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The High Cost of Discount Culture

September 15, 2009

It is the grandmother of all mixed blessings and one that we can not get away from in our modern society — the “Big Discount.”

We all love a bargain and pretty much all of us shop at the big box stores to “benefit” from their “everyday low prices.”

cheap coverBut do those benefits have a cost?  They must, a classical form of economics analysis, the TAANSTAAFL school, tells us.  That is to say, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”  To make something lower priced, something has to give.  We would hope that it would be tremendous profit margins and over inflated executive pay, but as the book Cheap: The high cost of discount culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell points out over and over again, that is just not the case.

What suffers is product quality, worker pay, and even human dignity.

Low price doesn’t have to mean low quality, but most often it does, and not just the quality of the goods produced, but also the quality of life that results.  And not just in those foreign lands where low wage workers crank out goods meant for shipping containers to fill our discount and dollar stores.  As wages have stagnated in the US, even as productivity continues to climb, our happiness levels seem to have dropped, even as we have more and more to fill our shopping carts.

The book does not necessarily provide grand solutions, but it is clear that buying quality products from quality people is part of that solution.

P.S. Yes, I realize how ironic it is to link to Amazon for this book!

P.S.S. I’m sure Janke Book Store would either have it in stock for would be happy to order it for you!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2009 2:26 pm

    I nominate this as the best use of


    in a blog post.

    I have never been so confused by, is that an acronym.

    I ordered the book today. Have a trip coming up, hope to read it while on the road.


  2. September 15, 2009 3:04 pm

    TAANSTAAFL – There Absolutely Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

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