Where does this race to the bottom end? Cheap? – Work? – Quality? – Value? – Entertainment?

In America, Inc. where everything has a price tag and consumers operate under the false premise that cheaper is always better. Where does this race to the bottom of the barrel end?

Please consider the following list of words in the context of your entertainment choices:  books, movies, music and TV shows.  What do these words mean to you?  What are your entertainment quality and pricing expectations?

at minimum expense

superiority in kind <merchandise of quality> 

relative worth, utility, or importance
<a good value at the price> <had nothing of value to say>

activity in which one exerts strength or
faculties to do or perform something

 At what point do we begin to connect the dots that in this quest for cheap, cheaper, cheapest we’re actually de-valuing and de-meaning ourselves at the same time.  Is this really the basic, resting pulse of our society?  Garbage in, garbage out.

Please post your comments below and let’s explore this evolving world of digital, instant gratification entertainment together.

mr klein



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3 thoughts on “Where does this race to the bottom end? Cheap? – Work? – Quality? – Value? – Entertainment?”

  1. Work: If I value my work (process or outcome) then logically I also value my time. If there are transactions involved in the exchange for my work (time, process or outcome) then I will come to an agreement with myself as to what that work is worth: Tit for tat exchanges of time process or product (barter), or cash. The most satisfying exchanges for me are the ones that are a combination of both, often with the value added being the receipt of quality work of another artist as part of the transaction for my work. Thus I can not only have some monetary reward, but also the experience of knowing and having something new crafted with the same diligence and care that will feed my soul as well as my bank account.

    In terms of process, then, spending my time to be smarter as to how I work makes sense. Being smart about using processes that save my energy and time to produce outcomes. I’m not the consumer who sees toilet paper prices at half off and drives 10 miles to fill the trunk of my car. Rather, I’ll buy at the regular price when I go to the market rather than spend the time and money to get to the cheapest price.

    That said, I am an opportunist. I want quality, but I want it at the best price. I set up automatic searches which give me daily reports for items that I want to buy so that when someone is offering the perfect product at a great price, I can buy it and feel a high degree of satisfaction.

    I guess the question for me becomes when is cheap simply cheap, and when does the transaction really present real value. I suppose, if there is an answer it has much to do with the agreements we make with ourselves regarding external and internal transactions.

  2. EXCELLENT post! We need to help consumers understand the connections between their desire to spend as little as possible with not only the deteriorating quality of products purchased but hurting their own economic potentials!

  3. My father owned a chain of record stores, back when employees knew as much or more about music as the customer and were expected to generate genuine enthusiasm about the latest Little Feat or Miles Davis or Szell’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth. Browsing a record store never followed the rules of a library. No one hushed you up. You expected to talk music with the kid roaming the store, asking you if you found what you want. He might even play a cut or two of the record over the loudspeakers. You walked into the store expecting a higher quality from musicians who might have spent years on the road, developing their art before the record company would take a risk, give an advance, and then press copies for sale.

    Each week my father advertised some of these records on sale. Even back in the sixties he called them “loss leaders.” The concept was to attract the customer, who after landing a great deal on The Beatles “Revolver” at $4.99, would purchase another disk or more at the higher price. Now these sales lasted only a week, so you flipped through the Sunday newpaper ads for Disc Records and made it down there before the next weekend. You always knew, however, the artist or band or orchestra’s value at the “regular price.”

    What a world we face now. Everyday, all the time, everything seems to be a loss leader. Based upon today’s pricing structure, The Great Gatsby would have been undersold at $9.95. If it was neglected by the public or sales flattened, the price might drop in six months.

    It’s hard to fight this new market, that impersonally flattens the price equally, where “cheap” has little relation to “quality, value, and work.” The current hope of authors is to make a living selling not lots, but tons of books at a lower unit price, because the vendor is dictating the rules.

    And now, self-publishing. It’s no longer the “untouchable”, no longer primarily a product of vanity. It has opened up a fresh market of competition. And the nature of creativity is such that an unknown outlier could produce something as transformative as A Confederacy of Dunces, something that would have risen above the commonplace, by a different route from the author’s dying to his mother’s appealing to Walker Percy, to being published by the LSU Press.

    Sufficiently talented or not, these self-published writers, have no choice, but buy into the risk of reduced royalties with little protection. If they are lucky, or the best among the lot, or the most successful in terms of sales, they can be discovered and cherry-picked by agents and traditional publishing houses.

    So the gap may have narrowed with the group of writers who traditionally have gone through the arduous process of sending out queries, finding an agent, working with a professional editor, and getting published by one of the major firms. Statistically, I’m no longer convinced that this traditional group has studied harder, paid their dues, and have raised their art to a higher level than the self-published ones.

    So, even if life is unfair and the hack can make millions, because he or she has touched a nerve among the public, there is something inherent in the value about paying one’s dues and getting a better break. Should these writers who have won over an agent, a lawyer and a publishing house not deserve better protection of their product at the front end? Could their representatives be advocates, tapping into their creativity and skill to negotiate a royalty? Why, for example, base royalties upon percentage of sales, and not on a specific dollar amount per book? Faced with this structure, Amazon and other vendors would be forced to price the book higher than others. And then, if the reviews are solid and the word of mouth is positive, the consumer won’t object to paying the additional lousy five to ten dollars for something of value.

    In the meantime, in this mean time, the percentage of authors making a living from their works is still small. Until one can break through that ceiling, it is probably wise not to give up one’s day job.

    -Peter R. Cohen, psychiatrist by day, writer by night, currently finishing up my first novel

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