St. Martin's Press
November 10, 2009
Ours is the age of discount: we want more, cheaper, better. The local dollar store sells everything from plastic spatulas to Barbie knock-offs for a loonie, clothing retailers slash prices at the end of every season, and Wal-Mart promises that you can “Save Money, Live Better.” While it all sounds like an average day at the mall, this pervasive price-cutting is the most powerful economic force of our time – and it has disastrous hidden consequences.
In The Price of the Bargain, award-winning journalist Gordon Laird traces the bargain from its humble origins in Frank Woolworth’s five-and-dime shops to its role as global juggernaut. Along the way, he discovers that much of today’s collapsing economy is dangerously dependent upon dwindling supplies of offshore labour, cheap transportation, natural resources, and excessive consumer credit. Chinese migrant workers are now rioting against low wages and pollution, Hispanic communities near L.A.’s ports are plagued with asthma and cancer, and with empty stores and mortgage defaults piling up, it’s clear that Western consumers are in diminishing supply.
With a deft blend of original argument and first-rate reportage, Laird explores the staggering consequences of everyday low prices, from Iqaluit supermarkets to Asia’s factory borderlands, from Alberta to Los Angeles. Through interviews with everyone from big-box store executives to illegal immigrants, a single pressing question emerges: can we survive the bargain?
Wide-ranging, urgent, and engaging, The Price of the Bargain will forever change how you think of a deal.
Gordon Laird is the bestselling author of Power: Journeys Across an Energy Nation and Slumming It at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada’s Right-Wing Revolution. His writing and commentary have been featured on CNN, National Public Radio, CBC Radio and Television, in Mother Jones, Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, and more, and he has been a features writer for the Far Eastern Economic Review. Winner of several National Magazine Awards, Laird is Media Fellow Emeritus at the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership. He lives in Calgary.