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Over the weekend, I got into a discussion with some friends about how we each relieve the stress from our demanding jobs. One swore by bikram yoga, one saw cooking as therapy, and another divulged she sips wine more than she would like to admit. But I was most intrigued by a friend who revealed she turned to shopping whenever her mood was low. She laughed that her therapists are H&M, Zara, and Macy’s, sharing that her spirits are lifted with each item she rings up at the register.

Unlike excessive drinking or drug use, there’s not a stigma associated with emotional shopping. In fact, it’s considered so harmless, it has its own catch phrase: retail therapy.

Retail therapy is a bad habit that hurts little more than one’s pockets. When controlled, it’s easy to keep hidden.

Marketers take full advantage. They often use retail therapy as a tool to entice shoppers. If I had a dollar for every time an ad suggested buying lingerie to feel sexier or giving into my assumed shoe addiction, I’d be rich enough to clear out a floor in Saks. These ads go unchecked because in our society it’s expected that a woman views shopping as a hobby with little regard to her financial or emotional well-being. It’s the American way.

For those reasons, most women engage in emotional shopping without recognizing it as an issue. It was interesting to see how many of my girlfriends at brunch spoke up to say that they are also emotional shoppers. Even though some of them online shop for hours when they’re depressed and know their favorite salesclerks by name, they never considered it to be a problem.

Do you emotional shop, Clutchettes? Do you think our society fosters a culture of emotional shoppers?

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  • shadow

    Society definately fosters the emotional shopper!! Retail cares nothing about you or your finances just as long as you can buy something out of their store! I am glad to say I do not need “retail therapy”. I am of the “low to no bills” and “money in the bank” variety. It takes alot to get me to part with my coins! & trust when I do shop I’m looking out for deals. I try to have coupons/coupon codes and I tend to shop off season. My sister-in-law, on the other hand, is still hiding purchases in the car, snatching the tags off of pieces, and washing & putting them away before her husband detects anything.

  • PeppyChick

    I will confess that at I am an emotional shopper and it doesn’t help that I work in the fashion industry. Shopping for me is an emotional experenice whether it is out of impulse or necessity. However, I now use a techinque that my mother prescribed to me. I’ll walk around the mall and pick items of clothing that I like and even try some items on. Then I will put the items back on the rack and walk out of the mall. American consumerism is rooted in creating an emotional tie that encourages the consumer to feel or be a certain way because they purchased said advertised item. As I am maturing I am understanding that there is peace of mind in feeding my own wallet ins lintead of lining the wallet of some billionaire.

  • I have a problem!

    I am totally an emotional shopper and I know the feeling of joy and satisfaction when you make a purchase or feel like you just got a great deal. It’s like despite what’s going on everywhere else I got this item at a deal that others would not have gotten or my style is so serious that when I wear this I will shine and feel better. An ex of mine once told me we could go shopping in Vegas if I really wanted to but we had to take everything back because i was just doing it for the rush. I laughed but it was true I just wanted to buy. After I wear that stuff once I am over the feeling and need more stuff to give me that feeling again. Sometimes I shop and don’t even take the bags out of the car because on the way home I have started feeling bad and know I am taking them back. However I have done what I needed I purchased. I also must admit that I get off on the attention from the sales people. I like to shop in the middle of the day when all of the salespeople are nice and not busy. They marvel over how good something looks on me or the way I hooked up that belt with that blazer. Wow, I have a problem!

  • Mademoiselle

    I’m not an emotional shopper–thankfully. I have a financial game plan in place that prevents me from being one (I think everyone should have one of those).

    I do believe society is set up in a way that makes EVERYTHING an emotional to do. Capitalism thrives off consumerism. Consumerism aims to maximize the share of each customer’s wallet it can capture. To do that, businesses have to make everything that falls outside of basic raw necessities (sufficient food, sufficient housing, protection from natural and man-made threats, and procreation for the sake of continuing life) into things we can’t live or continue to live without. So casual shopping becomes shopping for acceptance, shopping for healing, shopping for securing success, shopping for managing relationships, etc. Status is now a necessity–so you have to buy things to either secure your place in society or numb you to the pain of conforming to society.

    Consider all the things you own that you would categorize under “necessity.” Now think about how many of those “necessities” are only necessary to “maintain a certain lifestyle.” Imagine if “lifestyle” were not a word, and all you needed to do on a daily basis was meet your basic raw needs of food, shelter, protection, and creating life. How many of those lifestyle maintainers (including that guest bedroom or home office space that gets used once or twice a year, that gas guzzling vehicle, those fancy dinners and gourmet meals you cook for yourself, the eleventy-eth pair of shoes or earrings in your closet, the cell phone in your pocket, the intimacy toys in your nightstand, etc) just became a luxury? How many of them have you built an emotional attachment to that prevents you from wanting to live a life devoid of option to consume them?

    • Cree

      I love this comment, especially this:

      “So casual shopping becomes shopping for acceptance, shopping for healing, shopping for securing success, shopping for managing relationships, etc. Status is now a necessity–so you have to buy things to either secure your place in society or numb you to the pain of conforming to society.”

      For me, I realized it was more than just clothes when I told myself that I was doing it for “self-expression”-something I deeply desire. I decided that I need to do other things, and signed up for an acting class.

      Shopping-the act of choosing and then wearing-feels powerful. You feel like you are making decisions and creating looks and being more “you” than you were without the clothes. Not true.

      I have a friend who is living in Chile at the moment, and she says life is SO different there. I really wonder what it’s like to be a woman who feels happy and sexy and worthy of attention-and NOT because she hit up the sales racks or even keeps up with fashion of any sort. Lol.

  • Cree

    I had to catch myself. I had a lot of free time on my hands this summer….and went tra-la-laing off to Michael’s or the Thrift store or clearance racks. I never spend more than $15 at a time…but a few times a month that adds up!!! And then you see it accumulate in the closet…

    I think I was telling myself that the pricing I was sticking to was what made it okay. Well, I thought about that thinking and how if it’s a problem, it’s a PROBLEM-no matter what. I figured out that even with my new hobbies I was trying out, I most often went to the store because I was bored and wanted to experience something “new”.

    I’ve found going to the store and just window-shopping is a great way to cure boredom. I understand now that I go to these places mostly because I want to get out of the house and escape the AZ heat in somewhere air conditioned, and often, shopping is a solitary pursuit. :)