Monday, November 29, 2010

Retail Therapy vs. Buyer's Remorse

This is a good time of year to recognize two very real (and opposite) psychological impacts of shopping.  Why do we always feel better when we purchase something, and why - when we get it home - do we second-guess ourselves about whether our purchase was the right one?  For many people shopping is almost a habit ("when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping") and in my experience sometimes retail therapy is all that's needed to rid us of a minor case of "the blues".  Perhaps it's because shopping is so deeply ingrained in the North American psyche from birth.  (I heard the other day that the U.S. consumer is responsible for 70% of all economic activity there - precisely the reason that their recovery cannot remain detached from their employment rate forever.)  Or perhaps it's because shopping subconsciously makes us feel like we're financially successful - because we can still "keep up with the Joneses".  But then there are the private second thoughts, the buyer's remorse.  Should I have waited for a lower price, do I really need this, etc.?  My own take on this is that shopping is socially necessary but privately problematic.  Our caveman brain wants us to be prudent, thrifty, and save for a rainy day, yet we all want a flat screen TV as big as the Jones in the cave around the corner.  Nature versus nurture, Best Buy-style!