Shopping Season – Compulsive Consumption

“This seems very familiar. I think we are going in circles here”, I said. “No, this is different. Sort of new!”, she retorted.

I had Déjà vu on the sight of that yellow t-shirt with an inscription “I’m Kool” in black. We had started with this section first because we were pulled in by a majestic force; a force stronger than our inclination to view the section of ‘new arrivals‘. The source of this force was a big sign board painted in bright red background and white letters that read – SALE. I vividly remember the yellow t-shirt because we had spent nearly 30 minutes going through the pile of t-shirts (also shirts, shorts, socks and briefs) before we uncovered it but only to discover a distinctive and disappointing inscription. The discovery was mutually disapproved.

After struggling with the first pile of clothes, a feeling of excitement in the form of an exasperation got better of us. With our hearts full of greed and competitiveness, we marched forward targeting the summit of another pile of apparel. We ravaged the entire stack in an insanely order of searching, picking, disapproving and again searching. This became a standard operating procedure for the subsequent lot of clothes that we found in our paths. It was becoming a great game of puzzle where we had to find a key for the exit door. The key, here, represented a good deal. And after spending so much of (useless) time on our quest, we dare not leave this shopping mall empty-handed. This silly idea is the reason we didn’t stop to reflect and learn from our experience. On contrary, we entered the next store with even more enthusiasm and greed – the more time we invest, the better deal we deserve.

The next store distinguished itself from previous in its sale offerings. It offered a Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal. And perhaps, something was wrong with my coffee this evening since my mind couldn’t differentiate between prequel and sequel i.e. BUY 2 and GET 1 FREE. Instead, it was so much pre-occupied with the latter part that we came up with 10 different (ridiculous) reasons to buy 2 t-shirts. Originally, we didn’t plan to buy any. If this was not enough there was another sale offerings – Buy 1, Get this free! – another sign board hovering over the stock of what seemed like a footwear. On a closer look, we identified these “free” items to be bathroom slippers. Few seconds past we realized that, all of a sudden, there was a need for them too; So much that it guided our decision for the purchase of a brand new (expensive) t-shirt. Moments of joy & celebration followed since we, finally, managed to secure our key for the exit door.

Alas, the joy & celebration didn’t last long as we moved to the next section ‘billing‘. Apparently, the largest human chain that could have been formed in this town was right in front of us. We could hardly see the staff at billing counter. It seemed as if everyone in the town was personally invited for this sale. One could spot bachelor guys with overgrown beard and mustache casually browsing through each section giving cursory glance to catch a glimpse of the beautiful girl walking around with her friends (girls); a couple in late 30s – father glued to his phone and mother guarding the exit like a guard securing the gates of a palace but straining her neck to keep the glistening black leather hand-bag in sight. Their 3 kids running in all directions with varied motions to ransack the set of toys displayed on the table – an image of chaos and fun to the viewer; another couple in their late 20s strolling through the store  – the lady with excitement sparking in her eyes gliding into her own dreamy world as if she could buy anything that she touched. The man steadily and scarily walked behind her in a futile attempt to keep his expenses low by holding onto his wallet resting in the back pocket of jeans. By some magic, all of them were standing in queue with each of them carrying more than 5 items of purchase. With mixed emotions, happy for myself and pity for others, I questioningly looked at her. “But we need those slippers”, she replied with a puppy-like face. “Well, not really. We can manage with an existing pair at home”, I said. I tried to reason with her but she was not willing to budge. She snatched away the clothes that I was carrying all this while and moved away from me to stand in the queue. I had to think of something to stop her. And all I could come up with was this character named ‘Cosmo Kramer’ from a famous TV series titled “Seinfeld“.

There was an episode, “The Rye”, in which Kramer had bought a lot (really lots and lots) of food items from a store that offered very competitive prices for bulk purchases. After a while, he had realized that there was an over stock – items purchased were more than what he could have consumed. I made reference to this situation and tried to relate with what we had been doing since evening. She, in a way, seemed to understand and gave in but on the condition of having dinner at a restaurant of her choice.

For me, as a customer, a promotional sale offers two benefits –

  1. Affordability by discount – to buy an item that I couldn’t have purchased at usual prices.
  2. Fringe benefits – additional items that come for free with the main purchase.

The underlying assumption here is the NEED. Economically, it makes sense only if the NEED for purchase exists in first place. It doesn’t work the other way round – creating a NEED to justify the purchase. Most often, if not always, we purse the second approach – a case of Compulsive Consumption. For instance, one common sale offerings – ‘Get a free item (think of something that you like) if you spend more than a certain amount.’ It might sound good at face value however, once tested on an anvil of economics, it demands an additional amount (than originally needed) to benefit from the deal. P.S. Take this suggestion with a pinch of salt. It works good with blogging but the primary result of tests conducted on a person from Venus were unsuccessful.

At dinner, we had a good laugh about this experience. However, I am sure that nothing will change when next time she returns home carrying all fliers that will be screaming about the sales and promotions in near future. We will still go out to repeat this history.

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