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Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping--Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond [Paperback]

Paco Underhill
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Dec 30 2008
Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with a completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture—full of fresh observations and important lessons from the cutting edge of retail such as Internet behemoths Amazon and iTunes as well as the globalization of retail in the world’s emerging markets.

Frequently Bought Together

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping--Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond + Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy + What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping
Price For All Three: CDN$ 41.10

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  • Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy CDN$ 13.68

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    FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ CDN$ 25. Details

  • What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping CDN$ 13.71

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Review

"At last, here is a book that gives this underrated skill the respect it deserves." -- The New York Times

" Thanks, Mr. Underhill, for explaining in clear and witty prose why my shopping habits are not all that crazy. Now, please tell my wife!" -- Bob Gale, writer/producer, Back to the Future trilogy

"I'm in love. And if I didn't have a devoted husband, two kids and a crushing mortgage, I swear I'd throw caution to the wind and run away with Paco Underhill...fascinating." -- Rocky Mountain News (Denver)

"Why We Buy is a funny and insightful book for people on both sides of the retail counter." -- Michael Gould, CEO, Bloomingdale's

About the Author

Paco Underhill is the founder and CEO of Envirosell, Inc. His clients include Microsoft, McDonald's, adidas, and Estee Lauder. He is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He lives in New York City.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Not sure why he couldn't explain what he did in less than 75 pages, but it's more like 300

The first chapter is just a sales pitch for his firm, as are many pages throughout the book

This would be better as a video documentary than a book, as you have to visualize most of what he's talking about

He's somewhat insulting to the various demographic groups he talks about, particularly men and old people.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  235 reviews
113 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, though it ends badly Jan. 5 2009
By oldtaku - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first four parts of this book are absolutely fascinating. It's an in depth look at the psychology of shopping and it is exactly what the title promises. Underhill's company gets paid to spy on people in stores and see what they're doing wrong and right. The gems in this book are the anecdotes and the specific revelations about how any obstacle you put in the way of a shopper drops your sales figures. Any way you can make life easier raises your sales. This all seems sort of obvious, but most people running the businesses don't think it through.

One example is the entry zone at the front of the store - you'd think that's a prime location for signage, deals, brochures, etc. But when you're headed through the door into the store you see almost nothing and stop for almost nothing, and then (in America) you tend to drift to the right and then you're 'in' the store. If you put a store directory just inside the door, nobody uses it. Move it back a bit so you can find it once you're into the store and suddenly it's heavily utilized. He has hard observational data for all these, so they're compelling in addition to being fascinating.

And of course all the bad examples are great fun to read (seniors crawling along floors trying to read labels on badly shelved medicine), as are the descriptions of how different groups shop (male vs female, old vs young, parents vs. single, etc.) The whole book is pretty much a commercial for Underhill's company, but it's still informative and fun reading.

Where the book falls down is at the end, where a chapter on the Internet is shoehorned in and a perfunctory shout out to each of Envirosell's worldwide branches is included.

Even though I think he's more right than wrong, the whole Internet chapter comes across as a confused old guy muttering about how he doesn't get that new fangled rock music. He complains about how many review sites there are, for instance, and has no idea how much it can transform the shopping experience (and not just be a poor supplement). Worse, the book's entire premise is mostly about how you need observational data of real customers because they'll always do things you don't expect (can't argue there), but he HAS no data on this topic, so it's just not compelling. I can't help but think the whole chapter is just in there because 'we need something about teh intertubes'.

The 'Come Fly With Me' chapter must be in here because he needs to professionally backscratch all his international partners. It's pretty much useless and turns a mild commercial into an infomercial.

If I sound too negative, please don't take it that way - I'm just trying to tell you why this isn't a five star book. You have 220 pages of 'awesome and can't put it down' book followed by 40 pages of 'what the hell am I doing reading this' slog, then another 30 pages of fairly decent reading. If you don't read those two chapters, it's a five star book!
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable, but keep expectations low Nov. 6 2000
By Russell Belfer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be interesting, if not mind-blowing, with a lot of basic observations about the shopping experience and the need to make measurement a fundamental part of the way we approach business. The book treads a line between feeding you specific anecdotes and findings from Mr. Underhill's research and giving you a framework for thinking about measuring and tuning your business, but it doesn't commit fully to either path. You may be left feeling like there were not actually that many interesting examples nor was a methodology sufficiently fleshed out to be useful.
I view this book as the non-scientific underpinnings of a science (contrary to the sub-title of the book). Mr. Underhill seems like the gentleman scientists of a couple hundred years ago, making excellent and valuable observations, but not having clearly articulated a scientific method that can be applied broadly. This book is certainly worth reading (and for some it may be a real eye-opener), but I feel that a definitive text on the study of buying behavior has yet to be written (or, at least, discovered by me). In favor of this book, it is a fairly easy and quick read, where perhaps a more comprehensive book would not be as accessible. Consider it ...
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Retailers, manufacturers and consumers should read this book Dec 27 1999
By "papierman" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a book both McDonalds and Ralph Nader would love. In this book, Underhill suggests different methods to maximize retail sales. Some include, for example, common sense solutions such as raising or lowering products so as to fall within the person's view range. Others are based on his research, such as putting a product you're pushing to the right of the best-seller. Many people will gravitate to the desired product (think of it as the magician's trick of "forcing" a card).
The book further discusses the different age groups, family configurations, and genders, and how they shop, maximizing the efficacy of signage and packaging, etc. It has many hints to increase sales over short and long periods of time.
It also advocates making stores more family-friendly. As a parent that has failed to successfully negotiate the Gap Kids' fixtures with a stroller and thus decided not to shop there again, I heartily agree with Underhill's suggestions.
Consumers should also read this book to understand the insiduous (and fascinating) means retailers are using to manipulate them into further purchases. We all know how playing Christmas music is supposed to get you in the mood to buy more. This book details different subtle ways in which retailers are modifying their stores to entice you to buy. My favorite: placing a hopscotch game on the cereal aisle, forcing parents to slow down and become more vulnerable to kids' requests for the latest Sugar Bombs. If you feel that retailers are the enemy, this book will provide further proof.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There are Really Two Books Here - One Great, One Rotten Dec 3 1999
By A Lover of Good Books - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When the author sticks to reporting on the things he's observed over many thousands of hours of watching actual shoppers shop, this is an informative useful book. My partner sells pottery out of a studio/gallery and we found much of the data Underhill presents relevant to our experience selling.
However, once he runs out of facts a couple of chapters into the book, Underhill pads the rest of the book out with opinions, and this is where the problems begin. While he may be an excellent observer, Underhill is a poor business analyst. He doesn't understand the dynamics of many of the businesses he comments on. Many of his suggestions are embarassingly ignorant of the realities behind the businesses he discuss, or, worse, suggest--as if he invented the concepts-- that companies should do things that they have already been doing for years.
His chapter on the Internet is a perfect example of both of these criticisms. As someone who has designed and run a successful internet sales site for 5 years I wasn't sure which was greater--his ignorance or his condescension to those of us who have actually done the pioneering work he snipes at.
So read this book with the understanding that Underhill is a pretty good anthropologically-trained note taker,whose observations have turned up several things of interest to the retailer, at the same time that he is a pathetically bad business consultant and would-be futurist, with a pathological need to self-promote and a very annoying prose style.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not science, but still substantive... March 25 2002
By Ernest Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you've read some of the reader reviews for this book you'll probably detect a bit of a trend. If you're a scientist or student in search of a tome that provides insight into the causes of specific purchasing behaviours this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you are a practitioner (i.e. someone who works as a marketer or perhaps owns or manages a retail establishment) "Why We Buy" provides many, many anecdotes that you will find useful in your everyday life.
This is something that few business books can claim -- immediate practical benefit. Plus, Mr. Underhill's casual writing style is easy to read. My only critique is that the middle third of the book gets a bit dull and repetitive, but the first and last thirds are wonderful.
In short, I would highly recommend "Why We Buy" to anyone who works in retail, whether you're in the front office or on the front lines. I would not recommend it to people in academia as it probably will not provide the "scientific" substance that you're looking for.
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