Sunday, April 18, 2010

Psst! Do you want to buy something else?

Shopping bags on store counter, close-up

Recently, I made a combination trip to the grocery story, the pharmacy and the vet office to pick up some needed items. I hit the grocery store first and since my list was short and I prefer go in, get what I need and leave, I was done in a few minutes. However, the pharmacy was not open yet so I recalled my previous hunt for an item at the hardware store ended with me empty handed and a suggestion to visit Wal-mart. Now, I am not a fan for many reasons and don't typically enter the store. In fact, my last trip there was the first in two years.

This trip was an unwarranted one--I had not planned on going--and an eye-opening one. Because I was only looking for one item and wanting to kill some time, I found myself realizing the bright colors, the presentations, everything was encouraging me to pick up more items--because they were pretty and not that expensive. I was taken aback at just how blatant the consumerist lifestyle was. Wandering in the cleaning aisle was overwhelming. As I make my own detergent and use baking soda and vinegar, the bright packaging seemed garish to my naive eyes. I realize now because the Wal-mart store was lit so much brighter than my grocery store, all the colors seemed more vivid and eye catching. Not to say I did not succumb to the siren call to spend. I came away from the store with one item I needed (more 5W-30 for my car), something I could use if not the most eco friendly (a refill on my lint remover) and one item I did not need but decided to buy anyway (a pack of three canvas bags I could use to make gift bags). And unfortunately, not the item I was looking for in the first place.

Because I confine most of my spending to the second hand store, I did not realize how retail stores that sell new stuff are really trying to sell their stock. Because I still watch television and do feel some influence of the advertising even if I generally react with skepticism, I had forgotten about the direct sell in the stores themselves. Yes, I am aware of the way grocery stores leverage their space to encourage spontaneous purchases. I know I am not perfect, but a list really helps keep me from impulse purchases. Plus, I am only focused on finding the items I want instead of what else there is available to purchase.

So confronted by the reality of American consumerism, I could only ask myself if I really needed this item in hand? The engine oil--yes. The lint roller--no, but my current one was only out and this was a refill, something I had not purchased in over five years. The three canvas bags--no, but $1 per bag was cheap and I had decorative items at home to personalize them and give them as gifts to nieces or nephews. Plus I was reminded I could make bags as gifts for others with all the fabric I have.

So be wary when you enter any store. A retail shop does want to part you from your money and once inside, you are subject to their displays until you leave. Wal-mart received three times the amount of money than I should have spent and that was only in the fifteen minutes I was there. They did their job well and I learned I need to work harder at resisting the sales pitch.

How much do you overspend in any store you enter?

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