Excerpt from Affluenza by   Wann, de Graaf, Naylor, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Affluenza

The All-Consuming Epidemic

By   Wann, de Graaf, Naylor

Affluenza
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jun 2001,
    275 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2002,
    288 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"We said ‘if we build it, they will come,' and they did," gushed a happy shopkeeper. Another explained that its hardwood floors "add a little sense of excitement to the mall. They're much easier than walking on tile or granite and make the Super Mall really special." She hoped children would enjoy it, "because shopping has become such a family experience that's really important."

Really. And it's a good thing, too, since we Americans now spend six hours a week shopping and only forty minutes playing with our kids. "Shopping malls have really become the centers of many communities," says Michael Jacobson, founder of the Center for the Study of Commercialism in Washington D.C. "Children as well as adults see a shopping center as just the natural destination to fill a bored life."



WHAT ELSE MATTERS? "If you've seen the mall, you've seen them all," sneer critics like Jacobson, but "committed shoppers" (some psychologists say they should be committed) disagree. They're willing to jet across the country for new shopping experiences. So much so that some airlines now offer package flights to shopping Meccas like Potomac Mills, a giant "discount" mall divided into sections that are euphemistically labeled "neighborhoods." Potomac Mills bills itself as the "number one tourist attraction in Virginia," with more visitors each year than Shenandoah National Park, itself the most visited site in the National Park system.

The host of Affluenza, Scott Simon, visited Potomac Mills while filming the television program. Shoppers were eager to answer his questions about where they came from and what they thought of the mall. None of the people Simon talked to were sweating profusely. But all seemed infected by shopping fever, often the first symptom of affluenza.

Two women from Dallas, Texas, said they'd been at the mall for three days straight, while their husbands golfed nearby. "We're always looking for a bargain. You've got to know the brands and we have experience, we're proud to say," they proclaimed. "I didn't need anything. I just went to shop," said a man with a cart full of merchandise. "Whatever I like I buy." "I bought a lot more than I planned to," another woman admitted. "You just see so much."

Yes, you do, and that's the idea. It's why big malls sell much more per square foot than do their smaller counterparts. Seeing so much leads to impulse buying, the key to mall profitability. Only a quarter of mall shoppers actually come with a specific product in mind. The rest come just to shop. "What else matters?" asked one of the ladies from Dallas, only half in jest.

"I came here with one overriding interest, to spend money," said a proud teenage girl, who was getting rid of the hundred dollars her mother had given her for this particular spree. "I like to shop," she explained. She's not alone. One poll found that ninety-three percent of teenage American girls rate shopping as their favorite activity.

An older couple passed by with a shopping cart piled to the brim. "This is only half of what we've purchased," the man said cheerfully. "We brought a long list of things to buy," his wife added, "and then we bought a lot of stuff that wasn't on the list." Impulse. They were examining the fold-out map Potomac Mills provides to shoppers, saying, "we'd be lost without it."

But Potomac Mills is a mere mini-mall compared to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. With 4.2 million feet of shopping space, our biggest mall ("Where It's Always 72 Degrees!") spreads over an area the size of seventy-eight football fields. It employs 10,000 people and attracts forty million visits a year. The Mall of America is more than metaphorically a cathedral; some people even get married there. It is also a world-class affluenza hot zone.

In the Age of Affluenza, nothing succeeds like excess. "Good malls are usually the most profitable kind of real estate there is," says one Los Angeles real estate consultant. "Good malls are money machines." "Good," he points out, means bigger. Because of that, the frenzy to attract megamalls pits city against city, each offering sweetheart deals in hopes of capturing tax revenues later on. To win such deals, mall developers compete for the most-profitable stores. According to The Sacramento Bee, the Seattle-based Nordstrom Company received $30 million in direct subsidies and incentives to put a store in Roseville, California's Galleria Mall. Why? "Nordstrom's does the highest sales per square foot in the industry," says mall developer Michael Levin. Most people, says Levin, will only drive about half an hour to a mall, "but with Nordstrom, they will drive much further."

From Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, by John De Graaf, et al. © June 9, 2001, Berrett-Koehler used by permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

No matter what our achievements might be, we think well of ourselves only in rare moments...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.