Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream [NOOK Book]


The bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed goes back undercover to do for America’s ailing middle class what she did for the working poor

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed explored the lives of low-wage workers. Now, in Bait and Switch, she enters another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with a plausible résumé of a professional “in transition,” she attempts to land a middle-class ...
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Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

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The bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed goes back undercover to do for America’s ailing middle class what she did for the working poor

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed explored the lives of low-wage workers. Now, in Bait and Switch, she enters another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with a plausible résumé of a professional “in transition,” she attempts to land a middle-class job—undergoing career coaching and personality testing, then trawling a series of EST-like boot camps, job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She gets an image makeover, works to project a winning attitude, yet is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and—again and again—rejected.

Bait and Switch highlights the people who’ve done everything right—gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés—yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster, and not simply due to the vagaries of the business cycle. Today’s ultra-lean corporations take pride in shedding their “surplus” employees—plunging them, for months or years at a stretch, into the twilight zone of white-collar unemployment, where job searching becomes a full-time job in itself. As Ehrenreich discovers, there are few social supports for these newly disposable workers—and little security even for those who have jobs.

Like the now classic Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch is alternately hilarious and tragic, a searing exposé of economic cruelty where we least expect it.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich went inside the lives of "the working poor," low-wage workers who struggle to make ends meet. In Bait and Switch, she assumes a new identity in another hidden realm of our economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. These displaced people had done everything right -- earned college degrees, developed marketable skills, built up impressive resumes -- yet remained totally vulnerable to "downsizing." To experience their plight, Ehrenreich readopted her maiden name, constructed a plausible job history, and assumed her place on a treadmill of career boot camps, job fairs, networking events, personality tests, and career coaching. A first-person look at what happens when job-hunting becomes a full-time job.
The New Yorker
Several years ago, Ehrenreich, a veteran muckraker, went to work in a variety of low-paying jobs to expose the harsh plight of the working poor; the resulting book, “Nickel and Dimed,” was an effective diatribe against the erosion of minimum wages and social safety nets. Here she goes incognito, under the cover of her maiden name (Alexander) and a lacklustre résumé, to find a white-collar job, preferably one with a title, benefits, and a minimum salary of fifty thousand a year. The idea was to worm into corporate America and expose the panicky insecurity of mid-level professionals in the downsized, outsourced New Economy. But, even after seemingly endless bouts of career-coaching sessions, networking events, and makeovers, the best offer “Barbara Alexander” gets is for a commission-only gig selling AFLAC medical insurance. It’s hard to tell whether the flaw lies in American capitalism or in the invention of Barbara Alexander.
Marcellus Andrews
Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch is a worthy companion to Nickel and Dimed, her engaging and infuriating 2001 exposé of the hard lives of working-class Americans. The new book provides a victim's-eye view of the world of unemployed white-collar workers -- people struggling, mostly in vain, to recoup the high wages and prestige they lost after being dismissed from the not-so-secure confines of corporate America.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A wild bestseller in the field of poverty writing, Ehrenreich's 2001 expos of working-class hardship, Nickel and Dimed, sold over a million copies in hardcover and paper. If even half that number of people buy this follow-up, which purports "to do for America's ailing middle class what [Nickel and Dimed] did for the working poor," it too will shoot up the bestseller lists. But PW suspects that many of those buyers will be disappointed. Ehrenreich can't deliver the promised story because she never managed to get employed in the "midlevel corporate world" she wanted to analyze. Instead, the book mixes detailed descriptions of her job search with indignant asides about the "relentlessly cheerful" attitude favored by white-collar managers. The tone throughout is classic Ehrenreich: passionate, sarcastic, self-righteous and funny. Everywhere she goes she plots a revolution. A swift read, the book does contain many trenchant observations about the parasitic "transition industry," which aims to separate the recently fired from their few remaining dollars. And her chapter on faith-based networking is revelatory and disturbing. But Ehrenreich's central story fails to generate much sympathy-is it really so terrible that a dabbling journalist can't fake her way into an industry where she has no previous experience?-and the profiles of her fellow searchers are too insubstantial to fill the gap. Ehrenreich rightly points out how corporate culture's focus on "the power of the individual will" deters its employees from organizing against the market trends that are disenfranchising them, but her presentation of such arguments would have been a lot more convincing if she could have spent some time in a cubicle herself. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Three years ago, journalist and social critic Ehrenreich wrote the best-selling Nickel and Dimed, exposing the dead-end world of the low-wage worker in America. Here, she tackles the problems of unemployed white-collar workers. Again, she goes undercover, this time pretending to be a white-collar worker seeking a public relations job. Her methodical job hunt includes sessions with personal coaches who use psychobabble, New Age concepts, or born-again Christianity to motivate their clients; personality tests, high-intensity "boot camp" sessions that focus on taking responsibility for one's job predicament and proactively networking; and sterile job fairs. She meets long-term unemployed white-collar workers as well as job seekers deeply dissatisfied with their current job or career. Her tale is instructive, sometimes humorous, but less involving than Nickel and Dimed because the focus is on finding a job rather than actually working in one; she ends up exposing the emptiness and disingenuousness of those she consulted more than analyzing the challenges confronting her fellow job seekers. Despite her many efforts, after almost a year of job hunting, the author doesn't get a viable job. She concludes without bitterness but without much hope that what "the unemployed and anxiously employed" need is "not a winning attitude" but "courage to come together and work for change." For all academic and most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/05.]-Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The middle class, writes Ehrenreich, is losing ground as steadily as the poor-and it has even more parasites feasting on its wounds. Poised, well-educated, but of a certain age and without a classic career trajectory, Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, 2001) changes her name back to her natal Barbara Alexander, takes a new social security number and tries to get a job in the corporate world. Poor thing, she sets her sights high, hoping for something with a nice health plan and "an income of about $50,000 a year, enough to land me solidly in the middle class." Phase 1, deliciously detailed here, encompasses Ehrenreich/Alexander's meetings with a succession of bullshit artists who attempt to soak as much of her money as they can while fixing the commas on her resume, helping her concoct lies about her working past and indoctrinating her in New Age nonsense that hardnosed corporate America seems to have swallowed whole. Phase 2 involves dreadful meet-and-greet networking rituals, many of them gateways to fundamentalist Christianity, another species of false hope to fuel the unemployed and underemployed. "The white-collar workforce," writes Ehrenreich, "seems to consist of two groups: those who can't find work at all and those who are employed in jobs where they work much more than they want to. In between lies a scary place where you dedicate long hours to a job that you sense is about to eject you, if only because so many colleagues have been laid off already." After months of looking and landing only pyramid-scheme offers in return, she concludes that the corporate world has sent her and her kind a clear message-anyone with a brain need not apply, and past success does not matter. What doesis obedience, and the sure knowledge that one can be sacrificed at any moment. Another unsettling message about an ugly America from a trustworthy herald. Read it and weep-especially if you're a job-seeker.
From the Publisher
Praise for Nickel and Dimed:

“We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America’s working poor so clearly and directly, and conveying with it a deep moral outrage . . . She is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“Jarring, full of riveting grit . . . This book is already unforgettable.” —Newsweek

“Courageous . . . a superb and frightening look into the lives of hard-working Americans.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429915700
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/25/2006
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 390,228
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed (0-8050-6389-7). A frequent contributor to Harper’s and The Nation, she has been a columnist at The New York Times and Time magazine. She lives in Virginia.

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Read an Excerpt

There’s all sorts of useful information being offered, which I struggle to commit to my notebook. Ask people to give you their contacts, and when they do, write them thank you notes by hand, on nice stationary. Get a fountain pen;
ballpoint won’t do. If you can’t get a real interview, at least ask for a 20 minute “contact interview” aimed at prying contacts out of people. Write to executives who are profiled in business publications and tell them what their company needs at this stage, which is, of course, you. Tell them how you’re going to “add value” to their firm. “Stand out. You’ve got to be the banana split.” Wear a suit and tie or female equivalent at all times, even on weekends, and I pick up a warning glance here: my sneakers have been noted. Network everywhere. One fellow landed a job thanks to networking at a 7/11 on a Saturday morning; luckily he had been fully suited up at the time.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Barbara Ehrenreich

Barnes & Bait and Switch is the follow-up to your bestselling book Nickel and Dimed. Why did you decide to turn your focus towards the white-collar unemployed?

Barbara Ehrenreich: Since writing Nickel and Dimed, I've gotten hundreds of letters from people in poverty. A lot of the people I've been hearing from don't fit the profile of the "unskilled," undereducated, low-wage person. They're college educated and, in most cases, were doing well until they lost their jobs, usually due to downsizing or outsourcing. I think I shared the common belief that if you're college educated, hardworking, and not a crack addict, you're pretty much set for life. So hearing from former white-collar, middle-class people who are facing destitution made me curious -- and concerned. I decided to investigate.

B& Did you think finding a corporate job would be as hard as it turned out to be?

BE: I knew it would be hard. I just didn't know how hard. I had certain disadvantages -- like being middle aged and lacking corporate contacts -- so I don't pretend my experience was typical. On the other hand, though, my age didn't show in my fake resume (coaches advise you to omit any experience from more than ten years ago), and people who had plenty of corporate contacts from previous jobs didn't seem to be doing so well either.

B& You wind up spending a lot of time dealing with "career coaches." Are they on the level, or are they preying on the vulnerable?

BE: Since the mid-'90s, a whole industry has sprung up to help -- or, depending on your point of view, prey upon -- white-collar job seekers. The "professional" coaches in this business are usually entirely unlicensed and unregulated. Some gave me what seemed at the time very useful advice -- e.g., on how to improve my resume. But others ranged from merely annoying to seriously whacked out. Like the guy who illustrated his "lessons" with Wizard of Oz dolls and advised me, on the basis of a personality test, that I am not suited to be a writer.

B& How much is the current outsourcing trend affecting the plight of the middle-class job seeker?

BE: A lot -- middle-class job seekers are unemployed because of outsourcing. I heard of people who'd been forced to train their (usually Indian) replacements before being laid off, which is like being forced to dig your own grave before you're shot.

B& Is going undercover at all fun, or just really hard work?

BE: It was more fun when I was working on Nickel and Dimed. The work was physically exhausting, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of my co-workers. A lot of them were funny, bright, and very generous. In contrast, my fellow white-collar job seekers in this project often seemed depressed, withdrawn, and guarded. But the worst of it was that I had to try to fake the attitude and personality that are universally recommended to white-collar job seekers: upbeat, always positive, perky, and "likeable." This did not feel at all natural to me or to many of the job seekers I met. Nor is it easy to "sell yourself" as if you were some sort of commodity.

B& Was it difficult to have to suck up to the corporations you're usually investigating?

BE: Ha -- good question! The answer is yes, but fortunately a lot of the coaching you get is really training in how to suck up. For example, I was told that if you read a flattering article about some executive you should write him or her a sycophantic little note about how impressed you are -- in fountain pen, on expensive stationery -- and request 20 minutes of his time to learn more about his brilliant career. You should also be fully suited up even on weekends and, if you are lucky enough to meet a potential networking contact, prepared to grovel.

B& How has the Internet affected the job-search experience?

BE: You'd think it would make job searching easy. You post your resume on the numerous job sites and wait for a potential employer to notice you. And wait, and wait...because no matter how spiffy your resume is, it's competing for attention with thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of others. Then I found out that big companies don't even bother having someone read resumes posted on the job sites; they have computer programs to scan the resumes for "key words," and who knows what they are?

B& What was the biggest surprise you encountered along the way?

BE: What surprised me most, right from day one of my job search, was the surreal nature of the job-searching business. For example, everyone, from corporations to career coaches, relies heavily on "personality tests" that have no scientific credibility or predictive value. What does "personality" have to do with getting the job done, anyway? There's far less emphasis on skills and experience than on whether you have the prescribed upbeat and likable persona. I kept wondering: Is this any way to run a business?

I was also surprised -- and disgusted -- by the constant victim blaming you encounter among coaches, at networking events for the unemployed, and in the business advice books. You're constantly told that whatever happens to you is the result of your attitude or even your "thought forms" -- not a word about the corporate policies that lead to so much turmoil and misery.

B& What's the fate of all the middle-class unemployed who can't get jobs? Did you start to relate to them?

BE: After losing a job, the first thing people do is cut back on their expenses -- eliminating "luxuries" like cable TV, meals out, vacations, and movies. As their savings, if any, shrink, they may have to sell their homes and move into a smaller place or with their parents. Eventually, most end up having to take what white-collar people call a "survival job": working in a big-box store, for example, at seven or eight dollars an hour. That may be where they get stuck, because the survival job interferes with the search for a more appropriate one. Wal-Mart, or wherever you're employed, doesn't give time off for you to go to interviews. And of course a low-wage job isn't something you want to put on your resume.

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Reading Group Guide

Provocative and frank, Bait and Switch explores a plight that has no doubt affected you or someone in your community. Barbara Ehrenreich’s first-hand account of a grueling white-collar job search spurs compelling questions for all readers, no matter what stage their careers have reached. We hope that the following topics will enhance your reading group’s discussion of this important book.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2006

    Read This, But With Caution

    While my experiences in corporate America have been extremely dissimilar to what the author describes, the book was an easy read and somewhat interesting. Keep in mind that this is the 'experience' of one person spending only a matter of months in a job search, in her admission seeking a higher level position, and not really truly even wanting the position as a job, but to provide writing material. Her experiences are interesting in that one can get a feel for what some (not all) people go through when searching for a new job in mid-life. But her efforts seemed to be simply a continuation of anecdotes, commiserating with other unemployed people. On a side-note, I strongly disagree with her feeling that the AFLAC duck is an annoying symbol. Personally, I like the duck and think it's a great way to remind people of AFLAC's business. I also didn't care for the way that the end of the book suddenly became a quasi-political platform, including her opinions on universal health-care and social security reform. Those things would seem to have nothing to do with finding a job. Read it, but read with a grain of salt.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2006

    Her experiment fails, but it makes for an interesting story.

    Bait and Switch is a companion to Barbara Ehrenreich¿s first novel, Nickel and Dimed, in which she chronicled the life of a blue-collar worker. As an investigative writer and journalist, Bait and Switch is the second time she has gone ¿undercover¿ to explore the working world, donning a new personality and beginning the job search from scratch, using today¿s typical methods. In her research, Ehrenreich attempts to convey to the general public the modern life of an employee of the white-collar world, and the astounding rate of unemployment for those who supposedly made all the right choices in life. Unfortunately, Ehrenreich¿s experiment was doomed from the beginning. She had only held one corporate job, and she was unwilling to fudge her resume in the fear of being found out. She was also unwilling to completely immerse herself in the life of an unemployed worker. Because she was not truly a part of the world she was researching, she could afford to be condescending towards the people trying to help her, because they were not her last hope. Her experiment could be completely invalidated because of one footnote on page 192: ¿Most of July was spent on Ehrenreich business,¿ implying that she took an entire month off from her job search because she has other things to do in her ¿real life.¿ Unemployed people cannot do this unemployment is every facet of their personality until they find a new way to support themselves and their families. Bait and Switch was an excellent representation of the average unemployed white collar worker, but that was not what it set out to do. Through stories directly from unemployed workers, the reader is certainly left with a sense of white-collar unemployment in the United States. However, her initial experiment fails because she does not execute it realistically, which is addressed in her conclusion. Her stated purpose was to gain first-hand knowledge of the problems in the white-collar work force why unemployment is so high, what it takes to find a new job, and why people were letting the impossible demands of the white-collar work place continue. Perhaps there aren¿t specific answers or solutions to these problems, because Bait and Switch only provides more hypotheses and further inquiries about the impenetrable land of Corporate America, from Ehrenreich and all the people she encounters in her journey. While Ehrenreich did not achieve her original goal, her story still makes for an interesting peek into the lives of the unemployed white-collar worker.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2006

    Dull and Self-Serving Look at Job Hunting

    This angry diatribe chronicles one woman's journey through the employment process. It is a slow, painful albeit well written read, interspersed with the author's ugly commentary: she seems to have something against numerous categories of people, in particular: Christians, fat people, and career coaches. She reserves special contempt for fat people. She is almost anorexically obsessed with weight, frequently noting her healthy dorito-free diet and need to exercise. Ehrenreich spends more time criticizing career coaches than actual job hunting. She was offered two jobs, one at Mary Kay, the other at Aflac. She turned them down because they were not good enough. (NO commission-based jobs for Barbara E. ). She was looking for an upper-level job despite having little demonstrable experience.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2006

    Eldery Woman Journalist Pretends to Look For A Job

    This is a book about an elderly woman in her 60s who writes in journalistic fashion about what it is like to look for a job--despite not having held a 'real' job in several decades (her own admission). First of all, I want to point out that the young blond woman on the cover of the hard cover version of this book is definitely not Barbara Ehrenreich. The REAL Barbara Ehrenreich is--I'm guessing--30-40 years older. Is that why this book was titled Bait and Switch? This book is not about an attactive young woman. It is a book about a tired, hate-filled, elderly journalist who spends most of her job search posting her resume on job boards like and seeking the good counsel of career coaches. In fact, she spends page after page describing these people--even though 99% of true job seekers do not look for a job this way. This was supposed to be a book about what is is like to work in corporate America. Oddly enough, even though the author was offered TWO jobs, she turned both down. She acted like they weren't good enough. Correction, not good enough for Barbara Ehrenreich. This book stinks.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2006

    Barbara¿s Little Blue Highway

    Truly disappointing. I first skimmed the book in a store while waiting for a friend and thought it was dynamite. The introduction is the best part of this book, full of promise. However, after purchasing and getting all the way to the last page, I put it down with a shake of the head. The book in its entirety can be summarized, even predicted, by paragraph one of the first chapter. ¿But is the resume eye-catching enough? Or would it be better to attempt face-to-face encounters¿¿ Ehrenreich somehow manages to postulate that every mid-level job seeker is going to be seduced by the lure of career consultants. She, of course, was doing this as book research, and she had plenty of cash reserves in which to indulge her investigative appetites. But I think most of us job candidates are more sensible than she gives us credit for. The people she meets at the seminars and networking sessions are merely a small fraction of many others who go about their job search in a mundane, undramatic, but oddly effective way. We post our resumes, make a few calls, answer ads and use temp agencies. The pressure for an image makeover is grossly exaggerated here. I¿ve been in the unemployment line numerous times and it never took any amount of emotional contortion or compromise of principles to land a gig. Ehrenreich¿s elitism is glaringly on display here, as when she describes a participant in a Christian fellowship telling of a colleague who is doing mission work in Czechoslovakia, ¿a country, I cannot help but note, that hasn¿t existed since 1993.¿ Well, no, not by that exact name, but it is the Czech Republic, and very few individuals old enough to be looking for a job would scratch their head and wonder what part of the world is being referenced. Her aim here is to paint evangelical Christians as yokels. Everyone else is portrayed as mentally unbalanced to some degree, or morally bankrupt. We have caricatures galore here. Not just the aforementioned ignorant Southerner, but the perky blonde, the back-slapping salesman in the ghastly plaid jacket, the gay cosmetologist, the EST reject¿you can get a couple of chuckles from this book, but sadly little insight into real issues that plague the reader who is in between jobs. I can't fathom any true job seeker being impressed by this book. It's so obviously inauthentic. Not looking for a job? Then enjoy. Just don¿t let the shelf location fool you. This is not ¿current affairs,¿ ¿politics¿ or ¿social commentary.¿ It¿s lame humor and storytelling ¿ William Least Heat Moon did a far better job.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2005

    Right On

    Reading from the experienced perspective of an unemployed white-collar worker (IBM got rid of me 5 months ago after 28 years of hard work and dedication), there is truth in this book, even if the undercover job was not acquired. Ehrenreich¿s insight into the resulting leeches selling transitional services is right on -- people marketing $200 to $7000 services and clueless activities for finding a comparable job. If you are one of the nervously employed, I recommend reading this book. You will see what is in store for you should you wake up to corporate downsizing tomorrow, after having done everything right. If you are reading the book to gain insight into the grave social and economic problem that is building in America, you will be left with only a glimmer of the true and urgent problem. Read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. If you are trying to understand the techniques employed behind the true bait and switch, the age-biased employee-laundering and pension defaulting activities occurring in corporations today, you won¿t get the knowledge from this book. Hopefully someone will right the exposé soon, maybe Ehrenreich in her next book...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2005

    More Negativity Masking as Compassion

    Were her agenda not already established, her bonafides not already cemented, the author's so called experiences, might yield some positive recommendations to help those who have found themselves outsized or downsized. But Barbara has an axe to grind. It is clear from the opening pages and from her interviews (I heard the one with Michael Medved) and her rather imperiously sarcastic attitude. She is a rank and file member of the 'it all sucks' club. What she and those of her ilk in politics on the left fail to realize, is that America is a country built on optimism, sometimes blind, but more often than not is equipped with a now-clichéd 'can do' attitude. The world and the country have changed mightily in the past 40 years. I grew up in an entirely different place than I find myself in now. I was interested in her book, because I was forced to change careers after 25 years in an industry that was consolidated and subsequently downsized.......I was a middle management, and indeed executive cog in the Supermarket wheel, and at 47, found myself unemployed and too old to rock and roll and too young to die. If I read Barbara's book before tackling the problem, I might have been encouraged to shoot myself. Except, her so called plight has little to do with how real Americans confront adversity. There are times when you need to go with the flow, and adapt and fit in, and like it or not, 'corporate' culture has and always will favor the institution over the it has always been and always will be. But America is an entrepeneurial wonderland, and there are times when you apply your attitude, energy and will, and you do not whisper the word Failure. Ever. You do not become a victim. Ever. You do what you have to do to take care of your family. But you don't waste precious time whining or languishing in the notion that government owes you something. 26 weeks unemployment was a humbling experience for me, it was not 60% of my income, as she incorrectly quotes, it was about 15% of mine. Enough to buy gas and essentials, but not designed for me to be comfortable... just a bit of help when I needed it most. Which I paid taxes on, by the way, when I started generating income again. Change is a scary thing. But it is also important for growth. I am stronger and more vital today having been 'removed' from the comfort of my corporate security blanket....less dependent and more interactive. Perhaps clinging to institutional dependence is more the problem. I would have welcomed a treatise on individual responsibility, rather than a blame game on 'who did this to me and why won't they fix it'.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2013

    The book covers months and months of attempts by the author to f

    The book covers months and months of attempts by the author to find a job in corporate America, using a beefed-up resume for a fields in which she had little actual experience. There was no "bait and switch", despite the title, and there was no actual experience on-the-job as a middle manager in corporate America.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    At last! Someone speaks the truth about the white collar job market!

    I thought this book was fantastic and right on the money! I have been through the depressing farce of white collar layoffs and job hunts several times since 2002 (well before the 2009 financial meltdown) and so have MANY of my former coworkers, neighbors, and friends. And it continues and only worsens today. I particularly liked the part about how employers expect you to be "passionate" about your job (you know, the one where you're doing the work of five people, because they laid off so many). And while I've known for a long time what many don't about official unemployment figures: namely that they measure ONLY people currently receiving unemployment pay--not those whose unemployment pay has run out or those who never qualified for it in the first place because they were hired as a temp or contract worker. I didn't know until this book that the official government definition of "underemployment" refers only to someone who is working part-time but would prefer to work full-time. It does NOT include former white collar workers who have taken what Ehrenreich terms "desperation" jobs, namely, anything they can get, at any pay, and likely without benefits. And the information about the stigma of ANY time gaps in one's resume, which Ehrenreich writes about, is sadly true. HR personnel have not internalized the "new reality" that workers have all been told to embrace, namely that they will have multiple jobs and multiple job transitions in their lives. But to HR personnel, a time gap reflects something bad, nasty smelling, and evil. While the book is at times so true it's depressing, it was refreshing and reassuring to hear the truth spoken aloud.

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  • Posted November 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I think she set the bar too high for herself with "Nickel and Dimed."

    For me, the worst part of this book was having read it after reading "Nickel and Dimed." "Nickel and Dimed" was one of my favorite books of the year, and I loved her writing style and the interesting and different perspective she brought to her topics.<BR/><BR/>I felt that this book was ultimately lacking in a great deal of that interesting writing and viewpoint. As someone struggling to get a job just out of college, I can certainly understand where she's coming from, and she is right in her basic assertion that finding a job in America isn't always an objective or fair process. I just wish she had made this book a little more interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2006

    Five-page article sold as a book

    If you are looking to pass time with an author who is gifted in communicating strong emotions, you found your book. If you are hoping to learn about corporate bait and switch or getting a job, this book is void of that. The book jacket and introduction tells readers the author sets out to get a job, work in corporate America and then write a book about her presumed struggles. Barbara Ehrenreich admits she lied (p.9) to employers about her job history and got friends, with similar values, to substantiate her lies. It didn't work. She never got a job and wrote a book about it anyway. The content basically is a five-page article that Barbara Ehrenreich sold as a 237 page book that is slow paced. Monotonous details are ubiquitous (e.g. itemizing the food in buffet lines and what strangers put on their lunch plates). If you are discouraged about your job search, don't get this book. It will not lift you up, it will not help you get a job and it has serious potential to put you in a depressing downward spiral. Barbara Ehrenreich is unbalanced against capitalism and corporate America. While it is well known they are not perfect, Barbara Ehrenreich never mentions the positive aspects of capitalism and corporate America. Nor does she give comparative statistics on the amount of people who live well in capitalist economies verses other economies. The book is a constant flow of vocational pessimism. Although the author uses the first half of the book to set herself up as a well-reasoned, balanced and unprejudiced person, one does sense there is some bias to her writing. Not until page 139 does Barbara Ehrenreich reveal she is an atheist. Thus, one would think she would avoid churches. Yet she unashamedly goes to churches hoping to secure a job while lying about her background. She then grumbles that she wasted her time there. She mercilessly mocks common church-going people and those who don't accept her anticapitalist views. It is hard to conclude Ehrenreich walked into the church meetings and wrote about them without prejudice. While it is true that bait and switch is going on in numerous HR departments, this book has nothing about that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Troubles in America

    If you are currently an unemployed white-collared worker, I would suggest reading this book to boost your confidence in knowing you are not alone. Ehrenreich places herself into this growing statistic in hopes of finding some answers but only discovers that she is not wanted. Because of her age I do not agree that this is even a viable experience because people over forty typically have troubles finding a new job whereas those just out of college have no problem. I thought the book became repetitive with networking and the ways that she attempted to find a job only to fail again and again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2006

    Poorly researched

    This is a book about an angry older woman who looks for a job (barely). She doesn't find one but in the process we learn of her contempt for fat people, Christian, and women who look like tranvestites.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2005

    Opinion Passed Off As Research

    Ehrenreich's book 'Bait and Switch' is a classic example of deciding what conclusions you want to draw and then going out and finding the right anecdotal stories to support your 'conclusions'. There's absolutely no statistical research to support her hypothesis -- after all, that would actually take some effort. She had decided (about three books ago) that free enterprise capitalism is really bad and that most executives are really evil people. This is just one more verbose diatribe in a whole series representing her opinion and what she wishes the world was like. She tried to be cute and show that recruiters, coaches and employment services constitute just another 'industry' trying to rip us off. The substance(?) of the book vividly displays Ehrenreich's lack of scholarship and proves once again that she's out of touch with the real world...not to mention an appalling ignorance of business and economics.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2005

    Good writing, interesting topic

    I read this book in two sittings. Ms. Ehrenreich is an excellent journalist and a superb writer, though as with Nickel and Dimed, she loses me with the concluding social analysis. In Bait and Switch, instead of unions as the agent for collective change, Ms. Ehrenreich recommends unemployed white collar workers band together, ask fearless questions about the economic and political systems that have treated them so shabbily and then go forth, a sort of jacquerie with good manicures. That aside, one of the most compelling points Ms. Ehrenreich¿s makes is that many of the motivational tools of corporate America such as personality tests are just so much pseudo-scientific hogwash. I am glad to hear this since taking a personality test or learning how to achieve my potential makes me feel foggy. After reading this book I have decided that should I ever attend a meeting where Enneagrams is on the agenda, I will have an important phone call to attend to. I found the most disturbing aspect of the book to be Ms. Ehrenreich's experience with Christian networking. As a Christian with an evangelical bent (and I use bent intentionally) I pay close attention to what non-Christians say about their interactions with Christians. Even taking into account that Ms Ehrenreich as self professed liberal progressive probably has more than one bone to pick with the conservative end of Christianity so her objectivity might not be as impartial as one would hope, the Christian networking sessions sounded singularly uninspiring and not a bit helpful. At the very least, I would have hoped that she would have come away feeling a bit more hopeful. Actually, I would have hoped that she would have left the Christian networking sessions feeling that a job or a career is not the only way to a life of significance. I understand that to explore alternatives to the corporate American lifestyle was outside the purview of the book but still, no one anywhere asks her to question whether there might be other alternatives than this soul crushing job search. Or if they did, those discussions were not reported since they did not contribute to the end goal of getting a white collar job. One benefit for me after reading this book: I am more determined than ever to work towards a decreasing dependence on an employer or a high salary for my well being.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2005

    Writer exposes only a few

    Giving career counseling a bad rap with only a limited view of the profession is by itself an attempt to patronize the public and to discourage readers from seeking assistance. The author failed to speak of many of the independent counselors who work hard with their clients. What Color is Your Parachutte? has a list of good, honest, and decent practioners. Toby Chabon, M.ED

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2005

    'No One Will Hire Me!!!'

    That's the plaintive cry of Barbara Ehrenreich in this much overdone, pointless and impertinent memoir. In reality, the book is a two-hundred page expanded diabribe about the author's failed attempt (?) to find a well-paying job in corporate public relations. She walks around with an angry scowl etched on her face--a sulky and entitled matron grasping a dog-eared, fabricated resume. Her naivite about the job search process would astonish an 18 year old work study student. Get real Barbara. A true job search takes energy, courage, and persistence.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2005

    About as Thoughtful as Nickel and Dimed

    If you're uninformed enough to have enjoyed and believed the socialist tripe in Nickel and Dimed, you might enjoy this piece of work. It has about the same level of informed analysis.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2005

    Painfully Accurate

    I have a Masters Degree with a 3.7 GPA and have been unable to find any substantive work. This book describes my plight exactly. I too was so desperate that I sold insurance for a while, and found the cost of getting licensed more than a struggling person could afford. I was thoroughly scammed by 'job finding' agencies, the assistance of which was expensive and worthless. I finally settled for being underemployed with a blue collar job that provides good health insurance, and consider myself lucky to have found that. This book trenchantly illustrates a morbid side to today's economy that is all to real for thousands of workers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2005

    Not bad but not anthing to lose sleep over

    I just dont think its that hard to go out and pursue the american dream. I just graduated college and not only did I find that elusive 50k a year job but most of my friends did also. I just dont buy into the book.

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