Shopping 'Til We Drop

How have we become a society of super-consumers? What are the consequences?

Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers

By Alissa Quart

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"Generation Y has grown up in an age of the brand, bombarded by name products. In Branded, Alissa Quart illuminates the unsettling new reality of marketing to teenagers, as well as the quieter but no less worrisome forms of teen branding: the teen consultants who work for corporations in exchange for product; the girls obsessed with cosmetic surgery who will do anything to look like women on TV; and those teens simply obsessed with admission into a name-brand college. We also meet the pockets of kids attempting to turn the tables on the cocksure corporations that so cynically strive to manipulate them. Chilling, thought-provoking, even darkly amusing, Branded brings one of the most disturbing and least talked about results of contemporary business and culture to the fore--and ensures that we will never look at today's youth the same way again."

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

By Lee Eisenberg

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"...a provocative and entertaining tour of America's love/hate affair with shopping, a pursuit that, even in hard times, remains a true national pastime. Why do we shop and buy the way we do? In a work that will explain much about the American character, Eisenberg chronicles the dynamics of selling and buying from almost every angle. Neither a cheerleader for consumption nor an anti-consumerist scold, he explores with boundless curiosity the vast machinery aimed at inducing us to purchase everything from hair mousse to a little black dress. He leads us, with understated humor, into the broad universe of marketing, retailing, advertising, and consumer and scientific research--an arsenal of powerful forces that combine to form what he calls 'The Sell Side.' Through the rest of the book, Eisenberg leads us through the 'Buy Side' -- a journey directly into our own hearts and minds, asking among other questions: What are we really looking for when we buy?

"Why are we alternately excited, guilt-ridden, satisfied, disappointed, and recklessly impulsive? What are our biases, need for status, impulses to self-express, that lead us individually to buy what we buy? Are you a classic buyer (your head wants to do the right thing), or a romantic buyer (your heart just wants to have fun)? How do men and women differ in their attitudes towards shopping, and does the old cliche -- 'Women shop, men buy' -- apply any longer? Of special interest are the author's findings on the subject of What Makes a Good Buy? We all purchase things that we sooner or later regret, but what are the guidelines for making purchases that we'll never regret? What, for instance, defines the perfect gift?"

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Con$umed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole

By Benjamin R. Barber.

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"A piercing and vital look at how capitalism is consuming U.S. society. An apt sequel to Benjamin R. Barber's best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, Consumed offers a wrenching portrait of how adult consumers are infantilized in a global economy that overproduces goods and targets children as consumers in a market where there are never enough shoppers. Driven by a frantic imperative to sell, consumer capitalism specializes today in the manufacture not of goods but of needs. This provocative culmination of Barber's lifelong study of democracy and capitalism shows how the infantilist ethos deprives society of responsible citizens and displaces public goods with private commodities. Traditional liberal democratic society is colonized by an all-pervasive market imperative. Public space is privatized. Identity is branded. Our world, homogenized."

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Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

By Paco Underhill

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"Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with a completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture -- full of fresh observations and important lessons from the cutting edge of retail, which is taking place in the world's emerging markets. New material includes: * The latest trends in online retail -- what retailers are doing right and what they're doing wrong -- and how nearly every Internet retailer from iTunes to Amazon can drastically improve how it serves its customers. * A guided tour of the most innovative stores, malls and retail environments around the world -- almost all of which are springing up in countries where prosperity is new. An enormous indoor ski slope attracts shoppers to a mall in Dubai; an uber luxurious Sao Paolo department store provides its customers with personal shoppers; a mall in South Africa has a wave pool for surfing.

"The new Why We Buy is an essential guide -- it offers advice on how to keep your changing customers and entice new and eager ones."



 

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Call of the Mall

By Paco Underhill

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The author of this bright and funny portrait of the mall has been called the Margaret Mead of shopping, and has done extensive research on the topic. Any doubts about how much we really want to know about how stores entice us to buy will be swept away by the engaging manner in which the information is presented.

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Squandering Aimlessly: My Adventures in the American Marketplace

By David Brancaccio

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"Squander: to spend or use something precious in a wasteful way. Squandering ranks even below 'leaving it in a passbook savings account' on the list of the greatest personal finance sins of our age, according to Brancaccio, who hit the road to determine the right answer to the question of what to do with money. Brancaccio gets this question from Marketplace listeners all the time: What does one do with a lump sum, perhaps the proceeds from some stock options, the profit on the sale of a house, an inheritance, a bonus, a settlement, or even a modest accumulation in a savings account?"

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Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism

By James B. Twitchell

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"Coke adds life. Just do it. Yo quiero Taco Bell. We live in a commercial age, awash in a sea of brand names, logos, and advertising jingles -- not to mention commodities themselves. Are shoppers merely the unwitting stooges of the greedy producers who will stop at nothing to sell their wares? Are the producers' powers of persuasion so great that resistance is futile?

"James Twitchell counters this assumption of the used and abused consumer with a witty and unflinching look at commercial culture, starting from the simple observation that "we are powerfully attracted to the world of goods (after all, we don't call them 'bads').   He contends that far from being forced upon us against our better judgment, 'consumerism is our better judgment.' Why? Because increasingly, store-bought objects are what hold us together as a society, doing the work of 'birth, patina, pews, coats of arms, house, and social rank' -- previously done by religion and bloodline. We immediately understand the connotations of status and identity exemplified by the Nike swoosh, the Polo pony, the Guess? label, the DKNY logo. The commodity alone is not what we are after; rather, we actively and creatively want that logo and its signification -- the social identity it bestows upon us. As Twitchell summarizes, 'Tell me what you buy, and I will tell what you are and who you want to be.' "

"Using elements as disparate as the film The Jerk, French theorists, popular bumper stickers, and Money magazine to explore the nature and importance of advertising lingo, packaging, fashion, and 'The Meaning of Self,' Twitchell overturns one stodgy social myth after another. In the process he reveals the purchase and possession of things to be the self-identifying acts of modern life. Not only does the car you drive tell others who you are, it lets you know as well. The consumption of goods, according to Twitchell, provides us with tangible everyday comforts and with crucial inner security in a seemingly faithless age. That we may find our sense of self through buying material objects is among the chief indictments of contemporary culture. Twitchell, however, sees the significance of shopping. 'There are no false needs.'  We buy more than objects, we buy meaning. For many of us, especially in our youth, Things R Us."

Also available to download.

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I Want That! How We All Became Shoppers

By Thomas Hine

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"Choosing and using objects is a primal human activity, and I Want That! is nothing less than a portrait of humanity as the species that shops. We shop to nourish our bodies and to feed our fantasies. We shop to belong to groups. We shop to define ourselves as individuals. We shop to be powerful. We shop to be responsible. We shop to celebrate. We shop because we don't want to miss out on the excitement of life. I Want That! shows how these fundamental desires play out in today's malls, Web sites, boutiques, and superstores.

"The book also offers a lively, fast-paced history of finding, choosing, and spending. It makes stops in the crossroads markets in which prehistoric merchants traded gold, amber, and obsidian; in the agora in Athens, where sharp setters wet their wool to make it weigh more, and everyone came to buy, talk, eat, and get their hair done."

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Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture

By Juliet B. Schor

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"Schor, author of 'The Overworked American' and 'The Overspent American,' looks at the broad implications of this strategy. Sophisticated advertising strategies convince kids that products are necessary to their social survival. Ads affect not just what they want to buy, but who they think they are and how they feel about themselves. Based on long-term analysis, Schor reverses the conventional notion of causality: it's not just that problem kids become overly involved in the values of consumerism; it's that kids who are overly involved in the values of consumerism become problem kids. In this revelatory and crucial book, Schor also provides guidelines for parents and teachers. What is at stake is the emotional and social well-being of our children."

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Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

By David Brooks

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A brilliant description of upscale culture in America. Laugh (and cry) as you read about the information age economy's new dominant class. Marvel at their attitudes toward morality, sex, work, and lifestyle, and at how the members of this new elite have combined the values of the countercultural sixties with those of the achieving eighties. These are the people who set the tone for society today, for you. They are bourgeois bohemians: Bobos. Are you a Bobo?

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