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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times business reporter Nelson D. Schwartz comes a gripping investigation of how a virtual velvet rope divides Americans in every arena of life, creating a friction-free existence for those with money on one side and a Darwinian struggle for the middle class on the other side.

In nearly every realm of daily life - from health care to education, highways to home security - there is an invisible velvet rope that divides how Americans live. On one side of the rope, for a price, red tape is cut, lines are jumped, appointments are secured, and doors are opened. On the other side, middle- and working-class Americans fight to find an empty seat on the plane, a place in line with their kids at the amusement park, a college acceptance, or a hospital bed.

We are all aware of the gap between the rich and everyone else, but when we weren't looking, business innovators stepped in to exploit it, shifting services away from the masses and finding new ways to profit by serving the privileged. And as decision-makers and corporate leaders increasingly live on the friction-free side of the velvet rope, they are less inclined to change - or even notice - the obstacles everyone else must contend with. Schwartz's must-listen audiobook takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of this new reality and shows the toll the velvet rope divide takes on society.

©2020 Nelson D. Schwartz (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"If you’ve wondered how today’s rich live - why they speed past us at ball games and amusement parks, how a select few never have to wait to see top doctors - you need to read The Velvet Rope Economy. You’ll never look at boarding a plane - or privilege and polarization - the same way." (Charles Duhigg, best-selling author of The Power of Habit)

 

"A masterpiece of beautifully written, carefully reported social commentary. Schwartz is able to take everyday things we already know - like the fact that the rich get to live a life entirely distinct from the rest of us - and shows, through colorful tales and great storytelling, that this is no curiosity. It is an indictment, a warning, a prediction, and a nuanced vision of our society. This book will become essential reading to understand this moment. But don’t let the grandness of his work scare you: it’s a fun, surprising read filled with unexpected peeks into the perquisites of superwealth." (Adam Davidson, co-founder of Planet Money and author of The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the Twenty-First Century)

"Sometimes it takes real insight to understand what is staring you in the face. How often have you gritted your teeth as someone strolled past you to the front of the line? Or watched the curtain close to block your view of the passengers in first class? Schwartz decided not just to document all the ways our business culture has learned to cater to the rich at the expense of the rest of us, but to explain why it matters. It's an eye-opening exploration of a trend with many consequences, none of them good." (Joe Nocera, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion, and author of A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class)

What listeners say about The Velvet Rope Economy

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Very detailed look at how the rich live better

reads like a long report on how the rich live differently in every aspect in life. the access they enjoy, the friction free environment they live in is not a reality for the rest of us. Some really interesting tidbits on how we got here but just so long winded going into detail about how rich kids get into college, how rich families travel and access medical care and even how the rich experience sporting events. could be half this length with half the detail and you wouldn't miss much.

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Two Weak Examples

Closed Shopping Malls and Ruby Tuesday Restaurants were weak examples. Other than those two problems, the book was insightful and important. Better to learn now what economic choices we have made rather than risk a Lenin-like revolution in the United States. Excellent read.

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Wow, this book was good.

I was watching a news program and saw the author of this book being interviewed about the early disparities in testing for covid-19. I am a family physician and wondered why entire asymptomatic NBA teams could get tests for the virus and I couldn’t get any tests for sick patients. This book explains why. It explains a lot about how businesses and schools have changed over the years to benefit the wealthiest amongst us. The book also does a good job of explaining how these changes erode at the middle class and make it harder for the poor to better their lot in life. It was fascinating! There apparently are many aspects of life that are better for the top 1% that the rest of us know nothing about. I HIGHLY recommend this book!

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eye opening

I expected to hear about first class on airplanes, but I kept realizing how experiences I've had fit into this pattern of inequality. I'm very grateful for the last chapter and I hope that more companies follow the examples set by the likes of Southwest and the GB Packers.

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Great book!

This is a wonderful reminded of the U.S. Society and Globalization classes I took so many years ago. Lots of facts, but not overwhelming. Everyone should read/listen to this book!

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Revealing

For about half of Americans the information in this book will seem welcome. The other half might start considering revolution. Let's hope they get out and vote instead.