Recent Posts

Sunday, July 12, 2009

No Cheap Lunch: The Cost of Low Cost

Stephanie Zacharek writes:

[I]n her lively and terrifying book "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture," Ellen Ruppel Shell pulls back the shimmery, seductive curtain of low-priced goods to reveal their insidious hidden costs. Those all-you-can-eat Red Lobster shrimps may very well have come from massive shrimp-farming spreads in Thailand, where they've been plumped up with antibiotics and possibly tended by maltreated migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam. The made-in-China toy train you bought your kid a few Christmases ago may have been sprayed with lead paint -- and the spraying itself may have been done by a child laborer, without the benefit of a protective mask.

"Cheap" is hardly a finger-waggling book. This isn't a screed designed to make us feel guilty for unknowingly benefiting from the hardships of workers in other parts of the world. And Shell -- who writes regularly for the Atlantic -- isn't talking about the shallowness of consumerism here; she makes it clear that she, like most of us, enjoys the hunt for a good deal. "Cheap" really is about us, meaning not just Americans, but citizens of the world, and about what we stand to lose in a global economic environment that threatens the very nature of meaningful work, work we can take pride in and build a career on -- or even at which we can just make a living. . . .

Shell asserts that even outlet malls and seemingly benign, friendly, progressive stores like IKEA are part of the problem; along with more obvious bad guys like Wal-Mart, they perpetuate a cycle that, far from nurturing creativity and innovation in the marketplace, ultimately benefits a relative few at the very top of the economic chain.

link: IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart | Salon Books


Post a Comment