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Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays Hardcover – Oct 25 2009

2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (Oct. 25 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691142645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691142647
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 2 x 15.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #629,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Leave it to an economist to make an impassioned argument for why we shouldn't give gifts, especially during the holidays."--Los Angeles Times

"[A] small but very well-written and well-argued book which makes some serious points as well as poking fun at the nightmare of Christmas shopping. . . . Point by point the author demolishes the case for giving gifts. In fact, this is a very sensible book on every level."--Times Literary Supplement

"Waldfogel delivers a badly needed poke in the eye at holiday-time consumer madness, positing that not only is compulsory gift giving stressful and expensive, but it's economically unsound. . . . This lively, spot-on book may be the one gift that still makes sense to buy come Black Friday."--Publishers Weekly

"Scroogenomics is a quick read. Not only is it well under 200 pages, but the book can easily fit in your pocket. This is no think volume intended to scare off non-economists. Better still, Scroogenomics is almost entirely free of jargon. And when technical terms do appear, they are immediately explained."--Ryan Young, Washington Times

"Another huge, value-destroying hurricane is about to slam America, destroying billions of dollars of value. Another Katrina? No, another Christmas. This voluntary December calamity is explained in a darkly amusing little book that is about the size of an iPhone. Scroogenomics comes from a distinguished publisher, Princeton University Press, and an eminent author, Joel Waldfogel of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school."--George Will, Washington Post

"In his new book, Scroogenomics--a perfect stocking-filler--Waldfogel argues that buying presents is no longer a luxury but a necessity because the social pressure is immense."--John-Paul Flintoff, Sunday Times

"Waldfogel assesses holiday gift giving though the lens of economic tenets such as opportunity costs and deadweight loss. The result is a short but engaging manifesto on the inefficiency of the tradition, concluding with several solutions to increase satisfaction for both givers and receivers. Although his own suggestions mandate that you not buy this book for someone who wanted something else, fans of Freakonomics and The Economic Naturalist may love it."--Library Journal

"[A] handsome little book. . . . Waldfogel is, if not a unique, then certainly a rare economist."--Australian

"Nobody has done more to damage relations between the joyous commercial festival that is Christmas and the economics profession than Joel Waldfogel. Long-term readers of this column will be well aware of Professor Waldfogel's research paper, 'The Deadweight Loss of Christmas'. Ever since it was published in 1993 it has been taken out by economic journalists and displayed like last year's decorations. Waldfogel--a witty writer himself--has evidently decided that if everyone is going to discuss the idea, he may as well get in on the act, so has published Scroogenomics, a book that--dare I say it--looks like it would make a terrific stocking-filler."--Tim Harford, Financial Times

"And now, in a new book called Scroogenomics, a U.S. economist has helpfully done the math on the holiday he declares, as only an economist would, an 'organized institution for value destruction.'"--Erin Anderssen, Globe & Mail

"You would have thought that a book entitled Scroogenomics, which has been published in a recession and exhorts us to give up buying presents this Christmas, would do so from a spirit of, if not outright meanness, then at least heartfelt thrift. But Professor Joel Waldfogel instead uses a rather arch economic formula to explain why giving presents is a complete waste of time."--Rosie Millard, New Statesman

"[A]n interesting and provocative book."--Times Higher Education

"[Scroogenomics] is a nicely-timed stocking filler from the man who estimates that badly-chosen Christmas presents will waste the equivalent of $25bn across the world this year."--Tim Harford, Prospect

"Written in a breezy, engaging style (he quotes Homer Simpson, not Friedrich von Hayek), Waldfogel's book attempts to quantify the cost to society of millions of Grandmas, Aunt Beas, and Uncle Charlies bestowing incorrect sweaters, candles, and other dud gifts, and presents a couple of options to reduce that loss."--Baltimore City Paper

"[F]ar from being Scrooge-like, Scroogenomics points out that we could do something much more useful with our money, such as redistribute it to those who really need it."--The Age

"Leave it to an economist to trample on a cherished year-long tradition. Joel Waldfogel, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, has written a book that promoters hype as one 'Santa doesn't want you to read.' Scroogenomics is a brief but biting little book about how our obsession with holiday spending generates some $85 billion dollars of economic waste each winter. . . . Waldfogel doesn't just stomp on tradition. He offers solutions, such as charity gift cards that can be used as a force for good, and suggests transferring balances on regular store gift cards to charities after a certain time rather than let them go unredeemed."--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"If you're heading for the stores today, keep one thing in mind: Many of the gifts you buy today are likely unwanted. In his new book Scroogenomics, University of Pennsylvania economist Joel Waldfogel warns that most of us are not so great at gift-giving. He has data to back it up, and he offers a solution."--Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"Joel Waldfogel has meticulously quantified the spirit of Christmas, giving in to a set of numbers and percentages that may discourage even the most enthusiastic Black Friday shopper this year. In his book Scroogenomics, he tells you why you should think twice before your holiday shopping spree, and why it's not better to give an unwanted beaded sweater or talking fish than no present at all."--Deseret News

"My enthusiasm for buying gifts has been greatly reduced . . . after reading Scroogenomics."--Shanghai Daily

"This 186-page pocketbook measures just 4 by 6 inches in size, and invites readers to think just as small when it comes to holiday excess. Joel Waldfogel, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, goes beyond the obvious in arguing against habitual gift-giving."--Mark Jewell, Associated Press

"This is a serious study of the economics of Christmas. It looks at the huge waste involved, looks back to earlier times and how previous generations celebrated the festive season, even suggests that buying presents should stop and then attempts to offer some solutions as to how Christmas can be a time of giving without being a time 'to max out our credit cards to finance the gift storm.'"--Sydney Morning Herald

"Oftentimes in days of yore, I would sit by the fireside at Noel, glass of sherry I hand, warm, confused feeling in head, and survey the detritus of a Christmas-morning blitzkrieg of unwrapping and the shrapnel of packaging genocide and think: what a waste of money. Being of a naturally grump disposition, my attitude was habitually put down to an anti-Christmas 'Bah! Humbug!' tendency. But now here comes Joel Waldfogel to barge his way to the top of my (short) Christmas-card list telling everyone who sneered at my festive dispiritedness that I was right all along."--Stephen McCarty, South China Morning Post

"It's blinding. Put it on your Christmas list."--Dan Douglass, Marketing Direct

"[I]n his recent book Scroogenomics, Professor Waldfogel makes a knowingly provocative case for changing the entire cursed gift system."--Guardian

"If Joel Waldfogel is correct, the Three Wise Men were just the sort of people who should not have bought Christmas presents."--Irish Times

"If you enjoy the title, you will enjoy the book."--Declann Trott, Economic Record

From the Back Cover

"Joel Waldfogel is one of the smartest and funniest economists on the planet. I think of him every time I start to unwrap a present. Buy Scroogenomics for your friends and family. It makes the perfect Christmas gift."--Ian Ayres, author of Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart

"Scroogenomics is a very well-written and entertaining read."--Diane Coyle, author of The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters

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Format: Hardcover
Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays

Whether we see A Christmas Carol as a story of redemption, or as a story about the recovery of the memory of what it means to love and whether there is much difference between the two, old Ebenezer Scrooge himself seems stuck to live an A Groundhog Day type existence as far as the public's memory is concerned.

As a Canadian, this memory was perpetuated for years by Canadian Tire with their "give like Santa, save like Scrooge," commercials. Yet this image persists in many other forms, one of which game to my attention last year when I purchased a book entitled Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays. The book was written by Joel Waldfogel, the Ehrenkranz Professor and Chair of Business and Public Policy at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. While the book makes no reference to Dicken's work, the title itself shows that the author realizes he is putting himself in the role of a spoilsport as far as Christmas is concerned and that he expects to be treated as a pariah of sorts because of this.

The basic premise of Waldfogel's work isn't that gift giving in itself is bad, but that Christmas gift giving as we practice it, he uses the U.S., but Canada isn't probably too far different, is highly wasteful in economic terms. For example, while we may know our friends and family well enough to get them something that reflects what they really value, the multitude of gifts that we buy for people that are at a much farther remove, house parties, office parties, distant relatives, etc.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Boring book, don't waste your money on learning about wasting your money!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars 28 reviews
48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, Someone Willing to Stand Up and Point Out the White Elephant in the Room Nov. 24 2009
By Wildness - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finally, someone willing to stand up and point out the white elephant in the room... This is a refreshing book for its honesty and frankness. I have tried to have this conversation with my family for a few years, but to only find deaf ears on the subject.

In a perfect world, everyone would put a lot of thought and effort into their gift buying decisions. But that doesn't happen; not to belittle the efforts that people make, which are often very much in earnest, but the average person is likely so caught up in their own day-to-day life that they really aren't as in tune with the people they know as they think. Even family members rarely truly know what others like or want - ask any teenager on that one.

As someone who has spent his adult life trying to make very personal gift choices, I have come to learn two valuable things: One, even when I think I know someone well, I still don't live inside of that person's head and thus can never truly look at something from his or her perspective, and never fully know how much or little they appreciated it; and two, since about the age of twelve, I have rarely received gifts that I valued as much as the gift giver probably expected (and most often, I have found the gifts more unwanted than anything and a waste of the natural resources used to make them from my personal world view).

Whether the giver has been family or friend or lover, unless it was something I had already expressly showed a desire for, the gifts have most often missed the mark; and sometimes when asked for specific gift ideas, the buyer chooses a different brand or version (sometimes even a more expensive option) thinking it just as good, when in fact is not what I wanted, which leads to disappointment. I greatly dislike the whole gift idea list as it proves the point - if I have to give you a list (and vice-versa) I am better off just buying it for myself as would anyone I would be buying gifts for.

The best gift is the one that is least expected; one, because since it is not expected, disappointment is not likely; and two, because the gift given unexpectedly is often the one that has had the most thought put into.

Since our society is not likely to reverse course in the foreseeable future and remove the expectations of Christmas gift giving (and return to a celebration of the season as in olden days - we're talking hundreds of years here), I believe that the gift card is the absolute best solution and will be the only thing I list to my family (I only provide the list because ignoring the repeated requests for one is usually more effort than just providing one), and is likely the only gifts I will be giving this year - luckily, I know exactly where my family likes to shop AND they know exactly what they want or need.

There is one other option, and that is addressed well in a great companion book to this one: The Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben: Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas. In this nice little book, Bill McKibben calls for a less wasteful Christmas that is more focused on the joy of spending time with family and friends and where the gift giving is restricted to a family total of $100 and where handmade gifts are strongly preferred.

In the end, I have changed my entire approach to life and it is centered around Less Stuff, More Experience.

UPDATE: There has been a lot of action in the comments area for reviews for this book, and it has mostly focused on the central theme of the book: whether to give gifts or not. I just wanted to add a little to my review by saying that this book also spends some time analyzing Christmas spending as whole from the use of credit cards to finance Christmas gift buying (as compared to "out-dated" ideas such as Christmas Clubs and Layaway) to whether the thought that the United States is the most consumptive nation during Christmas is true (should I ruin it for you? You might me surprised by the answers to this question). This book is more than a one dimensional look at Christmas.


A Guide to my Book Rating System:

1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am on your side Joel! Nov. 30 2009
By M. Becker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! It was a very interesting read. The things that mean the most to us in life, especially as we reach our ending years, are not the gifts we were showered with, but the people who have entered our lives and brought enrichment, from them being who they are. The thought of someone using their hard earned money to buy you a gift, sometimes out of their thought of obligation, is just off kilter to me. I say use your hard earned money and spend it on your own trinkets of happiness, and just give me your friendship, love, and kindness, so to make me a better person; no gift you give me will do that. Your thoughts of wanting to give to me is all the gift I need.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Refreshing Antidote to the Buy Buy Buy Media Nov. 30 2009
By E. Marks - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is brilliant. Look around you during the holidays. Most of us are actively trying to get "stuff" out of our lives. Clear the drawers, attic, garage, basement. The issue is not needing more stuff. The issue is needing less stuff. And then people give us more stuff for gifts. Unless the gift giver has brilliant mind reading powers, the "more stuff" they get for us is unlikely to be anything we really want, let alone need. All these gift givers are spending money to buy more stuff in a world that is already overflowing with stuff. (See "The Story of Stuff" on YouTube if you have not seen it before.)

Joel Waldfogel applies economic theory to our intuition in showing that the media and corporate hype around gift giving is misplaced. His book explains on many levels that conventional gift giving creates a huge amount of wasted time and money, both in America and abroad.

Joel says that Store Gift Cards area good solution for people who can use them.

And Joel says that for others, Charity Gift Cards are a great idea. As the creator of TisBest Charity Gift Cards, I am thrilled to see a Wharton professor using economics to back the Charity Gift Card idea - an idea whose time has come.

Thank you Joel for a refreshing book in the midst of holiday consumption hype!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Time... April 8 2010
By Kimberly A. Paternoster - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have one family that we have made a pact NOT to buy gifts for at Christmas, and one family I cannot get to stop buying gifts at Christmas. Every year, I have extreme anxiety over gift buying for the one family, and every year I'm sure I fall short at what I give. Why do people feel the need to buy gifts??? For the person who thinks Christmas is about gift giving and the author missed the point, I think you are missing the point. Christ wanted people to love each other, first and foremost, and Christmas is one time the entire year where I feel MORE love for my community than the rest of the year. And I'm not even Christian! It's not about money - it's about love, friendship, being together, and enjoying family. Thanks for writing this book.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The morning after... Dec 3 2009
By Mark J. Conrad - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Joel Waldfogel is really onto something with his book, Scroogenomics. The
chapter entitled, Have Yourself a Borrowed Little Christmas really caused
me to reflect on the days when layaway or Christmas Clubs for saving were
common. Those made so much sense, yet today people find themselves feeling
the pressure of holiday gift giving without the forethought to put money
aside ahead of time - hence the morning after regret and heaviness of
debt. When you go on to consider that the value of the gifts you gave is
substantially less, on average, than what you spent, the whole picture
looks rather grim. Where is the "holiday spirit" in that??

Fortunately, Scroogenomics offers a great gift solution: Charitable
giving. One of my family's traditions is to put together donations of
food and miscellaneous necessities for distribution at local food banks.
This is a family project that is festive and fun. I don't know anyone who
has accrued credit card debt for charitable giving - and giving represents
a feel-good opportunity to remember what the holidays are supposed to be
about: a celebration of giving and family. And that's something to feel
good about the morning after!