I read books so that you don’t have to.

I finally got around to reading Ellen Ruppel Shell's Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. The book goes far beyond Walmart, but its Walmart sections (as the review I quoted a few weeks ago suggested) are extremely interesting. This comes right before that bit about price (p. 151):
[MIT Economist Jerry] Hausman concluded that Big Box stores made consumers "better off by the equivalent of 25 percent of food spending." For the poorest 20 percent of the population, this was estimated to be the equivalent to an increase in income of 6.5 percent, a significant sum. I called Hausman to discuss the figure with him. He told me that Furman actually underestimated the Wal-Mart premium: The discounter not only offers low food prices to its own customers but forces other local supermarkets to drop their prices as well. "Even if you never shop at Wal-Mart, you are still better off with Wal-Mart nearby," he said.
Or maybe we can look at it another way: Walmart is to blame for the reason that the quality of meat at every super market in the country has gone drastically downhill in the last ten years. Remember quality?
"I asked Hausman where he buys his groceries. A city dweller, he said he lives many miles from the nearest Wal-Mart or other discount grocery and therefore shops at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is a high-priced, limited selection supermarket, with a reputation for good service, quality, and variety, factors for which Furman said he did not control in his study. This is surprising, for without controlling for quality, how is it possible to make a meaningful comparison? How are consumers to know whether the lower price of chicken breasts at Wal-Mart signifies a good deal on a superior product? Most of the goods on Hausman's hypothetical shopping list were generic items that vary widely in variety and quality from store to store.
In short, we now have two food systems in this country: one for people who have disposable income and one for people who don't.

7 Responses to “I read books so that you don’t have to.”

  1. Someone:

    It’s a colloquialism. You want great grammar, go read some books yourself.

  2. Huh? What does that have to do with killing chickens?

  3. UncleBob says:

    I am also quite confused by Jonathan’s reply. Perhaps he didn’t realize you had posted a link and was correcting him on something…

  4. Oh.

    Yeah, I saw that. I just thought I’d stop grossing people out around here for a while.

  5. ryan says:

    Wal-Mart lowers the tide. they tap out the lake.
    a sinking tide lowers all boats.

    most people don’t live on boats, or work on them or from them.

    Wal-Mart is iconic size. most folks want to get in the herd before they are trampled by the herd. the herd is running to the slaughterhouse.

  6. […] another part of Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap that I’ve been meaning to get write up here and […]

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