Why do we love sales so much?

There was a midnight sale at Quest mall in Park Circus a few days ago – a recently established annual event which throws the traffic within one kilometre of its locus off rails. The sea of vehicles converging to the shopping centre came to a near standstill for Hours since late evening, and traffic policemen stationed every few metres tried to make sense of the mad rush people were in to suddenly dispense their money on this one occasion.

Turns out it does not take an evil genius to control our minds and bend it to do things one wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. Humans are so gullible that this seemingly tricky job is easily carried out by cardboard signs/magazine pages/Instagram posts that say “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop” or “Never settle for less than the best” or “New shoes chase the blues” or the deadly “flat 50% off”. The effect is such that a person who wouldn’t spend 1000 rupees for a shirt will happily shell out 2500 rupees for a top because on a different day it would cost 2500 more.

So why do we fall for such gimmicks? Psychologists suggest the problem is more deep rooted than  what meets the eye. The motivation to compulsive shopping (yes, that is what it is) are understood as follows:

1. Situational: sales signs, magazine ads, bad weather

2. Cognitive: feeling guilty, deserving a reward, rationalisation

3. Interpersonal: buying after a fight, attempting to impress peers, nice salesperson

4. Emotional: feeling excited, sad, lonely, stressed, or even euphoric

5. Physical: as a substitute for eating, or alcohol.

These are also the common answers to the question “Why are you shopping?”

Unfortunately this is followed by a series of, or at least one of, the typical aftershocks which can be –

  1. financial (calls from creditors; poor credit rating; massive overdrafts)
  2. relationship based (secretiveness; fights; clutter),
  3. emotional (depressed; ashamed; angry),
  4. work-based (lowered performance; long hours; stealing),
  5. physical body (headaches; sleeping problems),
  6. personal development (wasted time; fewer holidays),
  7. spiritual (mismatch of values and lifestyle).

If you are already feeling relieved that you suffer none of the above regrets, you have another think coming. The regrets are probably asking because you made one hell of a deal making the purchases during a “sale” period which saved you a lot of money. But honestly, it was just us regular folks responding to satisfy a mad craving for an addiction which the marketing executives had discovered very long ago. It’s basically like cheating on a diet by eating one really large cake instead of five small pastries with the mindset that you consumed only ONE dessert – just the other way round.

Shopping mindlessly just because the items on sale temporarily appear to cost less is an addiction, and therefore, a very real problem.

No wonder it is called retail therapy.

-by Zaiceka Ahmed

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