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What's New in Business: November 1999
Particularly recommended by the business librarians are:

HG 3756 .U54 C35 1999
FINANCING THE AMERICAN DREAM by Lendol Calder addresses the indisputable fact that a "credit problem" exists in the United States today. The popular press is full of articles with cautionary titles, such as "When Credit Turns Painful (U.S. News &World Report 11/27/95)," "The Trouble with Credit Cards (Fortune 05/26/97)," and "Card Issuers Jacking up Penalties (USA Today 11/06/98)." The average person-on-the-street would doubtless agree with the following statement: "We are living in an age of credit, or perhaps a more accurate delineation would be an age of debt. The firmly rooted aversion to debt in any form which prevailed a generation ago has almost completely evaporated." The idea that our parents and grandparents knew the value of a dollar and how to control their material wants-never going willingly into debt-is a pervasive one today, yet surprisingly, the above quotation is from G.H. Lorimer and appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1924! Go back still further-say to 1870-and you'll find the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics observing that the middle-class home "calls for the satisfaction of a thousand wants many of which are satisfied through some means of consumer credit." What is going on here? Professor Calder's fascinating book provides an answer as it dispels what he calls "The Myth of Lost Economic Virtue." Originally of the same mind as everyone else, Calder finds the truth of the matter is that consumer credit of some type has been with us since the founding of the republic. Early land deals depended on credit, and people wanting to purchase their own home in the nineteenth century often turned to mutual building societies. The poor and working classes, especially immigrants, had their own forms of consumer credit through pawnshops and "borax shops" with their lease-to-own plans for cheap furniture and goods. Indeed, Financing the American Dream offers many more details, demonstrating that the history of the United States has always been one of people borrowing (and others lamenting that they have gone too far into debt for good to ever come of it).

Professor Calder's intriguing main thesis is that far from encouraging reckless consumption and the terrible consequences of increased bankruptcy, the extension of credit actually encourages thrift and discipline because the borrower must repay the debt. He argues persuasively that the ideal of the "American Dream" can only be realized because credit is available to and used by the responsible millions who have purchased houses, cars, furniture and more through store credit, installment plans, etc. The borrower has an incentive to remain a productive member of society because he or she has to make the payments. Mr. Calder offers detailed examples, reference to such primary sources as exist, and goes on to provide a comprehensive analysis of the personal credit explosion in the twentieth century. The U.S. economy at the end of the century has been described as a consumer economy, and Financing the American Dream offers an excellent understanding of the underpinnings of that economy. Highly recommended. (JF)

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HF 5415.2 .U53 1999
WHY WE BUY: THE SCIENCE OF SHOPPING by Paco Underhill explains "why we do what we do, notice what we notice, ignore what we ignore, and buy what we buy." He and his team of "trackers" have examined stores and shoppers of all kinds and have come up with some very interesting observations about how stores work. He touches upon several points, such how narrow aisles will restrict shoppers, how time spent waiting at a check-out line can enhance or ruin a shopping experience, the need for multi-lingual employees, and why signage and price tags should be large and clear. Stores must be made more welcoming to children, and aisles should be wide enough for baby strollers to pass through easily, especially in babies' and children's clothing section. Smart retailers will provide appropriate activities for children to keep them from being bored and restless while adults shop. Sizing for women's clothing should be simplified so men can shop for them without being confused. Mr. Underhill believes that older people are becoming more important consumers; as a result, newspapers and books should be in larger type and there should be a larger selection of stylish clothes that are easy to put on and fasten. Even wheelchairs do not escape his scrutiny. There should be a variety of styles to choose from, like automobiles, to suit individual tastes and personalities. Merchandise should be accessible for tasting or touching. People like to touch sweaters, taste new foods in the supermarket, and listen to CDs before buying them. One area in which retailers should not skimp is dressing rooms. Once a customer takes clothing into a dressing room (which should be well marked), they should find themselves in a pleasant, well-lit environment. Customers in dressing rooms are already in a "total buying mode" and everything possible should be done not to squander this opportunity to increase sales. Layouts of stores such as the Gap, Blockbuster Video, Radio Shack, and Barnes and Noble are discussed in detail. This is a fascinating look at the total shopping experience, and once you read this book, you will surely be a more alert consumer in every way. Many of the ideas that are presented here are so obvious that you will find yourself wondering why more of them are not already in effect. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping "amuses and instructs, and it will forever change the way you look at stores and at yourself." (NL)

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Other titles of interest:

HD 30.4 .B377 1999
by Mary Ellen Bates

HD38.7.N65 1999
by John Nolan

HD 256 .G47 1999
by Gene GeRue

HG 4910 .H585 1999
by Jonathan Hoenig

Contact the business librarians, who also answer questions about business, money, and work, at (412) 281-7141 or at

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