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Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses Paperback – October 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807035017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807035016
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mitchell, chair of the American Independent Business Alliance, has produced a compelling indictment of Wal-Mart and other "big box" stores, based on numerous national examples. Deep-pocketed chains like Home Depot flood the market to drive out competition, she points out, then advertise some products at or below cost, while most other products may offer no better value than at independent stores. Meanwhile, she argues, independent businesses not only return profits to local communities and remain more civic-minded and accountable, but offer resiliency rooted in diversity, in contrast to the big-box "monocrop." She even provides evidence that Wal-Mart lowers, rather than boosts community economic well-being, and that firms with fewer than 100 employees give twice as much in charity per employee as those with more than 500 workers. Mitchell challenges Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory, suggesting that an indie bookseller's passion about a product can be more critical to its sales than wide access via a Web retailer. Mitchell catalogues diverse ways indie-minded consumers can fight back, by campaigning against government subsidies to big-box stores, and advocating for sales tax collection on Internet sales and stronger antitrust enforcement. Visible citizens' coalitions can fight big-box expansion, especially if communities fine-tune their land use policies. The big-box trend, she suggests, can be countered by increasing public awareness. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Across the U.S., large retail chain stores have created a monoculture of automobile-based shopping, driving out independently owned businesses and decimating downtown shopping districts. The numbers are staggering--Wal-Mart, the big gorilla, now receives 10 percent of American's spending dollars, and Home Depot gobbles up nearly half of all home-improvement sales. Mitchell, an advisor to communities on retail development and independent business, compares these companies' tactics to European colonialism--they enter a community and plunder its resources, rather than adding value and enhancing the local economy. Gobbling up land, creating sprawl, and even knocking down historical landmarks in their quest for total dominance, these powerful corporations let nothing stand in their way. From shrinking the middle class to diminishing culture and landscape, the effects of the big-box retailers are far reaching, but Mitchell has uncovered a movement to curb the proliferation of the megaretailers and create policies that favor local enterprises. Her call to action reveals the hidden costs of those "low prices" promoted by the big-box bullies and gives hope to local entrepreneurs and concerned citizens alike. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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It's well written, incredibly detailed, the research that went into it is impressive.
NotGreg
If you just love shopping, buying, roaming around, reacting to the price-tags in mamouth-sized stores ... then you'll hate Stacy Mitchell's work.
Ink & Penner
Stacy Mitchell's Big Box Swindle is an excellent resource to educate government decision makers about the economic perils of big box chains.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Keenan on November 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have been eagerly awaiting Stacy Mitchell's follow up to her earlier book Hometown Advantage, which was invaluable in understanding the planning process, zoning, and how development decisions are made at the local level. It became my "bible" in understanding a complex process and helping to preserve and protect my community from the impact of large scale incompatible development.

Her follow up--BIG Box SWINDLE defrocks the myth making and PR that BIG BOXES use to not only financially swindle communities but also to influence your local decision makers. All is done in the innocent sounding name of "economic development".

BIG BOX SWINDLE includes greater detail and more research based information on the negative impact of the BIG Boxes on communities and their economy. It reveals the mythmaking for what it is: a well financed fraud on the community. Only after the community has become trapped in the web of myths, are the true costs to the community revealed, often, too late to reverse direction.

BIG BOX SWINDLE is an easy read. Each chapter can be read on their own independently. Each chapter focuses on different aspects of this myth making swindle. It gives those who value locally owned and grown communities, the information needed to preserve them. Information can be used to bust the BIG BOX's myths and to help decision makers make better and wiser economic decisions.

Mitchell's recounting of real life experience of those average citizens paving a better path for communities is heartening and hopeful.

Big Box Swindle is a "must read" for anyone wanting to preserve the integrity of their community and for those rejecting the negative aspects of the global economy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses goes beyond most similar condemnations of big retailers to outline just how their domination is dangerous to society - and then moves on to show how citizens are fighting the phenomenon. Since 2000 nearly two hundred big-box development projects have been halted by citizens groups and communities across the U.S. are banding together to keep them out, recognizing the value in locally owned, independent businesses. It's not just consumer desire which drives big box store expansions; it's public policy and politics: BIG BOX SWINDLE documents these factors and is an important acquisition for any public or college-level library concerned with consumer and business issues, trends, and influences.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By 52 weeks, 52 books on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you think the big boxes help the working man and woman, you really need to read this book. Mitchell details the drop in wages and living standards throughout the affected areas, loss of support for local development, increase in abandoned buildings and water pollution, and the blackmail of civic leaders. As for the prices, she illustrates that prices do not stay low once the competition has been dealt with. I really appreciate the variety of ways she measures community, e.g. Costco rates well for putting money into an area through good wages but poorly for its failure to offer local products.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By DJN on November 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I just started reading this book and I'm already blown away by the world it is revealing to me! Reading how Wal-Mart has corrupted the free enterprise system by manipulating all the mechanisms that enable/encourage fair trade, competition, market demand, consumer preference, cultural uniqueness, etc. was startling. And the part about how Wal-Mart is slowing gnawing its way inside the manufacturers to the point where it requires a company to buy raw materials from Wal-Mart, and soon won't even buy goods but will expect manufacturers to provide goods on consignment! I know that doesn't sound dramatic, but consider what happens when Wal-Mart tells P&G that it must have 100 cases of a new product in every store, in spite of what P& G's projections say the market demand is. The market doesn't go for the product, so only 60 cases are sold per store. Wal-Mart has no risk because they don't own the merchandise. So P&G has to eat the loss somehow. And as the book showed, if a company says no to Wal-Mart, they get kicked out of the store and the sudden loss of revenue can and has bankrupted companies. Good God!! And of course, Wal-Mart isn't the only one doing this.

Reading this book is like accidentally walking into a store's backroom and coming across some dirty sweatshop where everyone is in chains. Then some cleancut, smiling guy hooks your arm, leads you out and gives you some urgent story about how they're trying valiantly to keep such conditions from being necessary in every store in the world. Then stuffs a 30%-off coupon into your hand and guides you to the weekly sale rack.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a guy who likes popping into Target, Home Depot and a host of other chains. But seeing behind the shiny laminated displays makes you think....
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ink & Penner on November 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
There's one sure-fire way to tell if you'll like this book. If you just love shopping, buying, roaming around, reacting to the price-tags in mamouth-sized stores ... then you'll hate Stacy Mitchell's work. She doesn't have much to say about the big-box stores that's flattering, so you may immediately get defensive if not offended about the way she reveals the "inside baseball" on how the corporate structures of these stores go about their business.

-But going the complimentary route isn't her direction. Author Mitchell takes the mega-retailers to the mat and delivers a carefully thought-out knockout punch to the notion that The Big Box Stores exist for other than their own mega-huge profits. She's put together tough details about the operation of these mammoth stores ... the Walmarts, Targets, Best-Buys, Borders, Walgreen's, Albertson's, among many others ... and tells how and why they control shoppers, communities and local governments. Our eyes bug wide open ... as she explains how the big-box stores' steady growth is not about top-flight business practices or high-quality customer-service in a free marketplace. They get bigger and bigger, Mitchell claims, pretty much because they're already big. -And they all expect to get even larger, stronger and will exert expanded control over consumers, manufacturers, employees, governments, environments.

For instance, Mitchell says, Big-Boxers regularly take over small town business districts and even encroach on established, well-run big-city small businesses. Their local buildup is most always sanctioned by local governments through, among other things, giant tax breaks to these massive companies.
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