Monday, January 23, 2012

Set 'em up, Joe. I need to buy a jacket.

         Guess what the "health and wellness" topic in the Wall Street Journal was. Shopaholism.

         According to the paper, 6% of Americans exhibit out-of-control spending in their lifetimes. Most compulsive shoppers earn less than $50K a year, and the compulsion starts in the late teens and early 20s.

         The Internet hasn't helped. According to a psychiatrist at Stanford who was quoted in the article, "Transactions move so quickly, it's hard to pause to reassess the buying urge." In addition, he said "Online money is no longer anchored to reality, so what do we do? We spend more."

          A professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa put it simply: "Usually the idea is, 'I see it, I like it, I want it, I'll buy it ---and damn the consequences.'" Apparently some shoppers suffer from low esteem, and think the perfect item will help overcome it.

          I remember hearing people say, "When I'm down in the dumps, I'll buy a hat." I never knew they had so many hats for sale in the dumps.

          On the radio this morning the news reported that 300 million apps were downloaded the day after Christmas. They also reported that three million Android devices were sold for Christmas. Good training for our shopaholism, I presume.

          What does all this portend for our future? Already social psychologists are worried about what we and our kids are learning by spending actual money for non-existant gear and equipment on online games, as we engage at higher and higher levels.

          Do we in marketing have any responsibility for this over-buying? Are we over-selling? Are we over-promising? Or do adults in a free society have the responsibility to make their own good decisions?

          Maybe we should give this some serious thought in-between multitasking on our cellphones, iPods, iPads, and computers.


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