Friday, June 09, 2006

Shopportunity! by Kate Newlin

On the whole, business books have a few really common features:
1. They're annoyingly repetitive.
2. They're a boring slog.
3. They're often filled with pointless diatribes or theoretical hogwash.

Shopportunity! is a bit repetitive, yes. But, it's not dull; in fact, it's a surprisingly fun read. I practically quoted it to death to the hubby. Poor spouse. I'm bent on coercing him to read it and he's probably already heard all of the best anecdotes. Well, shucks, it's his fault for marrying me.

The basic theme: Cut-price stores and our quest for the cheapest products have led to inferior quality, understaffed stores, poor service, overindulgence, addiction to bargain shopping, and loss of benefits and wages for those staffing the stores. Newlin even asserts that obesity stems from our addiction to cheap products and, thus, the purchase and consumption of larger quantities of food. On this one point, I disagree. Europeans are thinner and healthier. But, they drink fewer soft drinks and more water, they walk more, they eat out less and cook more using fresher foods. They walk and they walk and they walk because they can and they often must. I could argue that point to death.

Otherwise, Newlin gives the reader much to think about, talk about, and act upon. She also describes what will happen to her own product. In a few months, Shopportunity!'s garish cover will be screaming from end counters and brandishing discount stickers. It will be promoted in magazines and eventually remaindered. It will probably make its already-well-set owner a heck of a nice nest egg. In short, everything the author claims detrimental to our lives is undoubtedly going to happen to this book.

Will it cause a revolution in the retail world? Will people stop to think about their habits, reevaluate them, and make serious changes that could improve the general quality of life for everyone in America? I doubt it. Some will, some won't. I've avoided Wal*Mart all week, but I live in a town with few options and staying away forever would be nearly impossible. There will definitely be more care in what I choose, at least for a time. I can't speak for those who live in large, metropolitan areas. They're fortunate to have options unavailable to me. Whether or not they'll choose to exercise those options remains to be seen.

A few of Newlin's anecdotes are actually borderline offensive. A woman is miffed when she buys a designer dress at Macy's and the clerk keys in a non-existent coupon, giving her a 30% discount. That's a problem? Sorry, not to those of us who couldn't afford a designer dress, even at 80% off. Roaming the aisles of nicer stores, indeed, isn't possible for everyone.

We can, however, do our best to choose the best quality affordable and available to each of us. Certainly, the vast majority of Americans would benefit by buying fewer items with greater care spent in their purchase. The best of Newlin's points:

1. Shop (you don't have to buy!) in quality stores when possible and learn what quality is all about.
2. Notice the details and make purchases with greater care.
3. Buy less.
4. Stay away from stores where you're badly treated or totally ignored.

Overall, an excellent book and highly recommended.

Cheapskate Bookfool in the process of Quality Purchase Training

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