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Book Review of
Review of Future Shop, by Daniel Nissanoff
|Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author
of over 6,000 articles in print or online.
As an online merchant and someone who does not packrat things, I was intrigued by this book. Yes, I've used eBay.
Nissanoff's book is engaging, fact-filled, and well-written. He makes some very good points, and I would agree his book does predict some future trends. What I would do not agree with is the "revolutionary" part. In this review, I'm going hit a few of his ideas hard. Then, I'm going to tell you why this book is worth reading anyhow.
Here's the weakness of this book. Nissanoff's viewpoint is that of a C-level, suit-wearing, NYC-dwelling, wealthy individual. The typical consumer is not a senior executive, seldom wears a suit, lives outside NYC, and does not have closets filled with $800 skis or $200 neckties. In fact, the typical consumer doesn't own skis and is doing well to own even one $30 ties.
Nissanoff's encyclopedic knowledge of clothing styles and shoes is completely foreign to most of the population, as well. For the typical American--who works 40 hours out of each 50 hour week just to pay taxes--fashion is not a foremost thought. This is why, for example, Wal-Mart and K-Mart do brisk business selling polyester that masquerades as clothing.
Rare is the CEO who hasn't laid off workers. But the typical consumer never makes that decision and is not nearly as ruthless. The two groups are culturally from different planets, and that has implications for this book.
Nissanoff assumes people will rapidly exchange their older things for new ones once the secondary market becomes highly fluid. This assumption defies basic human nature.
People stay in jobs and marriages that don't work, though they have many other far better options--even in the "secondary market," if you will. How can we expect these same people to worry about minor things such as whether they have the latest fashion of necktie?
People keep books they will never read, not because they can't donate them to the library or sell them--but because they simply like having the books. The ability or inability to re-sell those books has no bearing on the situation.
Another issue he brought up was trading shoes on the secondary market. There will never be a significant market for used shoes, because of the nature of shoes. This has nothing to do with purchase price or style. Shoes take a "set" and wearing second-hand shoes is a sure way to court problems with your feet, knees, and back. Unless you like orthopedic surgery and the related medical bills, don't try to save money by swapping shoes.
Let's look at a secondary market that is already fluid: automobiles. Why do people keep an old car, even though they can easily afford another? People grow attached to their things. (Senior executives, by contrast, grow attached to their outsized salaries but not to the production people who make those salaries possible).
Example: Joan keeps her 10 year old clunker, dents and all. She has a pet name for it, and even talks to it. She's comfortable in it, and familiar with it. She goes on a trip and rents a new car, but she's unfamiliar with it and is not comfortable with the car. When she's back in "Old Betsy," she feels once again one with her vehicle. She could easily buy a 5 year old car, but she's loyal to the car she has now.
People keep old houseplants, old dishes, old glassware, old blankets, old furniture, and even old hairdos--not for monetary reasons but for other reasons.
So Nissanoff's theory that monetizing the contents of our closets will "revolutionize the way we buy, sell, and get the things we really want" doesn't fly. In fact, we have the things we really want--that's why we don't get rid of them.
But let's set aside the "revolutionary " part of his prediction and look at the wider consumer market. Will people change their behavior if the secondary market matures, as Nissanoff predicts it will? Yes. In fact, the issue with Nissanoff's central theory is not so much the theory itself as the degree.
People do monetize some of the things they no longer want--that's why we have yard sales, flea markets, deductible gifts to charity, and so on. A big problem with these methods of exchange is they are inefficient.
Having sold through eBay and through my own Websites, I know those methods are more efficient than traditional methods. Online methods provide ease of use, reach, and speed. The difficulty of traditional methods does create a "barrier to entry" for many people. With that barrier gone, we can expect faster rates of "recycling" from closet to marketplace. But there are many other barriers, and online methods do not address all possible barriers. Not even close.
Where this book has value is it opens your mind to taking a fresh look at your accumulation of stuff. For most people, the big challenge is where to store stuff you aren't using and most likely never will. Why not let someone else use it? If we can separate ourselves from many of our things, we may find life a bit richer in other ways. And one way it can be richer is through additional cash from selling those things. We may choose to use that cash to upgrade, or to simply improve our financial situation. My personal perspective is less is more--the uncluttered life is a better life.
This book also reminds us, both directly and indirectly, that we can expect change. The book doesn't hold up eBay or Portero or any other particular exchange as the way everything is heading. It does look at who's out front now, and why. As things continue to change, those companies that adapt will be the "go to" places for the secondary markets.
While the increased ability to buy and sell in the secondary market is unlikely to be revolutionary, it will certainly be significant. Those who understand the rules--and the possibilities that are coming--stand to benefit. This book helps provide that understanding.
About these reviews
You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?
I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?
And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.
This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.
My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.
A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.
About your reviewer
About reading style
No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.
Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.