Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Nickel and Dimed discussion


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message 1: by Jenni (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Jenni did you buy this for school? i have a copy :( i would have mailed you mine!


message 2: by KM (new) - rated it 3 stars

KM Yeah I did. Didn't like her premise. Everybody works for Wal-Mart at one time.


Antje Even my students thought that she is a whiner and cheater.


Jessica I personally enjoyed reading the book. I thought she was a bit unrealistic with her ideas but isn't everyone? I honestly dont think working at Wal-Mart is that hard either. I used to work at Target and I enjoyed it, and I did a lot more work than folding clothes.


Katy Brandes She seemed to be trying to make a point rather than whine for the sake of whining, though. I can't imagine working that hard (Wal-Mart + Merry Maid, restaurant, whatever) while aging and living hand-to-mouth in a motel room. I liked the premise and her book. Every time I'm in Wal-Mart now I pick up the crap that other people throw on the floor and at least set it on a shelf because I think of this book.


Patti Mcahren Have any of you that commented here been poor? I mean really poor? No place to live, no health insurance, no one to turn to for a hand up? The working poor are all around us. They live from paycheck to paycheck. If one little thing goes wrong, the whole world comes tumbling down. I think you may have missed the point of this book. The hard work is not the issue, it is the pay being inadequate to live on, having to hold down two jobs, never seeing your family or enjoying a night out with friends. Always a constant worry in your life that disaster is just a paycheck away. Never feeling at ease or secure. Never. It can make you ill, even cause early death. Worry, fear, anger, all negative emotions are crippling when you have no options, power, choices. Where is your empathy?


Jessica Patti wrote: "Have any of you that commented here been poor? I mean really poor? No place to live, no health insurance, no one to turn to for a hand up? The working poor are all around us. They live from paychec..."


i agree. but she had back up money that she could use if she wanted to. she wasnt really poor. and yes i have been poor. im still living through it and that book is not how my life is.


Joanne Good post Patti.


Alessandra She had backup money and the time to write this book, which the genuinely working poor don't. Since few poor people have the time or ability to write about this, I'm glad she did.

Well said, Patti.


Amanda Katy wrote: "She seemed to be trying to make a point rather than whine for the sake of whining, though. I can't imagine working that hard (Wal-Mart + Merry Maid, restaurant, whatever) while aging and living ha..."

Katy wrote: "She seemed to be trying to make a point rather than whine for the sake of whining, though. I can't imagine working that hard (Wal-Mart + Merry Maid, restaurant, whatever) while aging and living ha..."

I totally agree with Patti, even more now than ever with our economy. Apparently there is a new edition coming out which should be very interesting since when she wrote this we weren't in the economic slump we are in now.


message 11: by Katy (last edited Sep 12, 2011 07:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy Brandes Patti wrote: "Have any of you that commented here been poor? I mean really poor?"


The point I was trying to make was that it would be especially difficult for someone who is aging and less able to handle hard physical work and more than one job at a time. It totally sucks to be poor and have no support system. It particularly struck home with me to read the book after having barely scraped by during my ungrad years, working full-time at a college to earn tuition assistance while going to school part-time. Someone who has no means to buy groceries, much less save deposit money, would not be able to ever pursue higher education and a possible way out of their circumstances. Ehrenreich did a great job driving home the point about being destitute, whether she really was or not.



message 12: by King (new) - rated it 1 star

King Wenclas I think an important point is that Ehrehreich was slumming. She was never destitute-- far from it. She was a successful writer from a prosperous background. Being poor-- or pretending to be-- for six months is a far cry from being poor your entire life!
Ms. Ehrenreich made millions of dollars off this book. Meanwhile, authentic working class writers go ignored. Many live lives as broke and desperate as Francois Villon. I know this, as I know several of them.


Joanne I have always had a problem with books and stories by people who are "walking in the shoes" of some other race or income level in order to show what it is "really like." There is little authenticity when you can toss off your homeless rags, or scrub your face, and go to the dentist if you need to. This is the only book of its kind I know of, that was worth the endeavor.


message 14: by King (new) - rated it 1 star

King Wenclas Worth the endeavor? For Ehrenreich it surely was. That it's the Approved text about the working class, and thus assigned in schools and colleges, guarantees continuing sales. She also received the $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for it.
As always, the poor and working poor aren't allowed to speak for themselves.
Yet authentic writers are out there, who've lived tougher lives than an Ehrenreich can dream about. E-books may allow some of us finally to have a voice in this society, against the tops-down homogenized well-connected control of the mainstream. I guess we'll see.


message 15: by Patti (last edited Sep 19, 2011 02:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Patti Mcahren Here is a real story about the homeless which I think is a better school reading assignment.
Travels With Lizbeth.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38...


Greengirl My son read this for school and came away disliking her.....thought she was racist. I felt empathic enough for him that I refuse to read it!!


Andrew Hosler "I like turtles"


message 18: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Katy wrote: "She seemed to be trying to make a point rather than whine for the sake of whining, though. I can't imagine working that hard (Wal-Mart + Merry Maid, restaurant, whatever) while aging and living ha..."

I so agree that this book is making a point about the working poor, and trying to open peoples eyes to their terrible situation. Everyone complains about people recieving public assistance, but those who are trying so hard to make a living really don't recieve the respect, or even a working wage. If the little guy made a decent wage, the standard of living for all of us would improve.
Think about it.


Karen Patti wrote: "Have any of you that commented here been poor? I mean really poor? No place to live, no health insurance, no one to turn to for a hand up? The working poor are all around us. They live from paychec..."
Thank you for your comment. I grew up in borderline poverty, in the reddest State in the nation. My dad abandoned my mom (an uneducated woman with no real work experience) with six kids to care for. I read this book out of curiosity, and I never felt like she was "slumming." It's an interesting sociological experiment.


Karen King wrote: "I think an important point is that Ehrehreich was slumming. She was never destitute-- far from it. She was a successful writer from a prosperous background. Being poor-- or pretending to be-- for s..." Did you read the Forward? She came from a typical middle class background, and worked her way up. She isn't from the elite. I grew up in borderline poverty, and coming from a person who grew up in those circumstances, I never got the impression that she was "slumming."


Alessandra I don't see that Ms. Ehrenreich's economic situation makes her points any less legitimate. This book about living through poverty was written by an economically comfortable person. Others have been written by more disadvantaged people. Surely the different perspectives all help?


message 22: by Rob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob No. Rich people poor-cationing for six months and pretending that they now have perspective is actually the opposite of helping.


message 23: by King (new) - rated it 1 star

King Wenclas It was actually three months.
According to her wiki entry, B.E.'s father started out modestly but ended up a senior executive at Gillette Corp. Ms. E attended Reed College, an exclusive private school that's been called an elite school, and later Rockefeller University, where she received a Phd. Middle class, perhaps, but then, in America everyone thinks they're middle class.
It's to her credit that she's shown much concern over her lifetime for the other half, but she did come from a fairly privileged background herself.
Many of us work shitty jobs not for three months, but three decades. Some of us are writers who'd like to get our own words attention and respect, but the road is clogged, if not closed.
I ask here Ms. Ehrenreich to put her ideals into practice by lobbying the magazine she works for, The Nation, to review on occasion a few DIY writers-- yes, self-published-- in addition to the usual stream of unprovocative predictability which comes from the book giants owned by one of a handful of gigantic media monopolies. I don't think it's too much to ask!
(Sorry for the noise, but if I don't stand up for myself and my kind, who else will?)


message 24: by Re (new) - rated it 4 stars

Re Heubel Patti wrote: "Here is a real story about the homeless which I think is a better school reading assignment.
Travels With Lizbeth.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38..."


B. E.'s book is more about the plight of the working poor and all the low-wage jobs in the new, non-maufacturing/non-union economy. The focus of the book is economics of being poor.

It is not about homelessness.


Michael Morris This is a terrific book, and working for WalMart is more than most of you make it out to be. They reward the insane and the ruthless. They fire people who work hard on the basis of rumors or one supervisor's bad day.

Consider also that the people Ehrenreich sees are people who don't have the resources and power to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" as so many wealthy people expect the poor to do.


Joanne Michael wrote: "This is a terrific book, and working for WalMart is more than most of you make it out to be. They reward the insane and the ruthless. They fire people who work hard on the basis of rumors or one su..."

Nice post Michael.


Jessie I find the book reassuring ha


Shelley The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Shelley
Rain, A Dust Bowl Story
http://dustbowlpoetry.wordpress.com


message 29: by Rob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob Yup, just as it should be - the rich are doing something (or their parents did); the poor are asking for more handouts. We should invert the tax rate, make the poor give to the government they take so much from, instead of giving their money to cell phone companies, cable companies, and fast food joints. They've already proven they need the help and can't manage something as simple as personal finance - so let them pay for themselves instead of taking money from the rich and giving it to this country's losers. Then maybe we'll have the poor get better, and start figuring out how to be productive.


Bruce Black Nickel and Dimed is spot on. I read this ten years ago when I first started working as a cashier at Borders (I love books and readers). I had been in the corporate world for ten years (and retired) so it was a real shock to me to find myself in the brutal world of retail. I was luckier than most; I had no debt, had other resources and savings. Most of my coworkers lived paycheck to paycheck. Some didn't eat until they were able to cash their check. Some were actually homeless. Over time full-time employees were converted to part-time, salaried managers to hourly, and benefits and salaries eroded to the legal minimums. Most of the people I worked with were hard working, honest and friendly. Borders was probably better than most retail places to work. But they had to compete with the Walmarts of the world and that means making your profits off of payroll. I highly recommend this book, it's an insight into a world most of us live in and never see, but you can already see it spreading to other careers and vocations.


Joanne Great post Bruce. Thanks.


Gregory Rothbard Bruce wrote: "Nickel and Dimed is spot on. I read this ten years ago when I first started working as a cashier at Borders (I love books and readers). I had been in the corporate world for ten years (and retired)..."
I also think that the book Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne is also a good introduction for understanding the conditions of poverty, especially in the United States.


message 33: by Amy (last edited Sep 05, 2012 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy Siegfried Albeit that the author had a back up plan, money in the bank if needed, etc...I think the point was not to show the difference in what she had vs. the rest of the world but to show to those who would read the book that the working poor exist all around us and just how hard they work. I grew up in a family of working poor so "get it". The author made money off the book- that is the reality of publishing; she was PAID for her work just as those who work at Wal-Mart, McDonald's, or Merry Maids. For those who want to bash what she earned, her back up plan, etc. I think you are missing the point of what the author was trying to get across.


message 34: by Bryn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryn excellent.


Liz  Dalton On one hand, I think the book is sensationalist propaganda that uses the working class as a way to make money by way of a bogus "experiment." There is no way that a month, or three months, of working a “menial” job is enough experience to "understand" what working class individuals grapple with on a daily basis. It is great that someone called attention to this issue and even though I was sometimes offended by her (I work at a big-box retailer while my two degrees acquire dust!) I was also punching my fist in the air in agreement! Therefore, I must say, my opinion of the book varies as I read through it. I will read other books written by her!


Phoenix Jessica wrote: "Patti wrote: "Have any of you that commented here been poor? I mean really poor? No place to live, no health insurance, no one to turn to for a hand up? The working poor are all around us. They liv..."


Great points Jessica. We are talking about this spoiled writer and not the readers and commentators. She had an easy out and her writing is suffused with arrogance and disdain for those she purportedly felt for. I could go on, and indeed I have but I just got my blood pressure back to normal.


Phoenix Simone wrote: "Phoenix wrote: "Jessica wrote: "Patti wrote: "Have any of you that commented here been poor? I mean really poor? No place to live, no health insurance, no one to turn to for a hand up? The working ..."

Hi Simone. Thanks for your feedback. After reading some of the comments I thought maybe I had missed some deep message embedded within her scribbling and derisive commentaries...I certainly agree with you 100%. While there was a possibility to present an interesting storyline, it should have been done by someone else and with more professionalism.


message 38: by M.C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

M.C. Nachtigal I don't understand the point of bashing the author for "poor-cationing" or "slumming" or whatever you want to call it. Would you prefer it if she just stayed in her upper middle class house and wrote novels? The type of writing she does is anthropological in nature. Personally, other than college, I've never HAD to lead a hand to mouth existence, so something as accessible and readable as this gave me SOME degree of insight into the working class existence, far more so than interacting with individuals I may run across. This book was very similar to a later episode of Morgan Spurlock's tv show "30 Days," in which he lived for one month on a minimum-wage salary. After the success of his movie "Supersize Me", I hardly think he NEEDED to do that, but he also didn't need to do any of the other "stunts" for the show, including inviting people to live for 30 days in their opposite existence, like a border patrol agent living in Mexico for 30 days, or an atheist living with a devout Christian family, or a laid off tech worker living in India. That's the point! Just like B.E., he was experiencing (and sharing) something that normally we don't have access to. I still reflect on aspects of Nickel and Dimed years after first reading it. I can't say that about most books I've read.


Phoenix The point is that she adds nothing to the literature on poverty and disdains and morally condemns those upon whom she is feeding (literally. She applies her own haughty visions to their lives while consistently reminding the reader of who she is and what her background is ,as if fearing contagion by association.To call this "anthropology" is certainly a long stretch...I think I hear Margaret Mead moaning out there somewhere,ad while I respect your right as a reader to have drawn some sort of message from this I would not go so far as to class it as a study, sociological ,anthropological or other...


Bonnie Lynn I didn't feel the author was being arrogant in this book. I had the impression she was fully aware of how fortunate she was. What she stressed as she moved to her chosen job for each location was the same: In many areas of the country, one individual attempting to live on a week's earnings from a minimum wage job is often lucky just to be able to pay his/her rent.


message 41: by Re (new) - rated it 4 stars

Re Heubel Another good book on the American economy and economic inequality is this book by Kevin Phillips.

Wealth and Democracy: How Great Fortunes and Government Created America's Aristocracy


message 42: by Rob (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob I'd rather read one on how to join the aforementioned aristocracy!


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Books mentioned in this topic

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (other topics)
Wealth and Democracy: How Great Fortunes and Government Created America's Aristocracy (other topics)