Synopses & Reviews
The bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed
goes back undercover to do for America's ailing middle class what she did for the working poor.
Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed explored the lives of low-wage workers. Now, in Bait and Switch, she enters another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with a plausible résumé of a professional "in transition," she attempts to land a middle-class job undergoing career coaching and personality testing, then trawling a series of EST-like boot camps, job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She gets an image makeover, works to project a winning attitude, yet is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and again and again rejected.
Bait and Switch highlights the people who've done everything right gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster, and not simply due to the vagaries of the business cycle. Today's ultra-lean corporations take pride in shedding their "surplus" employees plunging them, for months or years at a stretch, into the twilight zone of white-collar unemployment, where job searching becomes a full-time job in itself. As Ehrenreich discovers, there are few social supports for these newly disposable workers and little security even for those who have jobs.
Like the now classic Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch is alternately hilarious and tragic, a searing exposé of economic cruelty where we least expect it.
"In order to write with authority, one has to spend real time with people inside their institutions. Ehrenreich does not come close, and as a result, Bait and Switch is incomplete." Rocky Mountain News
"Much of Bait and Switch amounts to nothing more than annotated minutes of group networking sessions and job fairs....Alas, as with New Coke, this derivative of a proven formula falls flat." Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times Book Review
"Unfortunately, Bait and Switch neither rings true nor delivers any real news....Anyone who's actually had a corporate job will see right away that [Ehrenreich] doesn't know what she's talking about." Boston Globe
"Too often, Ehrenreich discovers issues worthy of scrutiny, only to overshadow them with unrelated anecdotes, snide asides and an overarching disdain for the majority of individuals and ideas she encounters." The Oregonian
"If you are an over-40 executive who might be losing your job soon...steer clear of...Bait and Switch....The rest of us could have our eyes opened by Ehrenreich's engaging, if flawed, book on what happens when midlife professionals must find jobs." Detroit Free Press
"[The] writing is taut and engaging. And her concept...does make you want to find out if she succeeds (even though, as the author acknowledges, play-acting joblessness is not the real thing)." Baltimore Sun
"Another unsettling message about an ugly America from a trustworthy herald. Read it and weep especially if you're a job-seeker." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] worthy companion to Nickel and Dimed....Bait and Switch is a cautionary tale about the disposability of all American working people not just those whose parents couldn't send them to the right schools..." The Washington Post
"Bait and Switch is about a process rather than an end result, and it captures that process all too clearly. As usual, Ms. Ehrenreich makes great, acerbic company for the reader and tells her story knowingly." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[Ehrenreich is] at her best wry, eloquent, hilarious describing the charlatans who market themselves as career coaches....Sadly, this new critique lacks the biting, damning firsthand detail that made Dimed such a treat. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"What is effectively evoked by [Bait and Switch
]...is the circus of predators who feed off the hopes and desperation of these job seekers. These are companies or organizations that offer everything from résumé enhancement to career coaching. What comes across in Bait and Switch
is how often contradictory the advice and services these companies provide can be." Gerry Donaghy, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
Intrigued by reports of increasing poverty and despair within America's white-collar corporate workforce, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to infiltrate their world as an undercover reporter and learn about the problems facing middle-class executives at first hand. Thinking she had set herself a pretty easy challenge, the author was quite unprepared for what happened next.
Ehrenreich found herself entering a shadowy world of Internet job searches, lonely networking events and costly career-coaching sessions, a world in which 'professional' mentors and trainers offer pop-psychology and self-help mantras to desperate would-be employees. Her story is an important one - poignant and blackly funny - that delivers a stark warning about the future that faces corporate employees everywhere and calls for collective action to guard against it.
The New York Times bestselling investigation into white-collar unemployment from our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism--The New York Times Book Review
Americans' working lives are growing more precarious every day. Corporations slash employees by the thousands, and the benefits and pensions once guaranteed by middle-class jobs are a thing of the past.
In Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich goes back undercover to explore another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with the plausible resume of a professional in transition, she attempts to land a middle-class job. She submits to career coaching, personality testing, and EST-like boot camps, and attends job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and--again and again--rejected.
Bait and Switch highlights the people who have done everything right--gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive resumes--yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster. There are few social supports for these newly disposable workers, Ehrenreich discovers, and little security even for those who have jobs. Worst of all, there is no honest reckoning with the inevitable consequences of the harsh new economy; rather, the jobless are persuaded that they have only themselves to blame.
Alternately hilarious and tragic, Bait and Switch, like the classic Nickel and Dimed, is a searing expose of the cruel new reality in which we all now live.
About the Author
Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed. A frequent contributor to Harper's and The Nation, she has been a columnist at the New York Times and Time magazine. She lives in Virginia.