Mark Lamendola, author
of over 6,000 articles in print or online.
As an online merchant and someone who does
not packrat things, I was intrigued by this book. Yes, I've used
Nissanoff's book is engaging,
fact-filled, and well-written. He makes some very good points, and I
would agree his book does predict some future trends. What I would do
not agree with is the "revolutionary" part. In this review, I'm going
hit a few of his ideas hard. Then, I'm going to tell you why this book
is worth reading anyhow.
Here's the weakness of this book.
Nissanoff's viewpoint is that of a C-level, suit-wearing, NYC-dwelling,
wealthy individual. The typical consumer is not a senior executive,
seldom wears a suit, lives outside NYC, and does not have closets filled
with $800 skis or $200 neckties. In fact, the typical consumer doesn't
own skis and is doing
well to own even one $30 ties.
Nissanoff's encyclopedic knowledge of
clothing styles and shoes is completely foreign to most of the
population, as well. For the typical American--who works 40 hours out of
each 50 hour week just to pay taxes--fashion is not a foremost thought.
This is why, for example, Wal-Mart and K-Mart do brisk business selling
polyester that masquerades as clothing.
Rare is the CEO who hasn't laid off
workers. But the typical consumer never makes that decision and is not
nearly as ruthless. The two groups are culturally from different
planets, and that has implications for this book.
Nissanoff assumes people will rapidly exchange their
older things for new ones once the secondary market becomes highly
fluid. This assumption defies basic human nature.
People stay in jobs and marriages that don't work, though they have many other far
better options--even in the "secondary market," if you will.
How can we expect these same people to worry about minor things such as whether
they have the latest fashion of necktie?
People keep books they will never read,
not because they can't donate them to the library or sell them--but
because they simply like having the books. The ability or
inability to re-sell those books has no bearing on the situation.
Another issue he brought up was trading
shoes on the secondary market. There will never be a significant market
for used shoes, because of the nature of shoes. This has nothing to do
with purchase price or style. Shoes take a "set" and
wearing second-hand shoes is a sure way to court problems with your
feet, knees, and back. Unless you like orthopedic surgery and the
bills, don't try to save money by swapping shoes.
Let's look at a secondary market that is
already fluid: automobiles. Why do people keep an old car,
even though they can easily afford another? People grow attached to
their things. (Senior executives, by contrast, grow attached to their
outsized salaries but not to the production people who make those
Example: Joan keeps her 10 year old clunker,
dents and all. She has a pet name for it, and even talks to it. She's
comfortable in it, and familiar with it. She goes on a trip and rents a
new car, but she's unfamiliar with it and is not comfortable with the
car. When she's back in "Old Betsy," she feels once again one with her
vehicle. She could easily buy a 5 year old car, but she's loyal to the
car she has now.
People keep old houseplants, old dishes,
old glassware, old blankets,
old furniture, and even old hairdos--not for monetary reasons but for
So Nissanoff's theory that monetizing the
contents of our closets will "revolutionize the way we buy, sell,
and get the things we really want" doesn't fly. In fact, we have the
things we really want--that's why we don't get rid of them.
But let's set aside the "revolutionary "
part of his prediction and look at the wider consumer market. Will people change their behavior
if the secondary market matures, as Nissanoff predicts it will? Yes. In
fact, the issue with Nissanoff's central theory is not so much the
theory itself as the degree.
People do monetize some of the things
they no longer want--that's why we have yard sales, flea markets,
deductible gifts to charity, and so on. A big problem with these methods
of exchange is they are inefficient.
Having sold through eBay and through my
own Websites, I know those methods are more efficient than traditional
methods. Online methods provide ease of
use, reach, and speed. The difficulty of traditional methods does create
a "barrier to entry" for many people. With that barrier gone, we can
expect faster rates of "recycling" from closet to marketplace. But
there are many other barriers, and online methods do not address all
possible barriers. Not even close.
Where this book has value is it opens
your mind to taking a fresh look at your accumulation of stuff. For most
people, the big challenge is where to store stuff you aren't using and
most likely never will. Why not let someone else use it? If we can
separate ourselves from many of our things, we may find life a bit
richer in other ways. And one way it can be richer is through additional
cash from selling those things. We may choose to use that cash to
upgrade, or to simply improve our financial situation. My personal
perspective is less is more--the uncluttered life is a better life.
This book also reminds us, both directly
and indirectly, that we can expect change. The book doesn't hold up eBay
or Portero or any other particular exchange as the way everything is
heading. It does look at who's out front now, and why. As things
continue to change, those companies that adapt will be the "go to"
places for the secondary markets.
While the increased ability to buy and
sell in the secondary market is unlikely to be revolutionary, it will
certainly be significant. Those who understand the rules--and the
possibilities that are coming--stand to benefit. This book helps provide