Buyer’s re­morse

Ex­pats talk about spon­ta­neous shop­ping and how to avoid it

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - The story was com­piled by Zhou Ping based on a Global Times video.

I t is hard to con­trol one­self from pur­chas­ing goods on im­pulse when liv­ing in cities like Bei­jing and Shang­hai with so many su­per­flu­ous prod­ucts. Al­most every­one can find al­most ev­ery­thing here, in­clud­ing clothes, gad­gets and house­hold items that we don’t ac­tu­ally need or use. Decades ago, mar­keters and re­tail­ers fig­ured out clever, strate­gic ways to ex­ploit these im­pulses to boost their sales, such as dis­play­ing candy, gum and snacks at check­out aisles.

In to­day’s China, on­line shop­ping has be­come even more pop­u­lar than strolling through a mall, which makes it even eas­ier to suc­cumb to im­pulse pur­chases.

Mer­chan­dise is pro­filed in per­fectly lit pho­tos and mod­eled by per­fectly good look­ing peo­ple. Fre­quent pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties and new slick ad­ver­tis­ing meth­ods en­cour­age mod­ern cus­tomers to show off their tro­phies on so­cial me­dia, driv­ing even more peo­ple to buy and spend un­nec­es­sar­ily.

A 2018 Pay­Pal Com­merce In­dex Trends Re­port found that two-thirds (67 per­cent) of Aussie smart­phone own­ers browse shop­ping sites just for fun on their mo­bile with­out any plans to make a pur­chase; 77 per­cent of them make im­pulse buys when they do, B&T Mag­a­zine re­ported in May 2018.

The Global Times re­cently asked sev­eral Shang­hai ex­pats about their ex­pe­ri­ences with im­pulse shop­ping and whether they have any sug­ges­tions on how to avoid such be­hav­ior.

In the past, cus­tomers went to a store or a shop­ping mall to buy some­thing or just for win­dow-shop­ping. They could touch and feel the prod­ucts and closely ex­am­ine their qual­ity. But to­day’s tech­nol­ogy has turned win­dow shop­ping into “dig­i­tal gad­get screen shop­ping” on their screens. This has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way we think and shop.

All of our in­ter­vie­wees told the Global Times that they have had at least one im­pulse pur­chase ex­pe­ri­ence. Eve from Ger­many said she has pur­chased goods on im­pulse be­cause she wanted it or be­cause it was a good deal. Michael from France said once he pur­chased on im­pulse but now he’s try­ing not to do it any­more. “I did that mainly be­cause of the pack­ag­ing. It’s the first thing you see.”

Greg from the US said he im­pulse shops some­times, but mostly just ice cream. Ronda from the US ad­mit­ted that im­pulse pur­chases hap­pen to her from time to time. Gon­zalo from Spain said he would oc­ca­sion­ally buy things on im­pulse based on its pack­ag­ing.

“For women I think it’s eas­ier to do im­pul­sive buy­ing when it comes to clothes, so it’s re­ally about the prod­uct. It’s not as much about the pack­ag­ing,” said Marta from Por­tu­gal.

Dead seed ap­ple

Like the old say­ing goes, im­pulse is the devil. More of­ten than not, im­pulse buy­ing re­sults in un­nec­es­sary or even poorqual­ity prod­ucts, from cloth­ing to food, home dec­o­ra­tions and even cars. Eve said she has pur­chased prod­ucts that looked good in the store but turned out to be dis­ap­point­ing or use­less. “For ex­am­ple, a bag that you can’t put

a lot of stuff in­side.” Michael feels that phone cases are def­i­nitely on the list of im­pul­sive pur­chases. “You buy it just be­cause it looks good. You use it, but then the trend changes, and you end up never us­ing it again. Ear­phones are an­other ex­am­ple.” Greg said he does not usu­ally buy stuff based on the pack­ag­ing. “Im­pulse buys hap­pen when it comes to cars. You buy it think­ing it’s go­ing to be bet­ter than it re­ally is. That’s prob­a­bly the biggest dis­ap­point­ment I’ve had,” he said. Ronda told the Global Times that she pur­chased some cos­met­ics on im­pulse two weeks ago. “They looked great when they were demon­strated on me [at the mall]. When I got home they were so bad that I will never use them again.” Gon­zalo said he’s a prac­ti­cal per­son and does not usu­ally judge how good a prod­uct is from its look alone. “For ex­am­ple, I saw a pair of pants at Zara and bought them. But when I tried them later at home they didn’t re­ally look that nice,” Marta said. “But that’s the great thing about a re­turn pol­icy. You can re­turn al­most ev­ery­thing.”

Im­me­di­ate hap­pi­ness

Even though every­one has ex­pe­ri­enced buyer’s re­morse at some point, it never seems to stop us from mak­ing the same mis­take later, as im­pulse pur­chas­ing brings us im­me­di­ate hap­pi­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Jour­nal of Busi­ness and Re­tail Man­age­ment Re­search in Oc­to­ber 2010, re­search re­sults sup­port this hy­poth­e­sis and in­di­cate that hap­pi­ness and im­pulse buy­ing are pos­i­tively and sig­nif­i­cantly linked.

Our in­ter­vie­wees told the Global Times that shop­pers should think twice be­fore spend­ing their money. “You should ask your­self whether you re­ally need it and whether it’s prac­ti­cal or not,” Eve said. Both Michael and Ronda agree. “You need to in­ves­ti­gate what you want first. Make sure it’s good qual­ity. Read about it and do re­search,” Ronda said.

“You should try to look it up on the in­ter­net first be­fore ac­tu­ally pur­chas­ing it,” said Gon­zolo. “Try to com­pare it with other sim­i­lar prod­ucts to see which one is bet­ter.”

But Marta said there’s no bet­ter way to avoid im­pulse shop­ping than to sim­ply not go in­side stores.

Pho­tos: Xiang Jun/GT and VCG

Eva Gon­zalo Greg




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