow myself. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Marty Greenwell | 2/1/2014

    " I thought that I knew some of the costs to our society ( and other societies ) by being barraged by discounted items, mainly from countries that have low wages. I have learned that it impacts all of us, from low wage workers in Thailand to middle America. This is a very good book for truly understanding where we are now and how to change the world. Very good book "

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About the Author

Ellen Ruppel Shell is a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly magazine and has written about science and medicine for the New York Times magazine, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Time, Discover, the Boston Globe, and dozens of other national publications. She is also the author of The Hungry Gene: The Inside Story of the Obesity Industry, which has been published in six languages. Shell is a professor of journalism at Boston University, where she codirects the graduate program in science journalism.