COOL BOOK S
Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s Another writer, Becky Poole, managed to find
happiness at retail, however. Her job was at a wine
Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s is not authorized
shop “in the hipster-magnet Williamsburg section of
by the retailer, but so far it has not done anything to
Brooklyn and the store wasn’t so much a commercial
stop it, reports Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in the Wall
enterprise as … a place to swap naughty stories, share
Street Journal (11/3/08).
thoughts, poems and songs.”
The idea came from two former M.I.T. classmates,
The lesson here might be that retailers should never
Wona Miniati and Deana Gunn, who first published
hire writers, poets or comedians. Or maybe it’s that
the book a year ago, and have since sold some 20,000
they should just let them tell their stories and have a
little fun with their customers.
The breakthrough came when a story about the book
appeared in the Sacramento Bee, causing Borders
to begin stocking it. Obviously, this isn’t the way Horse Trading in the Age of Cars
things normally work with cookbooks, sales of
Car dealers, “despite their seedy reputation in general,
which “are primarily driven by chefs featured on the
are often linchpins of their communities,” writes
Food Network.” Not only that, but cookbook sales in
John Stoll, in a Wall Street Journal book review of
general are declining.
Horse Trading in the Age of Cars,” by Steven M. Gelber
As Wona explains: “I used to cook from scratch but as (12/3/08).
my career took off and I had kids, the time I had for
John bases this observation, in part, on his car-
cooking was squeezed out.”
dealer father, who was “a leader in our church, who
The only real glitch is that Trader Joe’s sometimes bought 15-passenger vans and gave them to homeless
discontinues items featured in the cookbook. In shelters.” His great-grandfather, on the other hand,
such cases, she and Deana post substitutions online felt his “crowning achievement was selling a black
(cookingwithtraderjoes.com). The co-authors say they Packard to Al Capone in the 1930s.”
recently laid in a fresh supply of 50,000 more copies.
Steven Gelber traces this conflict back to the mid-
1800s, when haggling was the norm for just about
every kind of transaction, among both men and
The Customer Is Always Wrong
women. But as most household products became
Twenty-one writers — including “two comedians, standardized, pricing did too.
a musician and a poet” — contribute essays to The
Not so for horses, though, because there was nothing
Customer Is Always Wrong, edited by Jeff Martin and
“standard” about a horse. And so horse-trading, and
reviewed by Mark Lasswell in the Wall Street Journal
then car-selling, became something of a man’s game,
with guys doing their best to trick each other into
All of these writers have worked at retail, and nearly paying more than they should.
all of them “considered the work an ordeal.” Michael
As one ’70s-era car dealer bragged: “I make most of
Beaumier, for instance, a regular on NPR’s This
my money off my friends. They aren’t looking for you
American Life, said his job in the “home section of
to screw them so you can really sock it to them.” He
a department store” was depressing because he had
went on to boast about how he sold his own sister a
nowhere near the star-power of the kitchenware.
fully-loaded car at top dollar.
In fact, his boss even told him, “It’s not about you.
Steven suggests that this “moral obtuseness is
It’s about the merchandise.” Michael claims his
virtually guaranteed by the structure of the business,
boss could make a display of “toothpicks and used
in which supply outstrips demand.” Lucky for us,
Kleenex,” and be sold out by afternoon.
today there’s Edmunds.com.
50 THE HuB JANuARy/FEBRuARy 2009