Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 31, 2004
Some people shop to heal their pain
Carrying four bags full of clothes and accessories Stephanie Moss, 29, beams with excitement as she gushes out of a women's dress store. She said, "I go shopping when I'm pensive to cheer myself up."
"I really feel better after shopping but it only lasts for 24 hours," she admitted. "Sometimes I feel worse, having spent the money I don't have yet."
Edmonton Banker Nick Richards, 35, said, "Shopping - even window shopping - helps you forget your problems for awhile. It's a kind of distraction that allows me not to dwell so much on my worries."
"It may be fleeting and temporary but it still gives me a break from thinking about difficult life situations. But I know I have to face reality once I am alone again."
Retired social worker Anne Garcia, 69, goes to the mall everyday. "When you're alone and retired, you've got a lot of time to yourself. You can either take on a hobby or do volunteer work. I'm done volunteering and I am not interested with any hobby."
Frequenting bingo halls is not her style. "It's too depressing there. All you see are old people like me. I like the mall. There's different sorts of people to see and I enjoy buying things for my children and grandchildren."
Retail therapy? People resort to this to cope with the stresses of modern living. Although most people know that binge shopping does not provide a longer emotional cure for life's miseries, they still resort to shopping to ease sadness and to forget their problems.
More often, people who resort to retail therapy purchase items they do not really want or need. They think buying things seems to relieve the sadness, pain or grief they feel.
The retail industry actually supports this very well. All over the city one cannot fail to notice advertising like, "Only one shopping day left until tomorrow."
If a shopper decides to return an item most shops take them back provided a purchase receipt is presented.
In developing countries like the Philippines, returning an item even when it is not used or even when there's a receipt is not as simple as coming back to the store. Because this is the case most people are careful with what they buy. Most consider the hassle of returning things just in case they really did not want them.
It does not mean that people don't engage in retail therapy in developing countries, but such activity would likely be limited to affluent people.
Seemingly, seeing a therapist is no longer tops on the list for people who are dealing with grief, sadness and loss.
Moss said, "I'd rather spend my money on shoes and clothes than pay a therapist. (Shopping) is also therapy and I don't have to spend my time feeling sorry for myself in front of a stranger, who can never know what's really happening inside me."
Why does spending money on a shopping spree make people feel better? For Richards it's pretty simple. "It's all about power. It may sound totally materialistic. When you have money you feel you have more power than other people."
Lucy Purdy of analysts Publicis, which carried a nationwide survey in England in 2001 on why people indulge in binge shopping said, "Unhappy people are most likely to be trying to change their lives through purchasing. They will be changing their diet, or their appearance or their homes. And it does appear to be younger, more affluent people, who are doing the most dysfunctional shopping for things they don't really want or need."
Retail therapy is a social illness that is shrouded as a pain reliever, when in fact it also subtly induces pain later.
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