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A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Debt - All posts in category Debt

  • Apr 21, 2011
    11:23 AM ET

    Why White Americans Love Debt

    Talking Shop: Michelle Barnhart may be typical of many Americans: she won’t reveal her credit score but, if you ask her, she will tell you her age.

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    Barnhart, assistant professor of marketing at Oregon State University College of Business, and her fellow researcher Liza Peñaloza spent two years following white, middle-class Americans of varying circumstances and ages about their love/hate relationship with debt.

    The results of Barnhart and Peñaloza’s study, Living U.S. Capitalism: The Normalization of Credit/Debt, will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research in December, and is currently available online [subscription required].

    In it, they ask, “How did America, a country once so indelibly marked with Puritan principles of self-discipline and thrift, become a nation so awash in personal debt?”

    Pay Dirt: Why did you choose white, middle-class Americans?

    Barnhart: We wanted to look at those who are at least regarded as the most privileged element of society to see how they were doing. We chose 27 people, so it’s not statistically significant, but we wanted people who were young, old, married, single, homeowners and those who didn’t own their own home.

  • Mar 29, 2011
    2:00 PM ET

    Christmas in March? It’s Never Too Early To Sell

    Better hustle — there are only 270 more shopping days left ‘til Christmas.

    American Express emailed cardholders Monday with an invitation to pre-order tickets for “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” Yep, you read that right. Buy tickets as early as March 28 for a show that doesn’t begin until more than seven months from now, on Nov. 11. And pay full prices of $55 to $200 before taxes and fees, to boot.

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    Amex and Radio City Music Hall parent MSG Entertainment are mum on why the offer is made so early each year, but Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, says it’s a tactic to drive demand. “People feel pressure that they need to move very quickly,” she says. “They believe that those tickets are not going to be around come the holidays.”

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.