Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'll Take It: A few words on why we shop.

I had an interesting conversation recently with someone who'd read my last blog about authenticity.

Now I'm sure you're compelled to read it, if you haven't already.

In the case of my valued reader, after having read the Authenticity: Friend or Faux entry, she got to thinking.

Whether it's Target or Goodwill, why do we shop? What compels us to acquire? Regardless of the price point, why do we feel so much better when we buy a bunch of crap to add to the abundance of craptastic crap which we already have, in profusion?

What a good series of questions, I say.

So I did a bit of an unscientific study. I asked a bunch of people about why they shop, especially when it's discretionary.

And I'll add my two cents, too. It's not like I don't have a crap-ton of personal experience when it comes to discretionary shopping.

I tend to over-think things, and I've definitely scraped a few brain cells together thinking about what's so very compelling about the reasons why I/we go shopping.

For me, the act of wandering through a store has manifold intentions.

As I've mentioned before, shopping - especially thrift store shopping - is like going fishing. I could get nary a guppy, or I could snag a huge, fat trout.

Shopping is the pour person's Vegas. I could leave with nothing, or I could hit paydirt.

In my book, a lazy afternoon of shopping can be the ultimate luck of the draw.

Sometimes I strap on my shopping shoes when I don't want to do what I should be doing. Really - clean the bathroom or saunter through a store? The choice is clear.

And typically, after an afternoon spent browsing instead of producing, I invariably bitch about how I never have enough time.

But shopping is my time. That's my logic.

And it seems, based on my unscientific study, that everyone seems to have a very cogent intention when it comes to going shopping.

For many, shopping is considered retail therapy. It's a time to climb out of the cubicle we're tethered to most of the day and actually walk around.

It's a time to relax. Be still. Get away, while being close to your Real World.

The act of shopping is a time to be unencumbered by the You Should Be Doing Something More Productive Than This mantra. Because there's an outcome. We found what we wanted.

New, fresh stuff.

For others, shopping is less self- and more other-driven.

Jealousy. Competition.

It's the "I must have that because s/he has that and s/he looks like s/he has it all. So I must have that which seems to make him/her so very content and fulfilled" line of thinking.

Other folks in my unscientific study mentioned many other shopping motivations.

Acceptance. Addiction. Reward. Boredom. Loneliness. Stockpiling. Fear.

A pleasant shopping expedition suddenly sounds so wrong.

Of course there are many very innocuous, less acquisitionally prurient motivations surrounding an afternoon of shopping, punctuated by a delightful lunch with a friend, perhaps.

Socializing. Admiring. Browsing. Getting good ideas. Simply seeing what's out there.

There's a colorful shopping bag full of data that's been culled which sets its sites firmly on the psychology of shopping. And in these troubled times, the place where each dollar lands is a bit more sacrosanct.

I know how this may sound; I'm just a hippie, getting all heavy about something that's intended to be light. Now a relaxing afternoon spent shopping is somehow wrong? Gawd.

It's not wrong to do something that brings you pleasure if it doesn't bring you - or anyone else - pain.

But with big things like (you fill in the blank) or little things like shopping, it's good to explore intention.

And it's interesting to look at the data, if only to see more clearly exactly why you shop.

But I bet you know already.

It's all about intention.

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