Emotional online shopping

For a long time I have been interested in the psychology behind shopping.  In my life I have seen groups of people aggressively hammering on a shop front door to be let into a boxing day sale.   I have seen news footage of people trampled to death in the desire to obtain a gift voucher.  I have seen great reams of offensive comments on companies’ Facebook pages because people were unable to access their website during a sale. Also on a company’s Facebook page I have seen people claim they cannot sleep and are afraid to leave the house due to excitement about a product launch (and the anxiety of missing it being released).

With the exception of the people who were trampled to death whilst queuing in the hope of receiving a credit voucher (in Saudi Arabia, at an Ikea event) all of this anger, anxiety and sleeplessness was caused by people wanting to buy something and being obstructed by the company.  If you’re wondering if I’m talking about a purchase of necessity – food or water, for example – you’d be wrong.  When I worked at H&M I witnessed hordes of people in Southampton hammering on the front doors to be let into our post Christmas (clothes) sale.  The abuse directed at a company, was during a Model’s Own sale (cosmetics) and the people who could not sleep and were afraid to leave the house for fear of missing the opportunity to buy a new product were all proclaiming so on the Boudoir Prive Facebook.

Seeing these things, I can’t help but feel that we haven’t all gone a little bit mad.  Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping.  In the run up to payday I have been known to make lists of all the things I want to buy the following month.  We all blog our wishlists – and then blog what we’ve bought when we allow ourselves a splurge.  I feel comfortable with this.  I admit I feel disappointment when I want to buy something and it sells out, or I get sniped on eBay on something I really wanted, but this feeling quickly passes.  It does not turn into rage or upset.  It worries me that we have become a nation so dependent on the thrill and excitement of shopping that when the opportunity is withdrawn from us we turn to anger and aggression.  It makes me feel sad that people are counting down the days, lying awake at night or refusing to leave the house because of the anticipation of being able to order a beauty sample box, or a half price nail varnish.  I am not being ‘holier than thou’ here – I’m guessing (hoping?) it’s a small minority of people who are experiencing these type of emotions at being met with a barrier to being able to buy.  I am guessing most people feel like me – if I can’t buy it, and it’s not a basic necessity like food or water (no matter how I try, stationery and shoes do not fit into this category) then… well, I am okay with it.  The world will not drop off its axis, life as we know it will not grind to a halt.  I can live without a Betty Blue Model’s Own nail varnish or an H&M vest with 50% off (and let’s face it, their sale items are usually pretty horrid anyway).

In a way, you have to give these company’s PR/Marketing teams a pat on the back (well, maybe not for causing such mass hysteria that people actually died.)  But I can’t help thinking this isn’t a positive step.  I can’t help thinking we should be telling people… you know what, if you can’t buy that nail varnish or that vest, you didn’t win the Ikea voucher or the discount code, or you’re not first in line to order the beauty sample box… it’s okay! Turn the computer off, step outside, and go for a walk.  Get some good old fashioned fresh air.  There’s a whole world out there (and psssst… it’s free!)