Price of a Bargain editions

Mainland China

  • The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization
    The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization
    by Gordon Laird

    American print edition

  • The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization
    The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globalization
    by Gordon Laird

    Canadian print edition

  • Food And Fuel
    Food And Fuel
    by Andrew Heintzman

    A 2008 anthology featuring Laird's reporting from Canada's eastern Arctic and Central Asia

  • Power, Journeys Across An Energy Nation
    Power, Journeys Across An Energy Nation
    by Gordon Laird

    2001 Bestseller / Top 100 books of 2001, Globe and Mail

    Purchase here!

(Above, left to right: SS Tianjin docks at the Port of Los Angeles; cheap end of the strip, Las Vegas; democracy protests, China 1989.)
 

The Price of a Bargain

Published by Palgrave Macmillan (USA), McClelland & Stewart (Canada), Xiron Books (China), Minumsa (Korea), Wu-Nan Books (Taiwan/Hong Kong).

Much has been said about Wal-Mart's low wages and the impact of big box stores on local business. Before the Great Recession hit in 2008, Americans loved to hate the pioneering discounter who seemed to represent all that was wrong with the economy. Yet Wal-Mart remains a dominant player, defining the North American economy much in the same way General Motors did generations earlier. Not only did Wal-Mart out-perform nearly everyone else in retail during 2009 and 2010, sales for dollar stores and liquidators rose significantly as well, resulting in not only the renewed domination of Wal-Mart but of nearly anyone who can offer hungry shoppers more for less. 

Most of us know that, at some level, cheap stuff comes with a price. But what does it mean to have discounting as the defining force within the whole economy? Our world is filled with shipping containers, shaped by logistics networks, subsidized by affordable crude oil, and deeply dependent on consumer spending that, directly and indirectly, accounts for as much as 70 per cent of all economic activity in North America and Europe. 

Some of the greatest challenges of our time stem from the transformation of western nations into shopping economies. Those of us who consume the most -- North America and Western Europe -- now produce the least: collectively, The West adds value to the global economy not by manufacturing but by spending and providing services. Rising consumer debt, the rise of Asian economic power, and the long-term impact of non-renewable energy supply all potentially threaten the sustainability of our standard of living. In one way or another, most of the population globally depends on the production and consumption of affordable products and services. What happens if this business model doesn't succeed?

Our whole system of cheap is leveraged in ways we are only just beginning to understand – and flawed in ways that may not be easily fixed. From Alberta’s tar sands to China’s factories, from Las Vegas to the Arctic Circle, a single question emerges: looking at today, and generations ahead, who will survive the bargain?

An important and timely book lays bare the planet's foolhardy hunger for getting a deal. . . . In a masterful blend of facts and metaphors, Laird tells a story of bargain retailing that is interesting in its own right. . . .evocative . . . Laird lays bare the cost of those bargains in compelling detail.” 
– The Globe and Mail 

“Financial journalist Laird, who is from Canada, that healthier economy to the north, takes a sidelong look at the eternal quest for the cheapest possible goods. ... An alarm call, but not alarmist.”
– Kirkus Reviews

More praise and reviews for the book: 

"A provocative, well-researched, and illuminating tour of the forces shaping our consumer culture. . . . At its core, The Price of a Bargain is about sustainability. Our modern economic practices have created massive amounts of waste—both human and environmental—by externalizing the true costs of things. As the U.S. economy shifted from manufacturing to consumption, the quantity of things around us grew dramatically, but our wages began to fall. Bargains provided an illusion that our standard of living was keeping pace. Laird makes a strong case that illusion is over for good."
– Frank Marquardt, Triple Pundit

“Gordon Laird is a reporter of rare skill and extraordinary thoughtfulness, and he has fixed his keen eye on one of the most crucial questions of this young, tumultuous century: the true cost of things. The Price of a Bargain has provided us with an invaluable primer on how to do the math accurately.” 
– Chris Turner, author of The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Vintage 2008) 

“In this gritty and entertaining look at our modern love affair with global bargains and Las Vegas, Gordon Laird brilliantly adds up the real cost of shopping at big boxes for disposable stuff. Consumers have unwittingly made a gambler’s economy that is now trying to outsource its own moral reckoning.”
– Andrew Nikiforuk, winner of the 2009 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award

“Thorough, informed and relevant . . . Neither shrill nor self-absolving, Laird quietly questions where we’ve been and where we’re headed.”
– Halifax Chronicle-Herald