Today’s press release from Ebates bothered me a good deal. The cash-back shopping site recently surveyed 1,000 people and learned, among other things, that 49 percent use mobile devices to shop while waiting in line.
Apparently it “cures boredom.”
All the Internet at your fingertips – the chance to download millions of e-books for free, listen to amazing music, view more cat pictures than anyone really needs – and you decide to kill time by shopping?
Couple of things, here:
- How long are the lines in which you’re waiting?
- How’s your budget holding up under this anti-boredom tactic?
I understand that even five minutes in line can feel endless. It isn’t, since you do eventually get to go home. Even if it turned into half an hour of waiting, is there no other way to occupy your mind? (See “cat pictures” et al., above.)
Possibly some of these folks aren’t actually buying, just shopping – the equivalent of window-shopping in place. After all, some people can walk through a store and look at lots but leave empty-handed.
But the Internet is superb at creating need where none exists. Oh, that funny T-shirt would be perfect for your brother. A skin-care shop is having a sale on products in your favorite scent. What an interesting herbal tea sampler, and your tisane-loving BFF could use a little pick-me-up….
Throw in free shipping and you’re gone. As is a chunk of your budget.
We can resist anything except temptation
Even if you don’t buy these things, you’re now aware of their existence. I believe that the more bright shiny objects you see, the more you’re likely to go back and get them later on. (Especially since some e-tailers will send coupon codes to those who look but don’t buy.)
Do you really need to buy new things every time you’re bored? More to the point, can you afford to do this? And for extra credit: How long before it morphs into more clutter?
If you’re living on a careful budget, do yourself a favor and avoid this kind of aimless shopping. Cruising your favorite retailers to see what’s new or poking around on T-shirt sites “just for fun” is like a recovering alcoholic deciding to stop by the bar for a soda. Sure, he might not drink anything but Diet Coke. But who needs that kind of temptation?
Lately I’ve taken to deleting all e-mails from Groupon and Living Social. Generally I think such sites are swell if you use them right, i.e., if it were something you were going to buy anyway.
But these vouchers can also create “need,” and my budget is extremely tight these days due to my recent decision to scale back. Whereas I used to buy treats for family and friends fairly regularly, now I have to watch my spending very carefully indeed.
Dodging the want-thats
Not that I’m never tempted. The other day I found myself wavering over an Auntie Anne’s Pretzels deal advertised in the newspaper. “It’s only $6,” I thought, “and the boys love pretzels.”
Ultimately I reminded myself that there’s no such thing as “only” $6 these days, especially since I want to beef up my emergency fund after recent visits to my daughter and my dad.
So I just invited my great-nephews over and fed them Café Awesome-style. A good time was had by all. No one said, “Gee, I wish I were eating a soft pretzel right now.”
Surveys like this one make me glad I use a burn phone with no data package. Any time I’m stuck in line I won’t be able to hunt for virtual pretty pebbles. Besides, I have a magic talisman in my backpack at all times: It’s called a paperback book and it does wonders to scare off the want-thats.
Readers: Do you shop with a mobile device when you’re stuck in line? Ever have buyer’s remorse over something that looked irresistible while you waited at the DMV?