Is it really a bargain?

Cheap BargainThese days many of us are looking to live more cheaply, let’s face it, and discount retailers of every kind (including online) are enjoying a boom. So aren’t we lucky. No, says Ellen Ruppel Shell in her book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (US: Penguin Press). As she says, manufacturers, distributors and retailers aren’t welfare agencies. If prices are cut they have to make up for it somehow. That low-cost skirt may have been produced by sweated labour in the Third World; that cheap kitchen table may have originated in illegal logging. And if that doesn’t worry you the product may be of poor quality, its low price simply a marketing trick. With IKEA relaunching their Mougins project, it’s interesting to note that Shell has taken a close look at the practices of the sanctimonious Swedes and concludes that the BILLY bookcase you’re so pleased with may well emerge from an underpaid labour force and illegal forestry operations in Eastern Europe.