COOL BOOKS Cooking with All Things Trader The Hub Magazine

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          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
     ( 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

50    THE HuB  JANuARy/FEBRuARy 2009

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