Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich


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Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- could be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on six to seven dollars an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered as a woefully inexperienced homemaker returning to the workforce. So began a grueling, hair-raising, and darkly funny odyssey through the underside of working America.

Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- quite the same way again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594793755
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 08/02/2011
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 81,083
Product dimensions: 8.04(w) x 5.62(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Blood Rites; The Worst Years of Our Lives (a New York Times bestseller); Fear of Falling, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; and eight other books. A frequent contributer to Time, Harper's, Esquire, The New Republic, Mirabella, The Nation, and The New York Times Magazine, she lives near Key West, Florida.

Read an Excerpt

It is hotter inside than out, but I do all right until I encounter the banks of glass doors. Each one has to be Windexed, wiped, and buffed-inside and out, top to bottom, left to right, until it's as streakless and invisible as a material substance can be. Outside, I can see construction guys knocking back Gatorade, but the rule is that no fluid or food item can touch a maid's lips when she's inside a house. I sweat without replacement or pause, not in individual drops but in continuous sheets of fluid, soaking through my polo shirt, pouring down the backs of my legs. Working my way through the living room(s), I wonder if Mrs. W. will ever have occasion to realize that every single doodad and object through which she expresses her unique, individual self is, from the vantage point of a maid, only an obstacle on the road to a glass of water.

—Diana Henriques, The New York Times [Business Section]

"Jarring, full of riveting grit . . . This book is already unforgettable."

—Susannah Meadows, Newsweek

"Angry, amusing . . . An in-your-face expose."

—Anne Colamosca, Business Week

"With grace and wit, Ehrenreich discovers . . . the irony of being nickel and dimed during unprecedented prosperity."

—Eileen Boris, The Boston Globe

"Ehrenreich is a superb and relaxed stylist [with] a tremendous sense of rueful humor."

—Stephen Metcalf, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Barbara Ehrenreich . . . is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism."

—Dorothy Gallagher, The New York Times Book

Table of Contents

Introduction: Getting Ready1
1Serving in Florida11
2Scrubbing in Maine51
3Selling in Minnesota121

What People are Saying About This

Molly Ivins

Reading Ehrenreich is good for the soul.

Diane Sawyer

Barbara Ehrenreich is smart, provocative, funny, and sane in a world that needs more of all four.

Reading Group Guide

To the Teacher

Millions of Americans work full-time for poverty-level wages. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. Nickel and Dimed is the revealing, compelling, and widely acclaimed result of that decision-a book that has already become a masterpiece of undercover reportage, and a portrait-of-the-working-poor classic that is showing up in classrooms throughout the nation.

How does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich takes low-wage jobs in Florida, then in Maine, and finally in Minnesota, working as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart salesperson. She lives in trailer parks and crumbling motels; she eats fast or cheap food, since she can't afford a stove, refrigerator, or cookware. She also learns that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you plan to live indoors. And healthcare is a luxury she cannot afford.

This is that rare book that reveals a harsh reality without resorting to sentiment, that speaks the plain truth without being preachy or complex. Nickel and Dimed is an absolute must for anyone who wants to see what "prosperity" looks like from the bottom, or who suspects that the "American dream" is becoming a fantasy.


1. Near the outset, Ehrenreich (speaking of her own sister) employs the term "wage slave." What does she mean by this?

2. What are the three rules the author sets for herself at the beginning of Nickel and Dimed? Does she ever break them? If so, when and why, in your view, does she do so?

3. Early on, the author tells us that she has a Ph.D. in biology. How, if at all, does this figure into the narrative? What does Ehrenreich's scientific training bring to the "old-fashioned journalism" of this book?

4. Why does Ehrenreich assert in her Introduction that "a story about waiting for buses would not be very interesting to read"? What are the context and rationale for this remark? And given as much, do you agree?

5. Early in Chapter One, Ehrenreich notes that, in terms of low-wage work, "the want ads are not a reliable measure of the actual jobs available at any particular time." Explain why this is so.

6. At one point, Ehrenreich details the living conditions of her fellow workers at the Hearthside. Reviewing these arrangements, explain how each set-up compares with the author's own "$500 efficiency" quarters.

7. Waiting tables at Jerry's, the author meets a young dishwasher named George. Who is he? What is his story? Why do he and Ehrenreich befriend one another? And why does she not "intervene" when she learns from an assistant manager that George is thought to be a thief?

8. On her first-and last-day of housekeeping in Key West, Ehrenreich is met by a manager who addresses her as "babe" and gives her "a pamphlet emphasizing the need for a positive attitude." When and where else, throughout the book, does the author encounter cheap talk or hollow slogans in her endeavors as a low-wage worker? What purposes might such empty language serve? Why is it so prevalent?

9. In an extended footnote in Chapter Two, Ehrenreich explains how "the point" of the housecleaning service where she is employed "is not so much to clean as to create the appearance of having been cleaned." Why is this? Why the deceit? Why does The Maids outfit not clean its clients' homes properly?

10. "The hands-and-knees approach is a definite selling point for corporate cleaning services like The Maids," the author writes. Explain why this "oldfashioned way" of housecleaning is thus appealing. Why does it seem to, as Ehrenreich puts it, "gratify the consumers of maid services"?

11. Buying groceries with a voucher at a Shop-n-Save in Maine, Ehrenreich notes of the checkout woman ringing up her purchases: "I attempt to thank her, but she was looking the other way at nothing in particular." What might such body language mean? Why, if at all, is it telling?

12. Looking back on Chapter Two as a whole, what connections would you make between maids and minorities in the United States? What about between maids and poverty, and maids and "invisibility"? Refer to the text itself when making your links.

13. Who is Budgie? Why does Ehrenreich tell us to let Budgie "be a stand-in"? Also, would it be accurate to say that the author's efforts to find a safe and affordable place to live were least successful in Minnesota? Explain why or why not.

14. Paraphrase the brief "story within a story" represented by the character called Caroline. What is Caroline's tale? Why does Ehrenreich get in touch with this person, and what does she learn from her?

15. As her stint at Wal-Mart winds down, the author mentions to several of her colleagues that they "could use a union here"-only, as she herself readily admits, she is "not a union organizer anymore than [she is] Wal-Mart 'management material.'" So why, then, is she making efforts at unionizing? What has led her to these efforts? What are her reasons, grievances, motivations, and goals?

16. At the outset of her Evaluation chapter, the author seems to arrive at a new understanding of the phrase "unskilled labor." Explain this new understanding. Do you agree with it? Why or why not?

17. Describe the problems that Ehrenreich has with how the "poverty level" is calculated in this country. Is she correct on this score, in your view? Explain. Also, how does one's understanding of the poverty level-Ehrenreich's or anyone else's- relate to food costs, and to the author's assertion that our "wages are too low and rents too high."

18. What is the "money taboo"-and why and how does it function, as Ehrenreich puts it, "most effectively among the lowest-paid people"?

19. Why does Ehrenreich refer to low-wage workers, at the close of her book, as "the major philanthropists of our society"?


1. In the Introduction to Nickel and Dimed, the author writes: "Unlike many lowwage workers, I have the further advantages of being white and a native English speaker." As a class, explore whether, why, and how these two facets of Ehrenreich's identity were, in fact, advantageous over the full duration of her study.

2. Near the beginning of this book, Ehrenreich compares the restaurant-tipping habits of Americans and Europeans. Near the end, she notes that, while "most civilized nations compensate for inadequacy of wages by providing relatively generous public services," the U.S. "leaves its citizens to fend for themselves." What, in Ehrenreich's view, could America learn from other countries about how to better treat its low-wage workers?

3. The action of Nickel and Dimed unfolds in three American communities, as found in three different states: Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. What about your own community? How would Nickel and Dimed be different-or similar-if it included the area you call home? On your own, or as part of a group, do some research-via newspapers and magazines, TV news broadcasts, and the Internet- in order to formulate your answer.

4. Ehrenreich often speaks of dietary matters, of nutrition, of food as fuel. Why does she keep doing so? What did reading this book tell you about how we eat and how we work in America? And what about the correlations that may or may not exist between low-wage American workers and their use of cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol?

5. In her chapter "Selling in Minnesota," Ehrenreich asserts: "Wherever you look, there is no alternative to the megascale corporate order, from which every form of local creativity and initiative has been abolished by distant home offices." Talk about whether this is true in your own experience. If not, why not? If so, where and when have you seen evidence to support this claim? Try to use your own examples and impressions here-not Ehrenreich's.

6. Describing the food at a Florida restaurant where she works, Ehrenreich calls it "your basic Ohio cuisine with a tropical twist." Later, wondering what living in Maine might be like, she says, "Maybe . . . when you give white people a whole state to themselves, they treat one another real nice." Still later, she writes that certain clothes on sale at her Minnesota Wal-Mart are "seemingly aimed at pudgy fourth-grade teachers with important barbecues to attend." Discuss the biting humor- the sharp and sometimes even mocking wit-appearing throughout this book. How, if at all, does such levity make Ehrenreich's arguments more effective? And were there instances where you thought her wisecracks went too far-or fell flat? Explain.

7. "Let's look at the record," writes Ehrenreich in her Evaluation. What does this record tell us? Where was she most successful in her experiment, and where was she least? Do you agree with the author when she says, after going over her record, "All right, I made mistakes"? Explain why or why not. What could she have done differently, and what would you-in her shoes-have done differently? Explain.

8. Throughout Nickel and Dimed the author makes complaints about "management." Summarize the many problems that Ehrenreich has with managers, looking especially at the book's Wal-Mart passages and the breakdown of "workplace authoritarianism" in the Evaluation chapter.

9. Explain why Ehrenreich believes that personality surveys and drug tests are both categorically unfair to low-wage workers. Look back over the full range of her low-wage experiences when crafting your answer.

10. More than once in these pages, we encounter the severe bodily and psychological harm that hard work at low pay can cause-the physical damage as well as the threats of what Ehrenreich calls, after an especially trying shift at her nursing home job, "repetitive injury of the spirit." Prepare a short report on the health risks of lowwage work, based on Ehrenreich's study and on your own findings in various media reports.

11. One of the strengths of this book must be its cast of characters-the real people who live and work in the real world Ehrenreich is reporting on, those workers with whom she toils, relates, confers, cries, argues, and so on. In a short essay, identify and discuss a certain individual (or two) from this book by whom you were particularly touched. In your essay, explain your choice(s).

12. A few times in Nickel and Dimed, the author refers to the "Sermon on the Mount," which appears in the biblical book of Matthew. Ehrenreich refers to this sermon not as a religious tract but as a work of a political philosophy, as a treatise on social or economic revolution. What is this sermon about? What does it say or claim? (Do some research, if you are unsure.) Finally, explain why Ehrenreich thinks this sermon now applies to America's low-wage workers in particular.

13. In a way, this book can read as a reaction to-or a hands-on test of-the "welfare reform" legislation enacted in the U.S. in the 1990s. "In the rhetorical buildup to welfare reform," Ehrenreich writes, "it was uniformly assumed that a job was the ticket out of poverty." As a class, conduct a detailed conversation about Nickel and Dimed as a point-by-point examination of this very assumption.

14. This book is, of course, more than a report on, and exposé of, "(not) getting by in America"-it is also a detailed critique. To this end, the bulk of its criticism might well be directed at the Wal-Mart empire. Is this appropriate, in your view? Explain. Given that Wal-Mart is far and away the world's largest company, is it right to expect the retail megachain to be all the more fair and respectful of its employees? Explain.

15. Nickel and Dimed takes place during a so-called economic boom in American history, the period of "peace and prosperity" (as many people called it then, and still call it now) that was the late 1990s. However, the book is largely about poverty, about the poor-and not simply the helplessly destitute, but rather the poor who are employed full-time. Near the outset of her study, Ehrenreich tells us that "there are no secret economies that nourish the poor; on the contrary, there are a host of special costs." Near the end, in sum, she tells us that poverty is an experience of "acute distress"-a nonstop "state of emergency." Finish your exploration of the book by talking about what it taught you on the subject of poverty in America. Not just about what it costs to "get by" but about how people living in poverty make ends meet-how they, in Ehrenreich's language, "[try] to match income to expenses."

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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 195 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was horrible. I can't believe that I gave this person money! The author doesn't bother to really understand what she is writing about. She is consistently surprised that the poor folks around her aren't impressed with her PhD.... and what's sick is that she doesn't get that a PhD shouldn't impress the working poor. Why does she feel that she is so much better than everyone else... why doesn't she bother to find out how the people around her are actually making it work? How in Gods green can she have problems getting by for ONE month when she has a paid for rental car, $1000 going into the experiment and an income, however meager? Why does she feel that eating off you lap is a major plight of the working poor that she has to write about it? Has she never been to a picnic? The idea was fabulous... it's too bad she ruined it. Lastly, no real suggestions to solve the problem? Raise minimum wage? Doesn't she realize that the cost for product will rise too... and still a worker at Wal-Mart won't be able to afford to shop there? All I got from this book was that a spoiled child couldn't figure out how to live on less. Bummer for her. Fortunately most people on the planet are a little more crafty and intelligent. Finally, we as Americans only need to look to other countries to understand what poor really is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While the author's experiment is certainly intriguing and even worthwhile, objectivity is quickly clouded by Ehrenreich's opinions on various social issues. During the brief time she works as a maid, she's pretentious enough to criticize the people who own the homes she is cleaning. She implies that these owners, many of whom she has never met, must be mean, selfish people because they actually own something of monetary value and are paying to have it cleaned. The possibility that they may have earned money through hard work to buy their possessions never seems to occur to her. Of course, this might have broken her moment of self-righteousness. Likewise, on page 100, she describes how self-conscious and ostracized she feels about wearing her garish maid's uniform in a supermarket, saying that she's 'getting a tiny glimpse of what it would be like to be black.' In today's society, that is hardly an accurate comparison. If anything, maybe she got a glimpse of how a disfigured or physically handicapped person may feel, but I doubt such people go about their daily routines with the indignant paranoia she displayed. Granted, there are injustices everywhere in America. However, it still remains the best country in the world for individuals to achieve their goals and attain economic comfort. It is up to the idividual to take the initiative for improvement; no one else can do it for them.
AdditionalReport More than 1 year ago
The setting of this book begins in the place at where Ehrenreich lives, Key West, Florida as she decides to start her low-wage life. The plot of this book begins as Ehrenreich is planning her project on how people live in a low- wage life, and the problems that they may come across, like affording a place to live. After leaving her normal life for this project her first task was to find a place to live, since she figured she would probably make around $7 an hour. But once she found a job at Hearthside she found out that her salary was for $2.43 an hour and eventually decided to find another job at Jerry’s in order to live. From there she started moving a couple of more times because she could not find to work with such a low-wage and have enough money for the necessities she may have to come across. In her evaluation she explains how housing is really expensive but, wages have not increased. The main character of this book was Ehrenreich the one who was doing the project to experience a low- wage job. There were also many other characters in which she came across when she was working at different places. The theme of this book is poverty because poverty had a great role in Ehrenreich’s book throughout the book she demonstrates the difficulty of survival with a low-waged job. She shows that there are so many other people that are actually living their lives with so many limitations and, things they have to sacrifice like health insurance that may eventually leave them in debt if anything ever really happened. Nickel and Dimed, 235 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book hoping to maybe spark some sort of social progression in myself, but I ended up with a bitter taste in my mouth toward the author. When she attempts to make the blanket claim that people cannot live on minimum wage, well as true as that can be, she doesn't give up her luxuries to do so. She still continues to smoke and drink and spend her money on items she does not need. I would say save your money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is a short 230 pages. It's the longest 230 pages you will ever read. The book is slow and I felt uninterested in the topics. It's not the greatest book and there are better books on the subject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having heard so much about this book, I was a little disappointed when I actually sat down to read it. While I appreciate the author's honesty about her unwillingness to be inconvenienced in certain ways (using a car, having a wad of 'start up' cash, etc.), it made her alternating moments of whininess and self-congratulation all the more irritating. Also, her focus on the process of making herself poor limited her ability to go deeper into the actual experience and, more importantly, the experiences of those around her. I found 'The Broke Diaries' more entertaining and insightful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author certainly talked the talk, but she really didn't walk the walk. She only spent three months trying to figure out the problems of the working poor; and all the time having her emergency money handy, her ATM card, and her mind set on the things that she would absolutely not do without. In the REAL world of the working poor, those options are not always a reality. The concept of the book was good but if she had stayed with it for a year or more without any help from her 'real life', then the story, from her point of view, might have been a better read for me. This book seemed more like a reality show that the author stepped into while knowing she could bale out at any time. If I had not had to read it for school, I would not have read it for pleasure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The concept of the book seemed good, but the narration of the book ruined it for me. While reading this book, I couldn't help but feel that the author was completely ignorant on the idea of living off of a low wage job. She seemed to be completely prejudiced. To those who do happen to read this book: NOT EVERYONE LIVES THIS WAY.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book couldn't help me wondering how efficient a person with zero degrees, no money, no car, etc. would do in this situation. Just the simple fact that Ms. Enrenreich had start up money puts her far and above the average person looking for work. This book reminds me of the world I grew up in and visit quite often, rural America, except for one obvious difference: there are no Merry Maids and very few restaurants to even apply for a job. People there rely on friends and family, a garden, and the land, using its wild fruits, plants, and trees to survive. If one wants to know how to get by and thrive in America, get away from the cities and towns and travel the very rural roads of Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Nebraska. The people you will find are certainly not loaded with money, but have the values and substance needed to not only survive, but lead a rich and stop-to-smell-the-roses lifestyle.
crazy4reading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I finally finished this book. I am not one that usually enjoys books of this nature but since I am going through some rough patches right now I needed to read this book.The author Barbara Ehrenreich decides to see how the low income people survive on the pay that they receive. As I read this book it really made me realize how much the rich seem to get richer and the poor get poorer. I borrowed this book from my son's friend and I am glad I did. It took me awhile to read the book because it is only 3 chapters long and I would stop reading and then not pick the book up in a long time and have to go back just to refresh my memory.In this book Barb travels to different parts of the United States and gives herself a limited amount of money when she first moves to a new place to look for a low wage job. She first decides to find a job in Key West, Florida as a waitress. Her next stop is in Maine in the Portland Area as a maid, and her last stop is in Minnesota in sales.Barb first starts off with looking for a place to live when she first arrives in Florida, Maine and Minnesota. As she is looking for housing she also looks for jobs by looking in the want ads or just seeing signs posted in stores, restaraunts etc. The interesting thing about the book is that the pay wages are so different in each area and also in the types of jobs she accuires. Her first job as a waitress only pays $2.43 an hr. plus tips. So depending on the type of waitress she is and the establishment can make the job a good or bad one. Plus the waitresses have to split the tips with the busboys.
pumpernickel1997 More than 1 year ago
Had to read this for college. Terrible. This author is an absolute arrogant woman and it showed throughout the entire book. The concept and idea was spectacular but she executed this with bias after bias after bias.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this book required for a project for my economy class I found that it did provide some useful information about the struggles of finding a job and about some of the obstacles the working poor encounter. I do feel like the author included a lot of negative and unecessary remarks about the people she worked with and I did get the sense that she felt superior to those around her simply because she has a PhD and they do not. In the conclusion of the book, and overall throughout it, she implies that changes should be made, like increasing the minimum wage but comes to no real conclusion. Although the book somewhat depicts the current situtation in regards to the recession and teaches readers about how the working poor are being treated, I feel like the author makes the working class seem hopeless and like they will never be really able to better their lives.
cafereadsblogspotcom More than 1 year ago
This book is well-written account of an undercover journalist's journey into the world of the working poor. At times, the tone is biting and sarcastic. More often, it is sincere and sympathetic as Ehrenreich recounts her experiences working an array of low-paying jobs. The end notes can be daunting and Ehrenreich can be a bit cryptic at times, especially toward the end of the book, but overall I think this book is an important wake-up call to the struggles of America's working poor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read for anyone who wants to thoroughly understand the obstacles in life when one get paid minimum wage. It was a fantastic book that opened my eyes to the harsh realities that people have to go through everyday. Nickel and dimed is a reminder of the very substantial underclass in our society. It's about those who toil long hours at menial jobs to make our lives so very comfortable. They work in our kitchens, clean our offices and bathrooms, wash our cars, mow our lawns, take care of many of our needs. They do it quietly, often unseen, without complaint, and without much reward.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In all honestly I did not like the author of the book. I strongly believe that the book should have been written by someone WITHOUT a college education. I personally thought that it was asinine how a college educated woman was writing a book about America's working class. In the book she mentions how she has a Ph.D., a savings account, IRA, health insurance, and house. Reading this book, I could not get out of mind that she is one of the privileged people in America. Although this book does provide in-depth the struggles that many hard working Americans face every day. Nickel and Dimed would have been more powerful if it was written by an actual working class American. I also hope that Ms. Ehrenreich gives some of the profits from this book to help out those who are in need of financial support.
NickBoss_89 More than 1 year ago
This book has an interesting concept to it but unfortunately it can be a bit boring at sometimes. Reading this book felt like working a low wage job at times, especially during the introduction and evaluation. But I have to admit that Barbara Ehrenreich has some balls for going through on this project and having to deal with all the struggles that low wage workers go trough on a daily basis. People tend to forget or even look down upon certain jobs like waiting tables or house cleaning and it's important to know that the people who work these jobs are people as well, their struggles should be understood and should not be degraded.
EliseP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have conflicted responses to this book. First, I do believe that the US's minimum wage is not a liveable wage. I would like the author to have given a little more backstory, regarding the history of the minimum wage, and what was its original purpose? How long did it take for the original legislation, from its initial concept to law (in 1938, I think). So I need to find that out on my own, I guess. I do believe that our country needs to have a liveable wage. That if these rich companies like Wal-Mart would really pay employees what they're worth, our economy, our quality of life, would improve enormously. At the very least, it was an enjoyable "listen" and provides much food for thought.
donp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still going through it, but I have to say that while I don't necessarily agree with all the charges of elitism often leveled against this book, the audiobook reader doesn't help the cause much in my mind's ear.
hmmn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really interesting read, and quite funny at times but often reads as a little elitist. Most of the other reviewers have touched on how shallow her 'research' can be. . . I think that the information that we can extract from her experiences are at least a helpful addition to the discussion about the working poor.
ksoebroto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an incredibly important book for me to read. It allowed me to understand the sheer lack of choices that occurs when a person in under-employed. The cascading and often debilitating effects of working a minimum pay job were portrayed very clearly.
brigitte64 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a very good book, and even when it`s written in 2001 I think it`s still the same in this country -if not getting a job at all.I think she could go further when she worked a Wal Mart. Just trying a little bit harder to establish a union. Make some noise. Even when she was running out of money. It would have been important for her co workers. She had nothing to loose, because when they fired her she had another life to catch on. And afterwords good information for the media to tell. These big corporations need more resistance against their cruel work conditions.
skinglist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is really interesting. I'd heard good things about it, but my semester ate my soul leaving me no time for free reading. I picked this up recently though and was quickly engrossed. I like the range of work the author partook in, from cleaning to waitressing to being a Wal-Martian (perhaps my favourite term!) I think she presented her experiences and challenges well--ranging from housing to finding work. I'm very grateful that I make more than the minimum, but my own struggle to make ends meet really makes me wonder how those do it. I can't imagine having to go to work on a possible broken ankle just because it's what you *have* to do.
bokai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nickel and Dimed is a nice intro for those who haven't yet realized that the minimum wage is unlivable and that the lives of the 'working poor' are getting more difficult even as the demographic is grown. I think that most of us have realized this though, so the book becomes less of an eye-opener and more of an anecdotal confirmation of the statistics. Ehrenreich doesn't offer solutions, or analyze the problem very deeply. What she does is try to humanize the problem and she has been rather successful at that. I found it amusing that she treated the whole affair almost as if she was entering an alien planet, and some people have read into that elitism, but it felt to me that she was being honest with her circumstances and background. The well-to-do middle classes are, like she was, completely ignorant of how the bottom rung lives.Nickel and Dimed is good, but it only gives us a whiff of the issues in it. Comparing it to Fast Food Nation, I say this was the weaker book because it did not make as many strong connections as Fast Food Nation Did.
richardsonmichelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author discovered something many people have known for years, but she did something about it. It was interesting reading about her experiences in different cities, working different jobs and trying to make ends meet. She did, however, take advantage of resources that most would not think of, let alone take the effort to find. For the most part, the book was an accurate portrayal of what life is like for the working poor. I especially liked hearing about the background and the stories about her coworkers, those made the book more credible for me.