Beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Be an Educated Consumer All Year Long
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have entered our lexicon as the first days of the traditional holiday shopping season, marked by door-busters and free shipping for online purchases. The deals come fast and furious, almost keeping pace with our ever-expanding shopping lists...
Why not give yourself a gift you can enjoy when reviewing your bank and credit card statements in January? The gift of consumer-savvy! The library can help.
Ratings and Reports
- Consumer Reports is known for their fair, unbiased ratings and testing of a wide range of consumer products.
- The Consumerist is a frequently updated blog that provides daily deals as well as warning alarms about the latest bad deals or scams. It also encourages readers to submit their stories of scams, ripoffs, or how they did or didn't get help from customer service after having a problem with a product.
- Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports and parent company of The Consumerist, is "an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization which provides unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health and nutrition, and other consumer concerns."
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides information on recent recalls; search saferproducts.gov to look at a particular product category and be informed of any known safety issues.
- FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection practical information on a variety of consumer topics, see the sections on "Online Shopping and E-Payments" and "Shopping for Products and Services."
- Better Business Bureau Resource Library - did you know that "more than 60 domain names have been registered in the name of Santa Claus"? Make sure kids' privacy is safe online this holiday season, and read a variety of other useful tips. The BBB is also the place to go to file a complaint on a business.
- New York State, Division of Consumer Protection is the state’s top watchdog and think tank on a wide range of issues.
- The Consumer Action Handbook [PDF] from usa.gov, also see the "Be a Smart Shopper" guide for tips on before and after the purchase, service contracts and warranties, and online shopping.
Product Comparisons and Reviews
- Buzzillions aggregates reviews from different sources and displays them alongside reviews submitted to the site by consumers.
- The Wirecutter is a list of "only great" technology. Also compiles reviews but offers a final appraisal about which is the "best" of each product type.
- Google Product Search gets search results and price data straight from e-commerce sites. Merchants are supposed to include tax and shipping costs to enable clearer comparisons between products on different sites.
- The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) provides information on the buying habits of American consumers, including data on their expenditures, income, and consumer unit (families and single consumers) characteristics.
- Follow this list on Twitter for the latest in consumer updates.
If the retail fervor and nonstop Christmas music in every store has you down, see the list below for alternative ways to spend the season of shopping. And if you need a gift for that person that is impossible to buy for, we think NYPL has just the thing.
Shopping, Spending and Consumer Culture Book List
- Spent: Memoirs of A Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella, 2010
- Spend Shift: How the Post-crisis Values Revolution Is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell, and Live by John Gerzema, 2011
- Point of Purchase: How Shopping Changed American Culture by Sharon Zukin, 2005
- Shopportunity: How to Be A Retail Revolutionary by Kate Newlin, 2006
- Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller, 2006
- Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture, 2009
- 1,001 Things They Won't Tell You: An Insider's Guide to Spending, Saving, and Living Wisely by Jonathan Dahl, 2009
- Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life With Style by Marjorie Harris, 2010
- Supershop Like the Coupon Queen: How to Save 50% or More Every Time You Shop by Susan J. Samtur, 2010
- Making It: Radical Home Ec for A Post-consumer World by Kelly Coyne, 2010
- The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health--and A Vision for Change by Annie Leonard, 2010
- Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell, 2009
- Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill, 2009
- Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet Schor, 2004
- Con$umed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole by Benjamin R. Barber, 2007
- Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds, Why Going Bigger Isn't Going Better by Sarah Zoe Wexler, 2010
- The Archaeology of Consumer Culture: by Paul R. Mullins, 2011
- Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy by James A. Roberts, 2011
- Affluenza: The All-consuming Epidemic by John De raaf, 2005
- The Hoarder in You: How to Live A Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life by Robin Zasio, 2011
Do you have a go-to place for reliable reviews? What is your big purchase going to be this month? Let us know in the comments. Happy spending!