Just like candy

A lot of people seem to embrace shopping as personal therapy. You see them milling around outside the mall on Sunday morning, waiting for the stores to open – as if there’s something they just can’t live without for a few more hours.

Shopping becomes a consolation prize for the things that aren’t going right in our lives. We want to feel better. Job frustration, partner-problems, conflicts with children or parents, a vague sense of unease – the list can be endless. We need a quick fix, so we feather our nest a bit more – and somehow cross the line to become a packrat – or we indulge in something sweet, say chocolate or cake. Shopping also becomes a way of rewarding ourselves when things do go right – we’ve been promoted, want to thank our spouse for some small gesture or celebrate good grades – this is a list worth expanding, even if it doesn’t lead to shopping!

Mary Pipher wasn’t alone in seeing shopping as a form of addiction – a legal addiction, at that. When we feel pain in our lives, we want a cure-all. Or at least, a momentary escape. In this regard, lotteries and casinos sell themselves as the ultimate product. Buy something and see how long the excitement or pleasure lasts. Look at what you choose to buy when you set out on feel-good shopping, and listen to your emotions along the way. Ask yourself how much you’re buying on impulse and how much price factors into your decisions.

Another way of looking at the experience is to ask:

In general, are there differences between men and women when it comes to shopping?

Do you prefer to look around, just in case you find something, or do you set out with a product in mind and head straight toward it?

Do you go from store to store to compare prices, or do you already know what you’re willing to pay?

Where do you fit in this model – and where is your spouse or the rest of the family?

At the mall or in the big-box stores, most of the men I see are glum, being dragged around by their wives through racks of whatever. They look like fish out of water. (Maybe they’re wondering how to pay for all that.) Yes, there are the exceptions who enjoy plunging in – and we need to hear from them, too.

With the rise of online retailing, do you prefer to shop in a retail store (in person) or on the Web? Why?

How much weight do you give to consumer evaluations online or other non-advertising perspectives?

My wife, in her own great wisdom, simply tells me, “Go enjoy a good cup of coffee. I’ll meet you in a bit.”

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