Your Shopping Personality Explained
Annie Tucker Morgan | DivineCaroline
November 12, 2010
I’ve never been a mall rat, even when I was a teenager. In fact, I used to have pretty severe physical reactions whenever I spent more than an hour in a clothing store.
It all started when I was about five and my mother, whose patience for bargain hunting equals that of a Labrador retriever waiting for food scraps to fall from the dinner table, began dragging me around with her on her marathon shopping excursions. As she rifled gleefully through rack after rack of dresses and coats, I’d become woozy and sweaty, my legs would drag, and I’d beg her to take me home.
Despite the severity of my malaise, my mom never complied with my requests—the woman was like a heat-seeking missile in her quest to find the perfect outfit at the perfect price.
Even now, decades later, my shopping “allergy” pops up here and there, especially in crowded megastores, but I’ve learned to fight it when I need to power through my holiday gift buying or get a week’s worth of groceries on a Saturday.
I’ve also realized that there’s a full spectrum of shopping personalities out there, from rabid consumers for whom retail therapy is a full-time pursuit to undercover buyers who become best friends with their UPS driver because they make all their purchases online. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of this range—we make lists and mostly stick to them, we save for big purchases, and we know when to rein ourselves in—but a number of other shopping personalities exist as well.
As of 2006, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry, approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population falls under this psychologically troubled category. By far the most destructive form of shopping, compulsive-buying disorder can be as addictive as alcohol or drugs, says Dr. James Mitchell, chairman of the department of neuroscience at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
If you’re skeptical, consider the 2006 case of Betty Jean Barachie, a Pennsylvania woman who was sentenced to twenty-seven months in prison as a result of her out-of-control spending habits. As a credit union employee, Barachie earned an annual salary of $40,000—which wasn’t nearly enough to cover the cost of all the purchases she couldn’t resist making. So she embezzled $1.5 million from her employer over an eight-year period and then used the money to buy a staggering array of items, including hundreds of pairs of shoes, fifty-eight coats, and sixteen chain saws.