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The Urge to Splurge: A Social History of Shopping Paperback – October 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Laura Byrne Paquet is a travel journalist. She is the author of Secret Ottawa, Miss Scott Meets Her Match, and Lord Langdon's Tutor. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550225839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550225839
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,757,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Urge to Splurge is, according to its subtitle, a Social History of Shopping. It isn't an academic book, but with its attention to history and detail, its wide range of subtopics having to do with shopping, and the excellent bibliography for further reading, it can serve as a reference work as well as an entertaining pop culture book.

Laura Byrne Paquet, a Canadian writer of romance fiction and Ottawa guide books, gives no hint of the distinctive (and different) styles that normally accompany both romance novels and travel writing. The tone here is conversational, even casual, while being very informative.

The Urge to Splurge covers Tupperware parties, Avon ladies, mail order shopping, TV infomercials, online shopping, compulsive shopping disorder, kleptomania, shoplifting, the differences between men and women shoppers, malls, markets, bargaining, eBay, department stores, and more. You'll learn about the transition from bargaining to fixed prices. Paquet tells us about the first escalator in Britain, which was in Harrod's and had no steps. "It was just a conveyor belt, so thrill-seeking passengers who dared to get on had to hang onto handrails for dear life." Yikes.

I was reminded that it was only a few decades ago that Sunday shopping was even possible in most places in North America and Britain. Long after Sunday shopping was the norm in the States, my husband and I spent a month in London and were disappointed to find that nothing was open on Sundays. After the first few restless Sundays, we started planning ahead, finding the few museums and shops that were open on Sunday afternoons, and eventually found ourselves looking forward to Sundays as the day when we could walk the streets and parks of London without the noise of the weekday traffic.
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Format: Paperback
Books on buying and selling are beset with perils. Issues, from exploitation through gender politics to environmental ethics rise like vipers from the grass. Do you deplore the "Christmas rush" as "over-commercilized? In this informative and entertaining account, Paquet skirts these dangers while keeping a wary, but knowing, eye on them. Brimming with information and told with a verve rarely encountered, this book is a prize to read - and more than once.
Buying and selling, she reminds us, are as old as human existence. The earliest farms meant surplus - "extra grain could be traded for a neighbour's goat", says Paquet. From these early exchanges, Paquet moves through market stalls and fairs, a commercial method lasting many centuries. "Shop", she explains, is a term going back to the 13th Century, but "shopping" had to wait until George III's era. "Shopper" took another century to become current. A reluctant shopper herself, Paquet leavens her "social history" with some lively personal experiences. A "Ladies Night In" at Holt-Renfrew in downtown Ottawa proved a breath-taking experience. The promotion line was perfume and sampling excesses drove her outside into the night air. The free martinis might have helped force the exit.
Shopping is a two-sided affair. Paquet cleverly portrays the problems of bringing seller and buyer together for a successful transaction. Small towns had fairs and permanent shops for centuries in the Old World and the New. Buyers rarely had far to go, but selection was limited. Factory-made goods overturned long-established shopping patterns in many ways. The goods were cheaper, meaning more people could buy them.
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Format: Paperback
As a Merchandising minor in college I devour books on the history of retail, and this one is one of my favorites. I definately recommend this book for anyone studing merchandising or the sociology.
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