Imagine spending two years researching a book about why we shop. Imagine speaking to a cross-section of researchers, retailers, advertisers and consumers. Imagine looking at shopping from both sides now -- from buy and sell, from give and take. And then, somehow, as you are writing that book, the world economy collapses and everything you've done up until this point is turned upside down.
Welcome to Lee Eisenberg's world.You know Lee Eisenberg. Author of "The Number," former editor-in-chief of Esquire, former executive vice president and creative director at Land's End, co-inventor of Rotisserie League Baseball. Man's man. Guy's guy. Starting in 2007, Eisenberg dove deep into the belly of the beast to answer the question that anthropologist Mary Douglas asks in her book, "World of Goods": Why do people want goods? Or, to put it in the parlance of early 21st-century America, "Why do we want these goods instead of those goods, and what the hell can we do about it?" Eisenberg divides his savage journey into two parts: the sell side and the buy side. On the sell side -- or as he calls it, the "Them Versus You" section -- he looks at shopping from corporate's POV, from a "we want goods because we're being forced to want goods" perspective. He interviews retailers, store clerks -- Eisenberg even worked the floor at Target for a couple of days to experience it up close and personal -- retail consultants, academics, technologists and scientists. All to learn why they think we buy, what they're doing to make us buy, and/or how they think they're going to make us buy more in the future. On the buy side ("You Versus You"), Eisenberg travels deep into the heart of darkness that is the American shopper's conscience, into the "we want goods because something inside us drives us to want them" side of the equation. He looks at the old saying, "men buy, women shop," and swaps "men" and "women" for "Martians" and "Venusians" so he can identify "subspecies" of each that are less gender-specific. (He finds nine.) He comes full circle by ending up at the Bem Sex Role Inventory test to help you figure out just how masculine or feminine your buying habits really are.