This weekend I plunked down for my second bottle of the Tom Ford Private Collection. I went with Santal Blush, a spicier summer scent to contrast my initial choice, Oud Wood, which wears well in cooler temps. Tampa just hit 90 degrees, so the timing is perfect.
I discovered the line just six weeks ago. Ever since, I’ve been savoring each spray, thinking about the 18 other scents in the collection, and experimenting with samples. Typical new toy stuff.
But, I’ve also dwelled on how I felt when I made my purchase. I was decompressing at the mall after a hard day at work. Solitary, moving quickly, low expectations. Neiman Marcus has historically been off-limits because they didn’t accept Visa cards. Despite an empty store and some initial coldness, the sales associate chatted me up (capping her probably long and tiring day too) and gave me some simple but much-needed attention. Finding the perfect product, after a failed attempt with Bond No. 9, sealed the deal.
I walked out with a glossy Neiman Marcus shopping bag, carrying a weighty gem of scent. The entire process – expedient, attentive, and a little bit special – hooked me.
In fact, since then, I’ve felt the most addictive and uncontrolled as I ever have, with regard to shopping thoughts. I just want more!! More than sex, more than chocolate. And not just more fragrance – all things luxury shopping.
I’ve resisted any other major purchases (that is, until this weekend). My plan was to save for a watch. Last Friday, I felt truly desperate to go and buy it after my looonnngg work week, but knew I shouldn’t. My compromise was a smaller, albeit still significant buy, amid the Saturday hubbub.
My second TF/NM experience was no less enjoyable, this time with the brand’s own rep, who spent a few minutes debating combinations and layering with me. I left again feeling satisfied, this time with a handful of mini-bottle samples, in a Tom Ford branded shopping bag.
So this is what it feels like to drop big bucks, feel a little fawned over, and leave with a badge of shopping honor (more than once). Was the experience, not solely the product, the source of my tunnel-vision obsession?
I could have easily gone online and purchased any of the things I wanted, but the experience would have been lesser. No interaction, no socializing, no shopping bag on my arm.
As I observe myself in the peaks and dips of mood and high related to these purchases, some obvious questions come to mind: is shopping an addiction? What exactly is addicting? Do I crave the act more than the tangible result?
For me, at least in part, it’s the quality of the experience. The goods are important too, but how I’m treated during the exchange of my funds for a product seems to be the true euphoric high. As ‘designer’ becomes synonymous with just about everything, and every price point, it can’t simply be the item, or the price, that determine how enjoyable a buying process will be.
I’ve heard of people who max out their credit cards to shop, but that verges on hoarding when it’s about simple object procurement. Has anyone seen the Queen of Versailles?
Others are addicted to sales, deals, and hunting for the perfect <___>. A lot of my friends seem to hone in on markdowns and are willing to sift through racks before they’ll pay full price for anything.
Others too become hooked on rewards systems, or the perks of regular transactions at the same store or with the same sales associate (freebies, etc.). But those processes are addicting for different reasons – they satisfy a different internal need.
It’s these things, these reasons we still flock to the retail center, that some of us are addicted to, that I’m not convinced the American mall, or department store, in whatever format they may evolve into, are not dead. I discussed this around the first of this year in another blog post.
Functional purchases that involve no real emotional connection may very well migrate fully to an online process. Grocery items, cleaning products, etc.
Sensual, social, indulgent purchases, which feed both a practical and sentimental need, need to be made in person. Those definitions vary by person and by income level, but the principle stands.
From an awareness perspective, shopping can easily become omnipresent because it is so readily available. Each of the motivations I listed above are clear to marketers, and are targeted daily via e-mail, social media, and online ads. I get daily sales lists, have a shopping app on my phone and tablet, and am enticed by flash-sale sites that introduce elevated urgency into the fray. It all becomes very overwhelming, and I have to cut myself off periodically.
Maybe it’s that technological onslaught that makes the in-person purchase that much more visceral and enjoyable. It’s the same reason why getting on a bike and just riding can thrill and excite at a basic level that you can’t achieve in a gym.
What do you think? Is shopping an addiction? Do you shop for fun, for a specific need, or for the social and personal experience you get? I’d be interested to know if anyone else feels a bit crazed after making one splurge purchase, only to crave another, and another…