** Bargain Fever by Mark Ellwood

The subtitle of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World is somewhat misleading, since the book is more about the art of pricing and discounting than a self-help manual — although it does contain some, rather awkwardly placed, shopping tips. Starting with the idea of value-based pricing, the author shows how anchoring, versioning, and other techniques manipulate consumers into thinking they got a great deal (which certainly makes their neurons happy, in addition to the retailer!) I particularly enjoyed the chapter about couponing, as I had no idea that there was a very real cottage industry of coupon sellers, sometimes obtaining the very coupons they sell illegally!

We tend to think that bargain hunting is new but the author wisely points out that sales were invented by Aristide Boucicaut of Bon Marche fame (another great name, BTW) in the late 19th Century, way before Kmart’s blue-light specials, also described in the book. And bargain hunting occurs at all price levels, as the descriptions of luxury sales show. The second to last chapter, that focuses on retailers that never discount is also enlightening.

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