Websites like Groupon.com have offered consumers unprecedented, exciting access to flash deals that must be purchased without much time to mull over their usefulness. And now we're all addicted to bargains.
The Boston Globe reports that "flash sales" are attractive to both stores and consumers because it enables people to buy crap that they might need and it gives stores the opportunity to force consumers to make decisions quickly, before they realize that most of the stuff they'd buy from flash sales is actually crap that they don't need.
True story: the other day, I was sitting at work, minding my own business, when I received a frantic email from a male cohort.
"WE HAVE TO DO THIS!" it said, and included a link to a Groupon offering that purported to allow the bearer of the coupon $40 worth of professionally photographed pictures with Santa for the low price of only $20.
I've been Everglades-level swamped at work of late, and responded with a question mark. His response:
"WE NEED TO TAKE PICTURES WITH SANTA WHILE WEARING BAD CHRISTMAS SWEATERS."
Obivously, this is right up my alley. Once, a friend and I got Glamour Shots taken because it was raining outside the mall and we didn't want to walk to the car. We looked extremely glamourous, although no one found them as funny as we found them. At any rate, a sort of brain mania washed over me when I realized that YES, I HAD TO GET PICTURES TAKEN WITH SANTA AND I NEEDED TO SAVE $20 AND THUS I NEEDED TO BUY NOW OH GOD HURRY BEFORE THE TIME RUNS OUT.
So, I bought the Groupon or what have you, and immediately realized what a stupid idea it was, but by that time it was too late. Of course I wouldn't have time to go buy a goofy Christmas sweater at that one vintage store in Boystown that my friend had his eye on. Of course I wouldn't want to spend one of the last precious after-work evenings before Christmas making fun of tacky Santa pictures while sincere children waited in line with my friend and me. God, I felt like an asshole, and I was now an asshole out twenty quid.
And thus, my maiden voyage on the good ship Groupon has turned me into another anecdote for a trend piece that I didn't even know was being written.
Madison Riley, a retail analyst with Kurt Salmon Associates, said flash sales tap into consumers' psyches in several key ways: the joy of treasure hunting, the desire for impulse shopping, the love of the deal, and the fear of missing out. Several sites focus on high-end brands that rarely offer deep discounts, such as the restaurant L'Espalier and jeweler Shreve, Crump & Low.
I've been Jedi mind trick'd!
According to the article, the best way to treat bargainaholism is to simply painfully click way through to the "unsubscribe" page on Gilt.com.
Bargain shopaholism rates are reportedly lowest among people too poor to afford a computer with which to access Groupon.