Jacob Goldstein

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

It used to be that if you ran a store, you wanted to make it easy for your customers. But Price Club and Costco went in the opposite direction: They made shopping harder. And people loved it.

Today on the show: How Costco and its imitators changed the way we shop. And how a new company is taking what Costco started to new extremes.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2012.

Earlier this summer, a European official walked into a roomful of reporters and answered a question that some people have been asking for a long time now:
Is Google abusing its power over the Internet?

Google--which is now technically owned by a company called Alphabet — is one of the biggest corporations on the planet. It controls the information billions of people see when they want to know: who was FDR's secretary of state, or where the nearest gas station is, or where to order a Sony Digital Camera.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Sam Cohen's business works like this: He walks into a big retail store and buys a bunch of stuff. Then he sells it on Amazon for more. It's straightforward and surprisingly lucrative.

This is a multimillion-dollar business for Sam — and for lots of other people who do the same thing. It's called retail arbitrage.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2014. Another version was also part of This American Life's Episode 543: Wake Up Now.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2014.

We tend to get obsessed with things that get more expensive over time — college tuition, say, or health care. But lots of things have actually gotten cheaper in real terms. Things made by machines. Things like consumer electronics.

When your life savings gets torched in a house fire or put through a shredder, there is a roomful of people who may be able to help: a team of specialists with the legal authority and technical skills to say whether messed up money lives or dies. They are the people of the Mutilated Currency Division.

On this episode, we go inside the Mutilated Currency Division. We find stories of a cow with an appetite for currency, a hundred thousand dollars stuffed into a mailbox, and a court battle between the government and millions of dollars in mutilated money

Episode 780: On Second Thought

Jun 24, 2017

It's hard to change your mind: You have to confront the limits of your intellect and concede that your adversaries have a point. It's awkward and embarrassing.

We think it's brave to change your view. So, today's show is in praise of flip-floppers. It's dedicated to those who have looked in the mirror, questioned themselves, and corrected course.

Warning: This episode has explicit language, for unavoidable and soon-to-be obvious reasons.

Growing up in California, Simon Tam had some tough moments. He was Chinese-American, and in middle school, kids called him all kinds of racial slurs.

Those moments stuck with him.

Simon grew up, and eventually started a band that was beginning to take off. He decided on a band name that said something about being Asian. Something that asserted an identity. He picked "The Slants," as a way to own a stereotype and turn it into something completely different.

Episode 772: Small Change

May 19, 2017

Here is a thing we hear approximately every day: The world is changing faster than ever before. Robert Gordon doesn't buy it.

He's an economist who has spent decades studying technological change and economic growth in America. He argues that, contrary to popular belief, the world is not changing faster than ever before. In fact, it's not even changing as fast as it was 100 years ago.

Note: Today's show originally ran in June 2012.

A few years ago, Jestina Clayton started a hair braiding business in her home in Centerville, Utah. The business let her stay home with her kids, and in good months, she made enough to pay for groceries. She even put an ad on a local website. Then one day she got an email from a stranger who had seen the ad.

Banks and governments have been fighting each other for hundreds of years, but never more dramatically than during the showdown between President Andrew Jackson and Nicholas Biddle, the president of the Second Bank of the United States.

Jackson was a populist, who rode to victory on promises to wrest control of the country from the East Coast elite. He was angry at the power structure, and he was furious at the banks. To him, they were the phantom controllers of the economy, issuing spurious scripts that often vanished with the banks when they collapsed.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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We're running an experiment. We're going to use the results in a podcast in a few weeks. The rules are simple: Guess how much this cow weighs.

The cow's name is Penelope.

That's me standing next to her for scale.

Here's your one clue: I weigh 165 pounds. Good luck!

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

In two new studies, Harvard economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues found that where poor kids grow up has a huge effect on how much money they earn as adults.

In one study, families living in public housing were randomly selected to be eligible for housing vouchers that required them to move to low poverty neighborhoods. Kids whose families received the vouchers grew up to earn significantly more than those whose families remained in public housing.