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Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What

de Lee Eisenberg

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834329,341 (2.97)5
Offers a provocative and entertaining tour of America's love/hate affair with shopping, a pursuit that, even in hard times, remains the true national pastime, in a book by the best-selling author of The Number that delves into both "The Sell Side" and "The Buy Side" of the world of shopping.
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Exibindo 4 de 4
Good current overview of consumerism, covering the behavior of both buyers and sellers. Eisenberg's journalism background means snappier writing than the more academic books, with references to 'soothingly pretentious' ad campaigns and stores entombed in marble-tiled malls. A discussion of Victorian Era marketing invokes 'the man in the grey flannel waistcoat.'

No one is villain or victim here, although the 'Buy Scolds' receive regular chiding for overdoing it. The author and his family are unrepentant consumers, which is an unusual position to take in this genre. Eisenberg's basic stance is that as long as nothing is going on the credit cards and you're leaving enough to live on, knock yourself out with the self-actualization. (Within reason. Rolex owners still receive no mercy.) Advertisers are not brainwashers and consumers are neither sheep nor shallow. It's certainly easy -- and unwise -- to spend too much on things that bring no meaning to your life, but there are plenty of ways to do it properly as well. Humans have social needs as well as biological ones.

The inevitable discussions of gender differences in shopping stay refreshingly non-sexist. One reason is provided -- he speaks respectfully and often of both his wife and college-age daughter.

He references many authors I've already read -- always fun; hi again! -- and passes along time-saving criticism of a book about which I was on the fence. I've also added to my to-read list, of course.

This book almost works well for a reading club. There are plenty of discussion provoking tidbits -- Who buys black market baby food? What's the ethical cut-off for counterfeit luxury goods and (much trickier) their knock-offs? Does the Mall of American really only have two Starbucks? How could anyone think a separate plus-size Lands End catalog was a good idea? Why does the % of money spent on clothing not change as income rises? Am I the only one who initially thought a reference to "dual carbs" was related to national eating habits? But it does run long. Even though I enjoyed every chapter, I started to feel like I'd been reading the thing for weeks.

I'd still like to know whether the art at the beginning of each chapter was Charles Burns or a look-alike and why his research-gathering job at Target ended so quickly. ( )
  kristenn | Jul 11, 2010 |
A fascinating exploration of the "buy" and "sell" sides of our consumer culture. There are summaries of the critics and apologists with some thoughtful reflection on the place of stuff, marketing, advertising, and retailing. ( )
  byroade | Feb 18, 2010 |
As a non-marketing, non-sales oriented person, this book gives very good insights into how the techniques sell side uses to, well, sell us stuff. Pretty eye-opening, and definitely a great read. ( )
  Livana | Feb 15, 2010 |
There is no doubt about it: America is a nation of shoppers and ours is an economy driven more by consumption than by production. For some of us, the craziness of Black Friday is to be avoided at all cost; for others it is a contact sport they look forward to all year long. Lee Eisenberg's "Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on buying No Matter What," attempts to explain why that is.

Eisenberg divides "Shoptimism" into two parts, one from "The Sell Side" (Them Versus You) and one from "The Buy Side" (You Versus You). The first part focuses on the efforts retailers make to convince unwary buyers they cannot live without what the seller has to offer. It includes a history of retailing, advertising, marketing research and what, at times, seems like psychological warfare being waged upon the buyer by the seller. Eisenberg, in a past life, was executive vice president of Land's End and he knows exactly how "They" play the game of getting cash from your pocket into theirs.

The book's second part focuses on the "Why" and the "Who" of shopping. Why do we shop the way we do? Why do brands mean everything to some shoppers while others see avoiding popular brands as a badge of honor? How do male and female shoppers differ? Can shopping truly be an addiction or is that just an excuse some shoppers use to rationalize their spending habits? This section of the book includes chapters on "The Classic Buyer," one that tries to get the most for his dollar and is willing to do the research needed to increase his odds of succeeding, and "The Romantic Buyer" that shops more with an impulsive heart than with a fact-filled head.

Although he uses graphs, tables, lists and illustrations for summary and clarification purposes, Eisenberg builds his case largely through the anecdotal style he uses to recount his own shopping experiences and observations. Thankfully, he also puts today's shopping habits into historical context, explaining how we arrived at the point that President Bush would dare suggest shortly after 9-11 that the best things Americans could do for their country was to return to its shopping malls. According to Eisenberg, it was during the 1950s that America "underwent a bloodless coup that transformed us from engaged citizens into self-indulgent consumers." In postwar America, Americans found that buying things made them happy - and American consumption has only gotten more frantic with each succeeding generation.

Some might find it easy to ridicule the shopping habits of their fellow citizens but before getting too carried away they should consider some of the things that now eat up such a large chunk of their own disposable income, expenses our grandparents never dreamed of: mobile phones, cable television, internet bills, hugely expensive printer ink, and the like. As one consultant tells Eisenberg, "The average American household spends more a year on technology-related products and services than it does on clothes, health insurance, prescription drugs or entertainment." Consumerism has a way, in other words, of sneaking up on the best of us.

Rated at: 4.0 ( )
  SamSattler | Dec 30, 2009 |
Exibindo 4 de 4
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Informação do Conhecimento Comum em inglês. Edite para a localizar na sua língua.
Consume or die. That's the mandate of the culture.
—Don DeLillo, Underworld
I gotta good mind to give up living and go shopping instead.
—B. B. King, "All Over Again"
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Offers a provocative and entertaining tour of America's love/hate affair with shopping, a pursuit that, even in hard times, remains the true national pastime, in a book by the best-selling author of The Number that delves into both "The Sell Side" and "The Buy Side" of the world of shopping.

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