Could COVID-19 Force Us to Confront Our Consumption Problem?

The Pandemic Changed Us—And We Don’t Have to Return to Old Shopping Habits

It never seems to be the right time to talk about our consumption problem. When the economy is strong, we’re told that slowing our ever-expanding appetite for goods, services, and experiences could turn the boom into a bust. When the bust comes, we hear that the solution is to get to back to the malls and shop.

So it is as we emerge from the darkest days of COVID-19. The clamor is rising for a “consumer-driven recovery” from the pandemic downturn, or even a binge of “revenge consumption” against the virus. …

How Sears Industrialized, Suburbanized, and Fractured the American Economy

The Iconic Retail Giant Turned Thrift into Profit, But Couldn’t Keep Pace with Modern Consumer Culture

The lifetime of Sears has spanned, and embodied, the rise of modern American consumer culture. The 130-year-old mass merchandiser that was once the largest retailer in the United States …

When the World Came to My South L.A. Door

Amazon Is Nothing New, in the 1930s and ‘40s Salesmen Delivered Everything From Fresh Doughnuts to Steel Guitars

I remember most clearly the things that aren’t here anymore, the things that I saw as a child in our neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

In 1937, when I was …

My Supermarket Doesn’t Love Me

Grocery Stores Are in My Blood, Which Is Why I Was Crushed by the Changes at My Ralphs in Sherman Oaks

I have a life-long affinity for markets. Before I was born and then when I was a small child, mom-and-pop grocery stores supported all my relatives. My paternal grandfather owned …

Why Do We Love Being Frequent Flyers, Buyers, Shoppers, and Eaters?

In Exchange for Our Data, Customer Loyalty Programs Give Us Discounts—and a Sense of Intimacy

I am having a hard time being loyal to all my loyalty programs. I have frequent flyer/buyer/rider/sleeper/eater/drinker cards with two airlines, three hotel chains, a grocery store, two booksellers, one …

Man, I Love Hippies

Counterculture Went Mainstream in My Town. The Result: Organic Arugula and Wide Bike Lanes.

I’m not a hippie. I don’t have dreadlocks. I smell just fine. I don’t smoke pot. I don’t even call anyone “man.” But man, I love hippies.

I owe the way …