Oscar's Reviews > Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

Cheap by Ellen Ruppel Shell
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's review
Jan 10, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 10 to 13, 2012

In her book, Ellen Ruppel Shell quotes President William McKinley, who stated that "Cheap Merchandise means cheap men, and cheap men mean a cheap country, and that is not the kind of Government our fathers founded, and it is not the kind their sons mean to maintain." Such a quote, in my opinion, sets the tone for Ruppel's book. The book examines America’s transformation from a rural country towards a country of mass producers towards major players in a global market where American discounters are possible thanks to cheap foreign markets and labor forces.

The book begins by arguing that modern Americans are players in a consumer culture that loves a good bargain that has seen the growth of discounter stores such as Walmart, Dollar stories, Ikea, and Outlet Malls. The book then looks at how such a culture came to be and its implications. For example is craftsmanship dead? How do these bargain shops affect the economy? And do they help the job market in this country and abroad?

I enjoyed the book and think that Ellen Ruppel Shell makes a strong argument against our modern cheap obsessed culture that has in her opinion weakened the economy, lead to worker exploitation particularly in foreign countries, and shoddy merchandise in terms of quality. I didn't agree with everything, but was on board with many of the book's arguments and felt that it was a thought out and thought provoking book regarding the nature of our consumer driven economy.

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