Obsessed With Cheap Stuff?

Ever met anyone who doesn’t love a bargain?  Me neither.  But is our obsession with bargains harming us?

For more information about the following statements, get a hold of a copy of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppel Shell, Penguin Press, 2009.  All of what follows is from this excellent and thought-provoking book.

An introductory quote: “America is now awash in cheap goods manufactured by even cheaper help working out of our sight and largely out of awareness.”  (Page 161)

There are over forty million Chinese workers who earn $156 or lower each year, about a third of the World Bank poverty line of $456 per year. (Page 191)

80% of the world’s toys are made by migrant workers in Chinese factories, toys marketed by American and multi-national companies.  (Page 194)

The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai demanded that the Chinese government revise proposed “rigid” workplace regulations; e.g., guarantees that permanent workers have a binding agreement of employment assuring them timely payment at a minimum rate. (Page 201)

IKEA insists that none of its wood supplies are the result of illegal logging, when the World Bank estimates 50% of logging in Eastern Europe and Russia is illegal, and does IKEA have enough inspectors to ensure its wood supplies are not the results of illegal logging. (Page 129)

IKEA manufacture nothing; it is simply a giant retailer of cheaply made and cheaply priced items we can just throw away when they break or are no longer useful.  (Pages  141-148)

Shrimp farming in Thailand has replaced many rice paddies and mangrove forests.  (Pages 174-177)

Harvesting and processing animals and seafood in large quantities and sold at very low prices in farming operations results in those foods being handled with much less than great care.  (Page 177)

When animal waste is pumped into lagoons, those lagoons can leak and contaminate wells, groundwater, and irrigation water.  (Page 179)

Serious illness has been attributed to food-borne disease, which is on the increase in America. (Page 177)

Obsession with low prices makes innovation nearly impossible.  (Page 208)

From the flyleaf, referring to our preference for low prices and convenience over quality: “The effects of this insidious perceptual shift are vast: a blighted landscape, escalating debt (both personal and national), stagnating incomes, fraying communities, and a host of other socioeconomic ills, which include the current global meltdown.

Any ideas about what could possibly be done about all this would be most welcome!


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