The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality Became Big Business

Doubleday. Jan. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780385543088. $28.95. BUS
This illuminating book by Schwartz, business reporter at The New York Times, presents convincing evidence of how companies are increasing profits and expanding by identifying wealthy clients, and then marketing and providing tiered products and services to these elite clients. Schwartz explains how these customers are willing to pay premium prices because of exclusivity, ease, envy, access, or security, or a combination of these factors. Each of the five factors is given equal treatment in dedicated chapters. The author discusses these compelling trends across multiple industries, such as airlines, education, entertainment, healthcare, and tourism. These business models are in turn creating a further stratified society, Schwartz maintains, with exclusion, division, and isolation as natural byproducts of these financial strategies. He tackles these subjects in the final three chapters, and explains how inequalities are deeply ingrained across economies worldwide and cannot easily be remedied by governments.
VERDICT Economists and business professionals will be well-served by this insightful analysis, as will social activists and all those concerned by the growing separation between rich and poor.

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