Let me start by saying: sorry. This is going to be another super short book club post because I just. do. not. have. time right now for more *sobs* I feel like a broken record writing this yet again, but life has been kicking my butt lately, and I feel like I’ve reached my limit of balls feasibly juggle-able. Projects like the BCRL book club, though certainly dear to my heart, are simply not high enough on the list of priorities … which makes me very sad, but sometimes c’est la vie. Without further hue and cry, here are my thoughts about Bargain Fever.

What I Liked

Books like Bargain Fever interest me a great deal; I love reading about the psychology behind social behavior, and in particular in relation to the things we buy and consume. Bargain Fever is written in the easy, breezy style that I prefer to read for “fun”; it was easy to finish in a couple of sittings. There was a TON of fascinating information and insights into both retailers’ and customers’ behavior. (Perhaps too much, but more on that in a minute.) A lot of it was instinctively recognizable to me, based on my own experiences with the retail industry (as a consumer), so from that perspective it wasn’t “new” information, per se; however, I enjoyed the way in which the book tried to connect all the dots.

A few of the highlights:

  • The discussion of the physiological/psychological feedback loop that makes bargain-hunting so addictive to many people. I am definitely someone who is very susceptible to it, which is a huge part of why I love thrifting – and why I never miss 50% off days at Value Village (and collect stamp cards at every thrift shop that offers them), even though I can certainly afford to pay full price.
  • The issues around the relative value of money. People are highly irrational in the way they approach/value money, and that’s endlessly fascinating to me. Someone might go to great lengths to save $5 in one situation, but not another. And that brings me to another interesting concept, which is that of anchoring – we perceive prices differently depending upon the context in which they are presented to us. None of it makes sense when you stop to think about it but it is, nonetheless, immediately familiar – if you do a gut check, you’re likely to admit that you’ve been guilty of the same reactions.
  • The exploration of the connection between perceived cachet (of designer brands) and whether they are subject to sales. I am fascinated by branding as a science (or an art, depending on how you think of it), and enjoy reading analyses of what goes into determining which brands thrive and which don’t. In this respect, Bargain Fever covered some ground that was not addressed in great depth in Deluxe: How Luxury Lost is Lustre.

[I’ll pause here to say that, 6 or 7 years ago, when the Coach outlets first began popping up everywhere, I predicted the downward slide of the brand without the benefit of any scientific analysis. I was happy to read in this book that Coach has been working on “righting its ship”, with some success, in recent years. I do have a soft spot for the vintage Coach bags, and I hope they eventually go back to their roots. One can only wonder what will happen to Michael Kors, since the brand doesn’t have the same “roots” as Coach. Or Kate Spade or Tory Burch, which might be sliding down the same path of market over-saturation and declining (perceived or otherwise) quality. And don’t get me started on J. Crew. Or do. I could talk about this stuff all day.]

What I Didn’t Like
There was a lot of information in this book. Like, a LOT. I felt that there was a constant barrage of it flying at me in every chapter, and the chapters themselves were fairly short and zippy. This isn’t a criticism, necessarily; but I feel like Bargain Fever is the kind of book that mostly just skims the surface of a lot of interesting topics, leaving you feeling simultaneously overwhelmed (maybe that’s just my default these days, though) and intrigued to read more. On that note, if you guys have any recommendations for good reads along similar lines (particular around branding), let me know in the comments.

So, back to you: did you read Bargain Fever and, if so, what did you think? Did you gain a better understanding of your own and others’ shopping behaviours? Any especially interesting revelations? What, if any, aspects of your own shopping did the book cause you to reconsider?

As I alluded to at the beginning of the post, I’m finding it more and more difficult to keep up with these book club posts (and “fun” reading in general), so I have decided to press “pause” on them for the next few months while I try to grapple with the rest of my life. I may do some shorter version of a “what I’m reading now” post over on my author blog from time to time and, of course, will continue to publish my (free) weekly serial there too – I hope you’ll check it out!

4 Comments on BCRL Book Club: Bargain Fever

  1. This sounds pretty interesting and I think this feedback loop is in full force in my brain:

    The discussion of the physiological/psychological feedback loop that makes bargain-hunting so addictive to many people.

    I have in the past bought too many things because they were a ‘deal’ I realize there is still a storage and mental cost to having too many things. I continue to work on that issue. I see the appeal of having a capsule wardrobe. But I love to shop. A dream job for me would be to personal shop for people and find them amazing things on a budget. Too bad it is not feasible.