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Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: An Economist's Travelogue

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1583671436
ISBN-10: 1583671439
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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

MICHAEL D. YATES is associate editor of Monthly Review. He was professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for many years. He is the author of Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy and Why Unions Matter. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Michael D. Yates is Associate Editor of Monthly Review and the author of Why Unions Matter and The ABCs of the Economic Crisis (with Fred Magdoff).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583671439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583671436
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,609,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William E. Rogers on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I had the pleasure of taking two classes from the author in the 1970s, so I was not surprised by his liberal viewpoint. I'm proud to call myself a liberal, but 30 years on, Dr. Mike Yates is still more liberal than I am. So, if you're a Republican, you probably won't enjoy this book.

Mike's travelogue is enjoyable, although his writing degrades into stream-of-consciousness from time to time, and he includes more personal details than most travelogues.

This is really an opinionated liberal economist's travel diary. I enjoyed it very much, and I recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
The author's look at leisure travel through the lens of the economist is a refreshing change from travelogues that tell you to go-to-this-beach or visit-this-restaurant. The picture of material excess in Miami Beach and the despoiling of nature for profit is revealing of our profit-driven world. Having graduated from the same high school as the author, I can attest to the accuracy of his portrayal of his home town. I do find some irony in the book sale profits the author makes in an economic system he castigates. Over-all, though, an educational and enjoyable drive through the topography of our society: the beautiful, the bad and the ugly.
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This book is thought-provoking as well as an easy read. It deals with serious issues like race, class and labor in an interesting, readable way. Although it is very educational, it was the perfect book for me to read poolside on vacation. Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate provides an in-depth look at many popular travel destinations that will make you think twice about what goes on behind the scenes the next time you visit a National Park or stay in a hotel.
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The author writes about working at the Monthly Review as among other things an editor, either doing the usual shaping up of submissions or even making something unreadable into a publishable piece. And he's written other books himself as well. Given that, he's not really that great a writer. This book could have benefited from his services. Besides the writing itself, I kept wanting to discuss the content of just about every page with him - even his wrongheaded description about the use of a hotplate, AKA Buffet Range - not to mention a lot of more complex issues. I have a degree in Economics myself, I work for the National Park Service, and I've lived in a bunch of places including New York City, so I have some experience with his particular topics. Even in his area of expertise, economic issues, there's often more complexity or at least other sides to what he's discussing.

Having said that, and agreeing with a lot of what Michael Frederick wrote in his review above, my recommendation is: Go ahead and read it anyway! He brings a useful and insightfull perspective to a lot of places and issues he's describing. I'm sure that Travel and Leisure (did I make that up?) or some publications like that have had glossy puff piece articles extolling the wonders of some places like the resort in Arizona that he is appalled at, while ignoring the many day to day negative effects of our economic/political system on the vast majority of the people. In the spitit of Michael Yates, get a copy from your local public library or if they don't have it (they didn't), order up a nice cheap recycled used copy right here at Amazon.
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Format: Paperback
I hate to denigrate someone's hard work. In an effort to be objective, however, I have to say I was disappointed in this book. Looking for something light-hearted, as the title and cover seemed to suggest, I was instead subjected to a treatise on the working conditions of the lower middle class in 21st century America. Anyone interested in "Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate" should be aware that this is a work by a dedicated leftist.

I am not saying there's anything wrong with the left-wing point of view, just that the author's opinions are definitely skewed. That's not to say that Mr. Yates doesn't have some very valid points. His description of the summer he and his wife spent working for Xanterra in Yellowstone National Park is quite the eye opener. It's enough to make a would-be tourist balk at the idea of putting any money into that profit-obsessed company's pocket. The working and living conditions of the company employees are pathetic to say the least. No benefits, lousy food, cramped quarters, long hours, indifferent managers and a stressful environment would dissuade all but the desperate from working for Xanterra at any of their national park locations. The author's Yellowstone experience is perhaps the most interesting and useful of the entire story.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not particularly enlightening. We are treated to a back-and-forth tale of the couple's stints in various parts of the country after his retirement from a college teaching position. New York City, Portland and Miami are highlighted and some of this is worthy of note. One wonders, however, how Mr. Yates didn't see some of the hassles in advance. Is it a surprise, for example, that rents in Manhattan are outrageous and what you get for your money is contemptible?
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It was well written and provided a much guarded prospective of life as a Xanterra employee. Xanterra is a non-governmental agency who has contracts to operate all the hotels and most of the campgrounds inside Yellowstone National Park, The Grand Canyon and many others. If you think allowing your teen to go work inside a National Park for the summer is a good idea, read this first! Then visit Mr. Yates blog, "Wage Slaves In Our National Parks."
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