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How important is price when you buy?

Do you use the Internet to compare prices before you buy? Do you shop at Wal-Mart to get the lowest prices? Do you like Ikea furniture? Do you belong to a warehouse club such as Costco or Sam’s Club?

Money Bills 04_28_50---US-Dollar-Bills_web Price is important to me when I shop. I compare prices before I make major purchases and enjoy getting a great deal at a sale.

But Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of the book "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture," argues cheap goods have replaced medium-quality products, and this is detrimental to people throughout the world.

Shell, a professor of journalism at Boston University, said large multi-national corporations such as Ikea have a low profit margin and make money by selling to millions of customers.

With this business structure, companies cut corners and, as a result, the environment suffers and workers in third-world countries are exploited. And, all that stuff needs to be shipped across the sea to be sold.

Shell, who was interviewed today on KUOW’s The Conversation, said Wal-Mart offers one-third of its items at low prices, while the other products in the store are one-third higher than other stores in the region.

She called for the return of quality products with a reasonable price tag.

And Shell said governments need to address the environmental degradation and poor working conditions that result from the production of cheap goods.

Copyright 2009, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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I love Ikea´s style and have bought a lot of nice things there, but I also have a bed and dresser that constantly need adjustments. I like buying kids´ clothes at Target and the quality is fine. Even though we are a family of 4 we don´t go to Costco or similar stores since we don´t have space to store the large quantities. At the moment we are traveling in Spain and I am surprised by the poor quality of the battery operated toys here. It doesn´t make sense to buy something cheap if it breaks the same day.


Hi Lisa,

I think Ellen Ruppel Shell is right about cheap goods. When I was growing up, furniture was more substantial, often made out of laminated wood rather than particle board.

Before the plastic age, toys were more substantial, too.

Thanks for your comment,

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