Getting high on shopping

On this Boxing Day, we find out that there’s some psychology behind our desire for deals.

There’s almost this hunter-gatherer instinct that kicks on these big sale days. And stores know how to take advantage of that competitive mindset.

It’s like the start of a race. Doors open, and off they go. But the finish line looks more like this. And everyone’s trophy is a little different.

Randi McCabe is a psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton: “They absolutely do get a rush of endorphins when they’re going on what some would call a shopping high, like a runner’s high when they go searching for those deals.”

Scoring a great deal sends a rush of endorphins to the brain. Especially if we feel like we’re one of a lucky few who have scored. Stores take advantage of that instinct by offering limited time deals and door crashers.

Randi McCabe: “People will feel like they’ve got to compete to be one of those lucky ones that gets that item.”

On Boxing Day, the crowds may be overwhelming for some. But in hard core shoppers they trigger an instinct to buy.

Randi McCabe: “We kind of have that crowd mentality that if other people want something it makes it more desirable.”

That’s why busy stores tend to get busier. It’s all about appearance.

Randi says: “Things like the way they display the products, like making people think that it’s a clearance item.”

Some stores will even jack prices up in advance of a sale, so the discount looks deeper. Even if you don’t need an item, it can be hard to resist the temptation of 50% off.

And get this: The longer you shop, the more you purchase. If you spend hours at the mall, you’re more likely to buy multiple items because you feel the need to make that time worthwhile.

Shopping can be a bit like gambling. You can get addicted to the rush. But as long as you stay within your means, there’s no real harm.


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I wish that were true.