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Today's shopping culture is turning the shopper into a zombie—and the thrill of the hunt into the robotic management of inventory. We are in danger of losing a resonant personal ritual, replaced by the boring habitual. For millions of us, the sizzle of a daily shopping experience has devolved into a relentless acquisition of the okay, available, and cheap. Why are we willing to pay $3.50 for a latte at Starbucks, but bristle at a 10-cent increase in the price of toothpaste? Why do we drive miles out of our way to...
Today's shopping culture is turning the shopper into a zombie—and the thrill of the hunt into the robotic management of inventory. We are in danger of losing a resonant personal ritual, replaced by the boring habitual. For millions of us, the sizzle of a daily shopping experience has devolved into a relentless acquisition of the okay, available, and cheap. Why are we willing to pay $3.50 for a latte at Starbucks, but bristle at a 10-cent increase in the price of toothpaste? Why do we drive miles out of our way to buy a bag of 100 razor blades for 50 cents less than at our local store, and then spend $3.99 on a tub of pretzels that we don't need? We're wasting our time and money at the cost of our patience and good will.
In Shopportunity!—a manifesto-cum-exposé—marketing expert Kate Newlin looks behind the aisles of our best-known retailers to reveal that the dopamine rush of getting a good deal is confusing shoppers' wants with their needs. Packed with perceptive reporting, Shopportunity! provides an insider's view of how marketers create a brand and the overwhelming power of retailers to interfere with the transformational joys that great brands bring to our daily lives. It is time for shoppers to revolutionize their shopping experience and take the power away from retailers.
One generation of marketers has hooked three generations on the addiction of price promotion, and it has wreaked havoc on our waistlines, credit ratings, and life experience. From Wal-Mart to Macy's, Ralph Lauren, Whole Foods, and the Home Shopping Network, Newlin reveals what the world's leading retailers really know about us, and what it takes to kick the addiction to getting the best deal possible. Culminating in a Shopper's Bill of Rights, Shopportunity! will liberate shoppers—as well as the manufacturers and retailers who serve them—from the tyranny of the cheap.
The Mother Lode: The Promise of Products
Phyllis is with her mother and it is important. They are shopping for her wedding dress. Other times they've fought about what she could buy, what would look right, what would be appropriate. Once she took her babysitting money and snuck away with a friend to New Brunswick, N.J., to buy a chiffon dress for the church field trip. She wanted to choose it for herself, escaping her mother's taste, her mother's control. But this time is different. This time Phyllis seeks her mother's opinion.
"We've gone to bridal fairs, we've gone to boutiques, we've looked at all the magazines," says Phyllis, her hands clasped primly in her lap. "We're in a bridal shop in a Victorian house. I know what I want. I trust the salesperson. She owns the shop. She's the one who's bringing in all the accessories: crown, veil, shoes, bag.
"I feel she knows what goes together and I'm right! It is all perfect. She has good taste. She's recommending. It's going to be perfect. I just know it."
Phyllis stops talking. Her eyes have been and remain closed. She seems happy: happy to have found the right dress, happy to have experienced the memory, happy to have shared it. Her wedding was more than 20 years ago, but there in her mind's eye is the dress, fresh, perfect, new, now. There she is, Bridal Phyllis, ensconced in the reimagined muted gray, carpeted dressing room with the white lacquered, louvered wooden door and burnished brass door handle. She and her mother sit on plush mauve chairs, surrounded by mirrors, contemplating, discussing, choosing, anticipating.
An hour ago, Phyllis had been noticeably nervous as she sat down at the table. She had placed the tent card with her name in front of her, glanced quickly around, catching and immediately releasing her own gaze in the massive mirror that claims nearly an entire wall. She was not surprised by the fact of such a reflection; she has been in a focus group before, albeit not like this one. In this group, the women will be hypnotized.
She is a woman of a certain age and income, a college graduate and teacher, married with no children, but no one is inquiring about any of that. It has already been detailed in a telephone questionnaire and summarized on a sheet of paper. She has made the cut. Phyllis is someone to whom we want to listen.
A tall, slender woman, she wears a green leaf print cotton dress with a pale pink form-fitting jacket. Her blond hair is parted in the middle and curls softly in layers before turning up slightly at her shoulder, an aging homage to a youthful Farrah Fawcett. Her purse is placed under her chair. Her feet, as she's been told they should be, are flat on the floor.
She is not alone, of course. There are six other women around the table. Angie weeps to remember how youthful her mother looked when she helped Angie shop for her wedding dress, with its beads and ruffles and deeply debated veil. "She's so young," Angie sobs. "So young."
There is a man here, too: Hal Goldberg, who has hypnotized them. This is Hal's life. The mesmerizing world of the hypnosis focus group. Yesterday, he talked with men about beer; tomorrow he will talk with mothers of six-year-olds about presweetened breakfast cereal. Through each two-and-a-half-hour session, he calmly excavates memory, meaning and mayhem from the web of associations that filter our choices when we shop. And I sit on the other side of the mirror, eating too many peanut M&Ms and staring intently at consumers as though I am Jane Goodall and they are primates in the wild.
Hal's is a calm presence. His sandy hair is flecked with gray. He is carefully groomed in a sedate, deep brown pinstriped suit, minutely patterned beige and chocolate tie and clunky, if earnest, cordovan wingtips. His formality seems otherworldly in this suburban office park setting, where most women are more inclined than Phyllis to wear jogging suits or jeans with halter tops. Hal's demeanor induces serious serenity; his voice, the verbal equivalent of a neck massage.
"I want you to stare at the green dot above my head," he has told them. "I want your faces toward me, but your eyes on the green dot." Each time he hits his mark. Quietly shuffling the papers that hold his notes, he walks them back, into and through their memories. "Let your imaginations—lend me your imaginations—let your imaginations drift," he says, time and again, the stutter step of this exhortation replicated with precision, group after group, day after day, week after week, year after year. How can he do it so exactly the same? Is there some reason he does it this way? I have always wondered and never asked, any more than he asks me what I do with this information.
The women trust his soothing tone and relax. They follow his instruction to go down, down, down into the tranquil, bemused state he compares with "highway hypnosis," when they drive by their exits, minds aware but daydreaming.
"Has anybody here ever daydreamed? I think I spend half my life daydreaming," he shyly admits, as they smile. The same wee joke made in the same place in the script each time. Ah, yes. They are all in it together. They have all driven by their exits. Hal knows and understands.
Eyes flutter shut and, when he calmly explains their eyelids are the most relaxed muscles in their bodies, unable now to open even if they wanted, he is right. Their eyelids have been sealed; their memories opened.
For 30 minutes Hal drones on, taking them ever further into the peaceful realm from which they will each recall a first, a most powerful, and a most recent memory of shopping. He relaxes and regresses them to a place where the rigid . . .Shopportunity! LP. Copyright © by Kate Newlin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted October 6, 2006
As a commercial actress who makes her living selling everything from paper towels, body lotion, and automobiles I was mesmerized by this book and had to take a figurative 'look in the mirror' about my own consumer habits and responsibilities as a 'peddler' of these products. Kate Newlin's literary prowess and indomitable wit make these 'hard facts' regarding the downward spiral of our consumerism, the ever-growing (and ever related) obesity epidemic, and the disregard for the 'hourly' workers in this country almost palatable. Her true love for the ideal 'Shopportunity' is infectious and makes us want to be more conscience, responsible and truly fulfilled members of the human race. I highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 29, 2006
You know from the start the Kate Newlin¿s Shopportunity is going to focus on a large human canvas. One of the many joys of this book is the humanity with which Newlin explores the rise and fall of retail organizations as well as the talents of the people who work and thrive within them. It should be a hit with anyone interested in understanding the important interplay between what we buy, how we buy, where we buy it and society. Retail organizations are no different than other organizations, in that they are living, adapting organisms. Individuals serve as parts of all organizations. As individuals develop, mature, and die, organizations have their own life cycles. Some organizations live for a short period of time, others for hundreds and even thousands of years. The question is why. Organizations, like individual life is finite and timed: there is a natural course for each. However, there are times when individuals as well as organizations fall not as a result of having finished their natural life, but because they were not able to transform at the right time as part of their development. Newlin¿s journey inside the box of big box stores reveal how we may again be on the cusp of an enormous change. It is comparable to what a physician can see in a patient. Even a physician needs a physician for health maintenance because every organism has a blind spot about itself. It is through an understanding of the dynamics of an organization ¿ its history and identification of the forces for change that conflict with the present situation ¿ which can help them lead through conflict, not around it. In a personally provocative chronicle, Kate Newlin gives us the feeling of actually being there during the heyday ¿ in another time, in the stores and in the minds of customers and proprietors alike. Her time and effort researching the book, her personal journey through it, result in fluency with her topic and a fluency of writing that makes the reading almost effortless.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 29, 2006
I loved it and bought 10 copies for friends and colleagues. It's the first business-focused book I've read that reads like literature. She's an excellent and entertaining writer and poses some very interesting points. E.g. We save money at Wal-Mart but pay more in taxes to cover the healthcare costs of Wal-Mart's un-insured employees. She reminds us to EXPECT great service, quality and product-performance that aligns with its advertising claims -- rather than just buying the cheapest thing available from a surly clerk in a disorganized big box store. Support the little guy and feel better about spending your hard-earned money!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2006
Kate Newlin's book was an easy and delightful read, yet, it also prompted me to thoughtfully reflect on the type of consumer I am and want to be -- let alone, the type of consumer I want my children to be. I am no scholar, or book critic, but it was wonderful to read something sensitive, impassioned and committed to the possibility that we can reverse the overly indulgent, mindless and irresponsible behavior that ultimately makes our culture obese, in debt, and significantly detached from the ramifications of our choices (even if those ramifications include supporting child labor or inadequate working conditions, wages and health insurance). At times I felt the book offered a rather 'urban perspective.' BUT, there was no mistaking the pervasive voice and intelligence in the book that called on an awakening of our cultural conscience and responsibility. Do we know: What we are buying? Why we want what we want? (Holy smokes! There was a marketing/advertising team that pined for my childhood attachment to B-O-L-O-G-N-A and French's Mustard, and I didn't even know it as a little tyke? Let alone if they were up to any good. Did my mother know? Did I know when I bought a bottle after years of never buying one, simply because my child's sandwich just wouldn't be right without French's?) When a visit to Canal Street is a must do in NYC, are we thinking about the impact of our collective purchases? Do we care? Have we really thought about it? Really? What makes this book special is the humaneness embedded in each and every idea and morsel of knowledge won by decades of working closely and carefully with large corporations. Newlin's book is sincere, smart, approachable and full of faith in our culture's capacity to 'do the right thing.' Now, let's do it! ...see, it was inspiring, too! Don't you have to be inspired to take action, let alone change? If Newlin's mission was to evoke thoughtfulness, accountability and change, mission accomplished. I love the heart of this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 31, 2006
What an interesting read! This book really made me take a good look at the way I shop and why I shop the way I do. The author raises a lot of great points about consumers¿ constant need for ¿cheap¿, no matter what the cost (in workers¿ health care, wages, etc.). While not a fan of Wal-Mart myself, the author also points out the NUMEROUS things wrong with that retailer. One of the most interesting things about this book is the author¿s ability to show you retailers that are doing it ¿right¿-- doing it right for their customers AND their employees. Those are the stores I want to spend my money at ¿ and this book shows you how to choose those great retailers. If you¿re interested at all in retail or consumerism, give this book a read. You¿ll learn a lot ¿ I did (and I work in retail ¿ at a store that, thankfully, does it RIGHT).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.