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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling 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 world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with a plausible resume of a professional "in transition", Ehrenreich attempts to land a middle class job undergoing career coaching and personality testing, then begins trawling a series of EST-like boot camps, job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search "ministries". She gets an image makeover to prepare her for the corporate world and works hard to project the winning attitude recommended for a successful job search. She 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 resumes, 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 the new disposable workers, and little security even for those who have jobs.

©2005 Barbara Ehrenreich (P)2005 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Peter
  • Rossmoor, US, Canada
  • 11-07-05

A terrible book - princess Barbara goes undercover

A terrible read. This book might as well have been written by someone who had lived in a cave for the last 30 years and decided to go seek an executive job and complained about how hard it was. The book does a terrible disservice to the white collar unemployed, since many of these folks do face extreme hardships, often through no fault of their own (whereas the book definitely makes it obvious to me that I would never hire the author in a million years, so she should stop whining). The author's prior book, Nickeled and Dimed, was at least a more enjoyable read, but now I'm beginning to wonder if that too wasn't completely overdramatized by this princess of an author. A few highlights of the book:

1) The author decides to seek an executive job, but has absolutely no prior relevant experience. When seeking a sales job for example, she says she wants to be the sales manager, though she has no sales experience. Is it no surprise she doesn't get a job?
2) The author seeks out a strange group of coaches (which I have to wonder if she has misrepresented these poor folks as well, given the rest of the book). The coaches ask her to take several personality tests. She fabricates random answers to these tests. The tests, given the random answers, point her in many different directions. Author's conclusion: the tests are worthless (they may be, but making up random answers wouldn't be my way of proving it)

3) The author obtains further advice. She is 'surprised' that corporate hiring managers would like to hire people that are likable and that can dress appropriately for an interview. Granted, this may be strange and foreign to those that have never held a job before, but for a mid-age worker seeking an executive position, you would think that this wouldn't be a surprise.

4) The author find some independent rep sales positons. She is 'surprised' that she is not given an office'

5) The author calls for the unemployed white collar to unite.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Brandon
  • Denver, CO United States
  • 07-12-07

Huge Disappointment

After getting a very interesting, entertaining and elucidating look at the world of low-wage workers in Nickel & Dimed, I looked forward to something similar from Bait & Switch.

Unfortunately, this book failed to live up to even it's back-cover synopsis. All I got was an uninspired look at a bumbling job search. No insight on the risks and hardships of working in corporate america.

Failing to provide any first-hand insight (or even very much 2nd-hand insight) on the issue, the author also fails to offer any research-based insight into the issues of lack of medical care, job security, etc.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Long Slog with Pleasant Ending

Although the author admits to having little experience with applying to a 'corporate' position, her naivete regarding this pursuit becomes almost unbearable near the middle of the book.
Lost in the quagmire of coaching and image consultants, she seems to lose touch with the essence of what makes unemployment an interesting topic of study.
If you can hold on that long, her conclusions are interesting, yet do not contain the depth I would expect from an individual who makes her 'real' living from observation and interpretation.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Worthy Successor to

This was the most engaging and enlightening audiobook I've heard in a very long time, and I listen to plenty. It's thoroughly thought out and beautifully written. More important, it's a startling reality check, and a much-needed antidote to the toxic fantasies of the inspiration industry. If you're one of white-collar unemployed, it's not necessarily your fault, and if you can't find a job right away, that doesn't mean there's something wrong with your soul. Ms. Ehrenreich's last chapter is a good beginning for thought on what might be wrong with the system, and what might be done about it. I can't recommend this too strongly.

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dan
  • bellevue, WA, USA
  • 10-06-05

Playing to the crowd

This author brought allot of preconceived notions to her book and did not take a balanced look at the job market. She went on her own personal quest to prove an argument that would sell book copies and support her title. The focus of the book is from her personal experience instead of basing it on statistics or proving broader social and economic trends.

7 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very naive!

I suggest that she has inflated ideas of what work is like. She was very naive about many things.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Only good for entertainment value

I enjoy Ehrenreich's writing--she's sarcastic, funny, makes many insightful observations--but if you're looking for Nickel and Dimed, this isn't it. The former, was actually eye-opening when I read it 12 or so years ago. This book is not.

Many of the reviewers (who actually wrote more than a couple of lines) point out the deep deficits in this book. If Joe Blow off the street submitted this as a book proposal, it wouldn't be accepted because the premise is faulty. A middle-aged person trying to get into the corporate world with no experience there and an inflated resume...well, it just isn't going to happen the way she goes about it.

She totally harshed on the Meyers Briggs (even though she just speeded through it without looking at the questions). I took that when I was 17. It was a revelation. After feeling like a circus freak all my life, I discovered my personality type was only 1% of the population. And it DID describe me well, and it DIDN'T change over the subsequent decades. (The author pretty much claims it will change each time you take it depending on mood, years in between taking, etc.). Although the other test she discussed did seem rather...odd.

We're always taking these tests in corporate America. If nothing else, they may help us understand ourselves better and at least open our minds to the fact that others operate differently than we might.

The book is from...2004? 2005? Things have only gotten worse since then so I did find it interesting that she had identified how bad things were BEFORE they really went to hel* in a handbasket. But most of the things she does to try to get a job are pretty absurd. Granted, she could not call on her friends to actually try to get her a real job, which...back to faulty premise, because the first step is always to check with friends and former co-workers to try to get a foot in the door.

She spends most of the book with people who aren't going to do her any good (other than to help her get her resume in order).

Still, well-written and enjoyable.

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Stoneham, MA, USA
  • 12-06-05

Can not listen to the reader!

I am disappointed in this purchase because the reader has a speech impediment that ruins it for me. I loved the book "Nickel and Dimed." I will buy the book read it and I am sure I will enjoy it, but I simply can not listen to this reader. I wasted a credit. If this sort of thing bothers you, beware.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Douglas
  • Thompsons Station, TN, USA
  • 02-02-08

An Eye Opener

This book will open your eyes to a part of America that many of us in the middle class don't see or choose to ignore. It has made me much more appreciative of hotel maids and others who do the really tough jobs. I now make it a point to smile and offer a kind word that will hopefully help them through the day.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sokly
  • Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  • 12-05-05


Having been in the same situation of being a middle class unemployeed person I thought that this book would give me some good ideas. It didn't! She just waisted alot of time and money on stuff that I already knew was a waste of money.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful