Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain just as much as the next guy, but all of the consumer anticipation and retailer hype over the looming Black Friday shopping extravaganza has me considering my recent reading of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture and taking a closer look at how much things cost and why they cost that much. In the book, Shell, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, examines the history and intricate market forces that go into the price we pay for the stuff that we buy. Sounds a bit dry, I know, but Shell’s well researched and thorough examination of price is anything but, and follows the winding historic path that has led from a time when goods were scarce and quality was paramount to our current marketplace where, in Shell’s assessment, quality means very little, price is king, and profit margins have grown so incredibly thin that innovation is a luxury that very few companies can afford. My reading tastes don’t often veer into the economics section of the library, but I was glad that they did for this title.
Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture