Why do you enjoy shopping?
April 4, 2006 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Why do you enjoy shopping?

No, really. Why?
I'm talking about the practice of "going shopping", as opposed to "shit, I need a new pair of pants for work" shopping. For me, I think I'd rather chew glass as to head to the mall to "shop". But then I see so many others who seem to actually enjoy the activity. And it baffles me.
I find the whole atmosphere depressing as hell. The whole concept of wandering a bunch of stores without any real need or purpose is lost on me and I rarely enter a store unless I am actually in need of something...like a new pair of pants. But to head to the stores just to see what's there on the off-chance something I don't need might catch my eye...not so much.
And, yes, I took my meds today
posted by Thorzdad to Shopping (54 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Because I'm a masochist.
posted by xanthippe at 1:33 PM on April 4, 2006

One reason i go to malls... Chick'fil'a (except on sundays)... shopping is a secondary effect (this is my pre-2005 response)

We now have a standalone Chick'fil'a within 10 minutes of my home... i only shop on the internet now
posted by matimer at 1:35 PM on April 4, 2006

Because the TV tells me I need to buy more stuff.
posted by bondcliff at 1:35 PM on April 4, 2006

I'm not a huge fan of shopping, but when I do enjoy it, it's because I like rejecting things. Saying NO to shirts/shoes/pants/etc makes me feel like I have fashion sense AND it feeds my belief in my own frugality.

Of course, I only go shopping when I'm actually looking for a particular item, so for the cursory high of each rejection, there's an ultimate low when I've looked in over a dozen stores and haven't found what I was looking for.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:40 PM on April 4, 2006

For the men among us trying to empathize with the other gender's frequently-observed pleasure of shopping for clothing, maybe thinking of yourself shopping in a particular type of store (eg. Radio Shack, Barnes & Noble, etc.) might help.
posted by Firas at 1:40 PM on April 4, 2006

Stuff looks pretty. You can gaze at it all. You don't necessarily have to buy anything. An excuse to walk around, usually with friends. Having said that, while I was in India I completely lost any interest in shopping. When confronted with an intense level of poverty and with low low prices on beautiful goods...it was too much to reconcile. It's just stuff in the end.
posted by typewriter at 1:41 PM on April 4, 2006

This question seems to be along the same lines of "Why do those stupid Christian believe in that silly superstitious stuff?" (Also see "why do those assholes act all assholey by paying for something cheap with their assholey $100 bill). The answer is not going to put your mind at ease.

I shop because I like to envision myself with more consumer products that fit within a certain lifestyle I've chosen (which happens to align nicely with expensive consumer brand-name products). If I could acquire all those products, I believe that my real problems will be suppressed for at least a little while.

Then, I find out that Diesel doesn't make jeans that fit my fat-ass and my self-esteem collapses. Luckily, a wide variety of fast food establishments exist to help suppress these new feelings.
posted by mullacc at 1:42 PM on April 4, 2006

I love shopping online. Malls and large department stores depress the fuck out of me and I don't shop as a pastime as you're describing.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:42 PM on April 4, 2006

Because I like stuff. I get pleasure from looking at fine merchandise and seeing new products, from trying on clothes and finding an amazing bargain.

I used to only enjoy shopping for electronics and books, as those were two things I was interested in that I could shop for. Shopping for clothes was death, as I had no interest in them. Similarly, shopping for household goods and appliances bored me to tears.

Now, I am far more interested in dressing well and fashionably, have to cook, and furnish my own house, so I have had to become knowlegeable about those things and hence my interest grew. Today, I can probably spend hours in a mall. Pathetic, I know.

You probably enjoy shopping for stuff you like. You're just not interested in clothes or fashion.
posted by lemur at 1:43 PM on April 4, 2006

I go to the movies. Most (almost all) multiplexes around here are inside the big shopping malls. I buy my ticket, and wander around waiting for the movie. I guess I only impulse shop for food or books, though.

As for clothes, I usually take a day just to "buy clothes", go to a mall with a friend, and go store from store. And, at these times, it can be useful to have an idea about what kinds of clothes and prices are in each part of the mall. That's why, even though I never enter a clothes store on non-"buy clothes" days, I always take a look at the prices and exposed stuff.
posted by qvantamon at 1:44 PM on April 4, 2006

maybe thinking of yourself shopping in a particular type of store (eg. Radio Shack, Barnes & Noble, etc.) might help.
Nah. Stores like B&N really bog me down. I think it's the scale of the offerings. Too much to absorb, let alone make a selection. Too many choices.

When confronted with an intense level of poverty and with low low prices on beautiful goods...it was too much to reconcile.
And I think that's part of it. I see this enormous surplus of...stuff. And I know much of it is made for pennies, and so much of it will just go to waste. It just seems so...mechanical.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:45 PM on April 4, 2006

If I could acquire all those products, I believe that my real problems will be suppressed for at least a little while.
Are you serious or writing with tongue firmly in cheek?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:48 PM on April 4, 2006

We usually buy stuff at cheap places or online. But we go to malls and shopping streets and art gallery stores to wander around and look at what's available and enjoy the designs out there. Also, shopping for stuff like kitchen gadgets is fun because we can make plans about all the cool things we'll do with our new thingamawhatsit.
posted by synapse at 1:48 PM on April 4, 2006

I don't like shopping in general—it's long made me tired, bored and unhappy.

BUT—I do enjoy shopping when I'm at the mall with friends or on an errand searching for something in particular, then take a little while to look at beautiful, unique shoes in a mall display, or gaze at the many varieties of cheap (and cute) jewelry in Claire's. I enjoy finding something that meets my aesthetic standards, regardless of whether I actually end up buying it or not. It's the kind of joy coolhunters get, I think, when they find someone who's jaw-droppingly with it.

I also enjoy that as well—seeing what people are wearing, looking at their shoes and jewelry and accessories, etc. I often have the urge to photograph some of the more interesting ones. Some people have made their careers doing things like that.
posted by limeonaire at 1:48 PM on April 4, 2006

I don't generally enjoy clothes shopping, but I do enjoy grocery shopping, and I suspect the motivations are often similar.

As I wander a grocery store, and pick things up and look at them, I imagine what I might make with them. Who would I invite to dinner to eat this fine camembert? What's in my cupboard that would compliment this baguette? Would this chicken be as good as the time I prepared the orange juice and mustard recipe that I've never been able to find again?

Imagine asking the same questions about clothing. Where would I wear these pants? I'll wear this dress for our anniversary dinner and won't it be marvelous? Etc. Some people are trying on fantasies, not pants. Personally, my fantasies all come crashing down when I see how fat those pants make my ass look, so I'm not a huge fan of clothes shopping in general, but I totally get the mindset.

I do enjoy shopping with my mother. We like outlets and sales and half the fun is finding things that fit, for very little money. Mocking the really ugly shit that ends up in outlets is also a primary preoccupation when we shop together.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:55 PM on April 4, 2006

Thorzdad: Tongue-in-cheek. But I don't have a real explanation that passes my own smell-test, so maybe it's true.
posted by mullacc at 1:58 PM on April 4, 2006

For me it relieves stress--the stress of fighting for justice. I mean, is fighting for justice really worth it the fight becomes a zero sum game in which you either stay alive or do the right thing? I decided it is worth it if I get to go shopping. Sometimes I even think, shopping or justice? Shopping or justice? Which one has to go? I bet even librarians think about that dilemma.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:59 PM on April 4, 2006

For me, it has to do with interacting with the cultural moment.

When I was a kid, I was into all of those books like "How People Lived in the Middle Ages" and other YA pop-cultural history stuff. I was into the everyday things-- the clothes, the food, the furnishings. As a child, I liked to play dress-up and prentend that I lived in different periods.

Now that I'm older, I've become interested in the clothes, food, and furnishings of now. I like to see how the colors, fabrics, and shapes of clothes change from season to season and year to year. It's even more interesting to watch how the setup of the store changes. It's the same thrill I get when I can tell that a book cover was designed to look cool in 1998 instead of 2001.

Plus, I like being in public, people-watching, snatching bits of conversation, checking out those crazy teenagers...
posted by lalalana at 2:00 PM on April 4, 2006

I am a graphic designer and when I go shopping I basically see a million ideas. From book covers to combinations of patterns to logos to type usage - it's all somone's ideas realized. Now, they aren't necessarily good ideas, but that is part of the fun of it. As far as clothing goes, I like to try to apply different visual combinations to myself and when it comes to my house I only get things that bring me joy when I look at them.
posted by thekilgore at 2:02 PM on April 4, 2006

I've nearly always hated shopping. I went through a period where I enjoyed it though, when I realized I wasn't an ugly hag and sometimes looked good in clothing. Then I'd go not to buy, just to try things on and savor the feeling of figuring out clothes can fit and look good on me. But now I've gotten used to it and I'm slowly going back to disliking it. Too much to choose from, and I'm such a penny-pincher I have to try on fifteen pairs of pants to buy just one, because when I buy those pants they better be perfect because I can't get anything else. It gets pretty overwhelming.
posted by schroedinger at 2:03 PM on April 4, 2006

Oh, I've also heard the theory that shopping allows people to feel like they're cared about and waited on by the salespeople. And it's like a glorified form of dress-up (I can vouch for the last one).
posted by schroedinger at 2:04 PM on April 4, 2006

Though atypical in many other ways, my wife and I have pretty traditional male/female shopping tastes. I hate shopping (I buy everything I possibly can online), and when I MUST shop, it's totally about grabbing the item, paying and getting out as-fast-as possible; my wife loves shopping.

I shouldn't speak for her, but I've noticed that when she shops -- as opposed to buys -- she seems to be doing a very complex form of data mining. Years of shopping have turned her into an expert on all kinds of things I can't fathom: shoes, drapes, sheets, plates, sofas... We're actually buying a new sofa now, and she has all sorts of opinions (can compare one sofa to another) while I'm sort of dumbfounded. For her, shopping is research.

Also, both genders like to discuss stuff. Typical men like to discuss cars. They have to LEARN about cars in order to discuss them. Typical women like to discuss domestic details. Again, research is important. How are you going to discuss silver patterns if you don't go look at them?

(I'm not into cars at all. Pretty much everything I'm interested in doesn't involve stuff that's in stores. So it's very hard for me to appreciate shopping as social "research". When I see stuff in stores, I don't discuss it with other people.)

Though I'm a big Amazon whore, the ONE kind of shopping I like is book shopping -- but only at places like Barnes and Noble. My dad likes poking around for hours in dusty, used bookstores. (I can appreciate the romance of that, but I'd get fed up with it after about 20 minutes.) I like Barnes and Noble, because there's a cafe and comfy chairs. No one bothers me there (I HATE pushy salesmen!). I like shopping that isn't like shopping.
posted by grumblebee at 2:05 PM on April 4, 2006

The whole concept of wandering a bunch of stores without any real need or purpose is lost on me and I rarely enter a store unless I am actually in need of something...like a new pair of pants.

Yeah, but there's things you want as opposed to need, right? Sometimes you know what general type of thing you want, but are unconvinced of which specific item to get. Shopping, (I include the looking up of reviews & product comparisons online) can help you decide whether you want a specific item or not.
posted by juv3nal at 2:06 PM on April 4, 2006

Well, you are restricting "shopping" to "shopping mall", which is only one sort of retail place where people go for fun and not just to buy things.

I think the appeal of shopping/retail is that it helps us believe we can fulfill the fantasy of the life we want to have. I'm guessing that your fantasy of a slightly different, slightly better life does not include stuff that is available in malls. I hate malls, because they are full of shops that carry stuff that I don't want to purchase. My fantasy self does not have a closet full of fashionable clothing. However, my fantasy self is a fabulously well read person, so I love to wander bookstores. (The fantasy Luneray also has a snazzy office, so I like office supply places too. did you know that Sharpie pens came in 28 different colors?)

My husband loves speciality food shops, especially all the different sauces you can find. The more obscure, the better. My roommate actually had an angry outburst because of this--"the fridge is full of condiments! And not one of them is ketchup!"

My mom and brother both love home improvement places, and wandering through garden centers, because their fantasy selves have slightly nicer houses with lovely gardens.
posted by luneray at 2:07 PM on April 4, 2006

I live in New York, so shopping here is usually a vastly different experience than going to the mall.

Probably about half the time, I feel the same as you. If I'm not in the right mood, shopping can be pure hell. Especially at a mall. I stare blankly and clouds fill my head and I can't imagine buying anything.

But if I'm in a mood for shopping, it's different. There are different things to like about it. If it's a nice day, it's a nice excuse to walk around outside in, say, SoHo, looking at pretty things and people, possibly getting something yummy to eat or drink along the way. Then, since I tend to have a very limited amount of money to spend, I can try on a lot of different things and then think about which one I really like best--in other words, which one is worth spending the money on. This, of course, is the part that's hell if I'm not in the right mood. But if the idea of having something new is appealing to me that day, it's very fun in limited doses. More than a few hours is too much. Then, the really fun part is trying things on again when I get home. This is childish, but whatever. Allow me my small pleasures.

I am also that rare breed of woman who, more often than not, much prefers shopping alone than with friends. I don't like stopping and waiting for others or making others stop and wait for me, unless I'm in a really rare leisurely shopping day mood.
posted by lampoil at 2:07 PM on April 4, 2006

I am a graphic designer and when I go shopping I basically see a million ideas. From book covers to combinations of patterns to logos to type usage - it's all somone's ideas realized. Now, they aren't necessarily good ideas, but that is part of the fun of it. As far as clothing goes, I like to try to apply different visual combinations to myself and when it comes to my house I only get things that bring me joy when I look at them.

I'm not a designer, but this applies to me, too. I just couldn't figure out how to say it without sounding all like "I enjoy fashion as art!" You say it well.
posted by lampoil at 2:16 PM on April 4, 2006

I have engaged in "retail therapy" from time to time. Here's how it works for me:
1. I have a crappy day at work. Feelings at this point: depressed, put-upon, feeling that my life lacks purpose.
2. I decide to counter these feelings by seeking superficial joy.
3. I head to the mall. Typically, I will either
a) go to a book store and browse OR
b) go try on some clothes

Possible outcomes:
1. I spend an hour browsing books or trying on clothes and I find something I like. I get a cheap thrill of the "ooh I got something new" variety. I satisfy my need/want for new books and clothing. If the product purchased is good enough, the joy of acquiring can overshadow the crap that was my day.
2. I spend an hour browsing books or trying on clothes and find nothing worth buying. Well hey, I just skipped work for an hour so it's not a total loss. I distracted myself from whatever the problem at hand was. Plus, I may have read something interesting or tried on something interesting that I was not willing to pay for (for whatever reason) but I enjoyed nonetheless.

Yes, it's a crude substitute for actually dealing with a crappy day, but it works. I figure I need clothes to wear and books to read anyway. Also, I tend to shop in clearance racks or half-price book stores for these excursions, both to limit the amount of money spent and to increase the surprise factor ("hey, I never knew there was something in the universe that meets my specific needs!")
posted by crazycanuck at 2:17 PM on April 4, 2006

Yeah, but there's things you want as opposed to need, right?
Not really. I've managed to compartmentalize that response in me. I can't recall the last time I really wanted something on anything beyond a "that's interesting" sort of level. Maybe it's the penny-pinching I've had to adopt over the past several years.

Well, you are restricting "shopping" to "shopping mall"...
I only used the mall as a common touchstone. I don't mean to limit the scope to the malls. Where I live (Godforesaken, IN) there really isn't much else beyond mall and the big boxes.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on April 4, 2006

I do like to shop. Both actual shopping and window shopping. Like some people have said upthread, it's mostly because stuff is pretty. I get aesthetic satisfaction from looking at cool dinnerware, or shiny glasses, or well contructed furniture, or interesting textiles. It's a sensory thing for me.

I'm also hoping to go into product design at some point, so wandering stores presents me with inspiration.
posted by supercrayon at 2:27 PM on April 4, 2006

I can't recall the last time I really wanted something on anything beyond a "that's interesting" sort of level.

Wait, wait, wait! Are you serious? Forget about material good for a minute. You haven't wanted ANYTHING? You haven't wanted to read a book, see a movie, eat a cupcake, listen to a CD, wear a blue shirt...? If you've wanted ANYTHING -- even non-material things -- can't you map that onto wanting material things?

I don't like sports, so I can't LITERALLY understand the thrill of watching a football game. But I can map that onto my love of watching movies, and at least have SOME idea of what it's like.

If you really have no want-based cravings, then you're either clinically depressed or you've reached some sort of zen state I can't imagine.
posted by grumblebee at 2:28 PM on April 4, 2006

It's envy, just pure envy, for me. And indulging a fantasy self. I am broke, and there's no way that I can buy the stuff I want at Best Buy or Williams-Sonoma or Barnes and Noble. But to go window-shopping--and I am very, very disciplined about not spending more than, say, $10--is to tell myself, this won't last forever. And when I have money again I will be able to buy myself that new computer, and that pink stand mixer, and that hardcover. It really is to participate in a fantasy life... and it's not about a fantasy life where I have stuff. It's about a fantasy life where I don't have to be scared about money.

Sometime this backfires and I just get depressed about being broke.

It's also a very passive kind of social contact. There are times I can't really cope with dealing with people, but I need to be around people or I'll get more withdrawn. It's a great way to be around people without actually having to talk to them.
posted by Jeanne at 2:32 PM on April 4, 2006

I like food shopping. I enjoy going to the supermarket and planning meals, getting bargains, getting new foods I or my SO have never had, and people watching.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:35 PM on April 4, 2006

I can only wish it was a Zen state. L.
I guess what I'm referring to is that "Oh, I have got to have that!" impulse so many people seem to have that makes them plunk over their cash. Sure, I've seen things that were interesting in some sort of way and thought they would be nice to have, but I rarely allow myself to take that extra step and buy the thing. Books are probably the main thing I allow myself...but even that is a pretty rare occurrence. Maybe once or twice a year. But I honestly don't ever do the run-right-out-and-get-the-latest-shiny-object thing anymore. Guess I have a recessive consumer gene or something.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:37 PM on April 4, 2006

Yes, Thorzdad, but I'm trying to figure out if your senses are generally blunted or if this just applies to shopping. Do you ever feel the DESIRE to spend time with a specific friend NOW. Do you ever feel the desire to eat a hamburger NOW? Do you feel ANY overwhelming desires about ANYTHING? If you don't, that's something to look into -- my armchair psychology classifies you as depressed. If you do, can't you map that onto shopping?

Your desire to grab your kid and hold him in your arms = Fred's desire to buy a wide-screen TV and hold it in his arms. I'm (hopefully) exaggerating, but you get the idea.
posted by grumblebee at 2:46 PM on April 4, 2006

Because it's kind of cool to be able to walk through a huge building filled with every manner of widget, gadget, and device, patting your stuffed wallet and thinking to yourself, "If I wanted to, I could own that." It's sort of the same reason that newly-licensed kids just go driving. There's nothing special about going from Main Street to Route 109 to Interstate 495, except for the freedom of being able to do so at will.
posted by cribcage at 2:53 PM on April 4, 2006

Shopping produces dopamine in your brain. There was an article about it in the WSJ, the text of which can be found here.

Also, shopping malls are social places where people can meet with each other casually. It's a public space, where you can just hang out and see other people in a social setting outside of work and school.

Shopping takes no skills. It's free (you don't actually have to buy anything), and anyone can do it. So, instead of meeting a group of friends for a game of baseball or bowling, you can browse around with them.

If you don't like shopping, maybe you could join The Church of Stop Shopping.
posted by hooray at 2:54 PM on April 4, 2006

Ah, grumblebee...
Sure. I'm depressed. Have been all my life. Since at least kindergarten. That said, that shouldn't negate my question. Many people genuinely enjoy shopping. They find it fun. I'm only asking "why?" What's the thrill? That's all. Not arguing the point with them at all. On the contrary.

And, my urge to hold my kid ≠ Fred's urge. Totally different sphere of being. Much higher. :-)
posted by Thorzdad at 2:59 PM on April 4, 2006

I hate mall shopping, but I really like shopping when I can be outside in a nice part of town. I like looking at styles, materials, patterns. I like looking at all the really nice stuff I wish I had (fancy cooking things and gadgets), and I really like finding things that are within my budget that are fun for me to use, or pretty for me to wear.
posted by Packy_1962 at 3:07 PM on April 4, 2006

Some people (myself included) find it to be a great way to spend time (and money). If you have time to kill or nothing better to do, it is very relaxing to wander from store to store, browsing the shiny objects, no real objective or destination in mind. Retail therapy, if you will.

It's kind of like going to a museum, except the stuff on display is available for purchase.

Now, if you are the type who likes to save and views shopping as a utilitarian activity, it makes sense that you aren't into wandering the mall.

All in all, I don't think this is really something you need to figure out about yourself. I can't understand why people enjoy sitting in front of a TV watching other people play sports. It makes NO sense to me. I'm sure everyone can find at least one popular activity that they not only dislike, but can't see any point to the activity.
posted by necessitas at 3:15 PM on April 4, 2006

* save time
posted by necessitas at 3:17 PM on April 4, 2006

And, yes, I took my meds today

look, malls can be very depressing for a lot of people, you're perfectly normal

shopping in smaller stores where you can get personal attention, etc, is indeed more pleasant for many of us as an experience (just like small mom-and-pops grocery vs megasupermarket)
so, really, it's OK. also, if you don't have lots of money to burn, not shopping at the mall will improve your credit and financial situation

me, I go for high quality: I have very, VERY few clothes, but of the highest quality I can afford. and they last ages (a 15 year-old Burberry overcoat, a 18-year-old Lavenham windbreaker jacket, two or three cashmere V-neck sweaters that are about 10 year old, etc)
I am now wearing a shirt that belonged to my dad, that he must have acquired when I was in college (I'm 36). when my grandfather died in 1998, he still wore some tailored suits he had gotten _in the late Sixties_. sadly, I am taller than he is so we had to give them to a cousin. who still wears them occasionall, because of course they are starting to get a little threadbare.
posted by matteo at 3:23 PM on April 4, 2006

A lot of my motivation to shop is the same as what other people have mentioned above. There's an additional factor, though.

You know the Platonic ideal theory*? I'm paraphrasing ridiculously, but the idea is that the things we see around -- blades of grass, say -- are dim reflections of that perfect blade-of-grass-ness, which doesn't exist on earth; it's just an idea.

I also think that humans are constantly questing for that perfect state, which we can't ever really achieve for ourselves or our creations.

Then I walk into the supermarket or farmers' market or wherever, and I see a stand of tomatoes. They're glorious -- large, round, bright red, with perfect leaves. I know exactly what the textures and the scents will be like. They look like the embodiments of drawings of tomatoes you'd find in a kids' book. Now, I don't like to eat tomatoes at all; I don't like the mouthfeel or the taste or anything else about them. But I realize that they look perfect. And I never fail to be impressed at how close to the ideal we can sometimes get.

Having this feeling about tomatoes, I can extend it to someone else's hunt for her idea of the perfect shirt -- the one that will bring out her eyes, flatter her figure, show she's in style, be classic enough to last, and match other items in her wardrobe; the one with the perfect buttons or cuffs or witty saying. The ideal Shirt she's been hunting for all her life.

We look for unattainable perfection, in shirts or tomatoes or mp3 players. And we go shopping at least partly because we're hunting for our ideals. Who knows? Step into a mall tomorrow, and you might find shoes that fit you like a glove, never let your feet get tired, come in your favorite color, can go from the office to the baseball field. . . .

*Warning: I am a tool with the equivalent of about one college course in philosophy. I am paraphrasing ridiculously and quite possibly outrageously. Thankyew.
posted by booksandlibretti at 3:50 PM on April 4, 2006

I have a theory, and my theory goes like this. Ready? Ahem. Ahem.

My theory is that the urge to "shop", as in, to seek out an item, inspect a selection of that item, choose the best of the selection, and acquire it in the most painless way, is based waaay waaay back in our hunter-gatherer ancestry. People who were prepared to make the trek to fruit trees, selected the best and ripest fruits, and looked for low-hanging branches and other 'cheap' ways of getting them, were healthier and had more healthy children than the people who wanted to stay home and eat dirt. They could also adapt better to changing climates; rather than being dependent on, say, fish, forever, they could 'shop' for fruit or roots or grains or animals or whatever. Not to be sexist but this might also explain why women tend to like to 'shop' more than men; they would have been the ones out gathering foods and selecting those that were fit to eat, rather than running out and killing the first handy mammoth at Home Depot.

The urge to shop is not linked to the need to spend money or the desire for consumer goods; you will notice the same "ooh, I am shopping" sensation when you are, say, trying to select three pretty stones from a beach filled with them, or picking flowers from a meadow, or choosing books from a library. I hate to spend money and I have no need of most goods, but I crave to "shop" and I will sometimes indulge in these pastimes just to feed my jones.
posted by Rubber Soul at 4:17 PM on April 4, 2006

So you drive to a shop, or a shopping center, and you walk inside. You orient yourself, and you start looking at things you "might" want to buy. You read labels, consider costs, judge whether the expense is worth the benefit of purchase, think about whether it matches your living room, or fits in the corner, or makes you look fat -- when all is said and done, you either bought some stuff or you didn't, and then you drive home.

That looks an awful lot like work, doesn't it?

If you're not the type who can sit at work all day and do nothing (unlike some folks, for whom that is a dream job) then I imagine you're the type who also likes to shop for shopping's sake -- because it occupies the mind, keeps you busy, and kills time. Most of all, it makes you feel like you've accomplished something.

Unlike TV, that just occupies the mind, keeps you busy, and kills time.

Heh -- you could probably argue that people post to MeFi for the same reason as I posit for shopping, yes?
posted by davejay at 4:19 PM on April 4, 2006

I think it has to be some fundamental deep psychological thing. It's a symbolic act (since most of the stuff is unnecessary and without significance) and it fills a hole. The people who do it as a sport are filling some deep need or are perpetually trying to, anyway. It's never enough, though, is it, which may speak more to the empty hole than the act of trying to fill it.

I too hate shopping. The mall makes me want to hurl. A big part of why I hate it is because I can't answer your question. I can't stand it that we do this pointless meaningless thing, we spend our life's efforts accumulating random stuff and imbuing it with meaning. Malls are the epicenters of this meaninglessness for me and that makes me sad and angry and resentful that I can't figure out what we should be doing instead of accumulating and hedging against scarcity. I want life to ultimately be about more than the blind imperative to survive. Shopping reminds me that it's not, not at its most fundamental base. Everything else is just busyness.

I bet you and I have the same mystery need that recreational shoppers are trying to satisfy, but we just satisfy it in some other way, or don't.
posted by kookoobirdz at 4:26 PM on April 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't. I hate it. It's a chore and nothing more.
posted by Decani at 4:55 PM on April 4, 2006

Survey response number 47: I loathe shopping, except for food.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:19 PM on April 4, 2006

I hate shopping in Vancouver. I feel that everything looks the same, it's all so very well known to me. I know how we all dress, the streets and malls we shop in... yadda yadda yadda.

but plunk me down in another city, and oh boy!!!

I remember spending HOURS in a supermarket in Santiago. I loved looking at the different labels for the same brands of food that we have back home. And then I marvelled at the brands that we didn't have!

Ditto in Auckland - looking at the usual dry goods one can find in a pharmacy, or in a corner store. Hey, there's that soft drink that I like so much, repackaged completely differently - even has a different name, yet *somehow* I know it's the same thing.

Then I wonder - what graphical element has remained the same, yet what else has changed?

I remember being gobsmacked in Stockholm at the small choices for branded items - eg, there were two or three brands of toothpaste at the pharmacy at NK, two makes of hairdryers, etc... whereas here in Canada we are drowning in choices. Smart, the Swedes.

I'm a marketer by profession, so these things are interesting to me. How do you merchandize. How do you display. What prices (oh, don't get me started on prices)

Yes, when I travel I will go to the tourist spots and the museums and the cafes, but I'll look forward to going to the mall to see the DIFFERENT things that I could buy there.

I remember what a wise man once said: "If you had everything, where would you put it?" So typically, I will ask myself - would buying this object increase my happiness? If I am holding two objects in my hand, in the store, I ask myself, would buying these two objects increase my happiness - if so, which one would increase it more.

What else do I like about the experience - the welcome I get in a store, the browsing I can do (either in an art gallery, in a high-end clothes shop, or in the corner deli or the supermarket), the different and beautiful things that I will see.

Essentially the joy of shopping for me (when I engage in it - far too busy to do this with any regularity) is the looking at new things, experiencing good service, dreaming a little (when I buy clothes I will think about where I will wear this garment - all the way to imagining what I will eat while wearing it, with whom, where we will go, what we will do) maybe even take notes and pictures.

Shopping to me is not a necessity, but it is definitely a fun distraction once in a while.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:26 PM on April 4, 2006

It's kind of like going to a museum, except the stuff on display is available for purchase.

That's how it is for me too. Well stated!
I don't particularly enjoy shopping -- certainly I don't want the attention of any salesperson -- but I do enjoy scouring an area to see what every store carries (typically, buying nothing) from time to time. Even if that area is a mall.

In this way, I am quite different from my wife, whose capacity is around four stores max. When she wants to go shopping, it's to go to some specific one or two clothes stores (at any given time) to find a particular item. Perhaps this counts as a gender reversal.
posted by Aknaton at 6:58 PM on April 4, 2006

Wow, looks like you hit on a hidden urge with all these responses.

For me, I wanted to answer that I don't particularly like shopping (and honestly don't go clothes shopping that often), but I also don't like shopping when I need something specific because I find that frustrating. If I *need* a new pair of shoes, it really sucks trying to find the perfect shoes in one shopping trip. I'd much rather sort of think about it ahead of time and allow for a few shopping trips looking for new shoes and whatever strikes my eye.

That being said, I also thought about "window shopping" in general, and yes, I used to be really into it. But in a geeky way. I used to be pretty entertained by just browsing at a MicroCenter, CompUSA, or a similar store. I didn't *need* anything, but I really enjoyed browsing through the store for a good hour or two.

Maybe that's what people that like clothes shopping are like -- it's just like a Zen moment of looking at interesting things.
posted by jerryg99 at 9:20 PM on April 4, 2006

I'm a girl, and I don't like clothes shopping because I lack fashion sense. Last time my boyfriend took me shopping for clothes he told me I looked scared and defensive the minute we walked into a store. I'm out of my depth there.

On the other hand, if I have even ten minutes to spare when I do go to the shops, I'll go browse the laptop/pda/mp3 player sections. I can't afford any of them, but I check out what looks best, compare features for price, and decide which one I would get if I was buying. It's a fantasy, like others have said: I wish I could have that!
posted by jacalata at 11:14 PM on April 4, 2006

For the men among us trying to empathize with the other gender's frequently-observed pleasure of shopping for clothing,

I know you mean in general, but I'm female and I loathe shopping. I like browsing books on occasion, but much prefer to go to amazon. I'm not anti-stuff per se (though I don't really understand how people get really obsessed with stuff either) but the experience of shopping involves trying to find suitable stuff, dealing with bags and people and money and most important, time - time that could have been used for something interesting or enlightening gets wasted on comparing this random article to that one.

Shopping produces dopamine in your brain. There was an article about it in the WSJ

that doesn't answer the question. dopamine in your brain is just the physical manifestation of the sensation we call "happiness" - the question is, why does it cause dopamine in your brain (and you can't give a purely materialistic (hah. i mean philosophically materialistic) account because shopping is a complex conscious activity))

It's kind of like going to a museum, except the stuff on display is available for purchase.

but the stuff on display is completely devoid of any meaning or significance! It's like going to a museum where they put lots of crap out, and not even "on display" because the whole point of museum display is "let's contemplate the meaning of these items" whereas when you shop there is no impetus to reflection & deeper meaning but just accumulation... You don't go to a museum just to look at sparkly things; you go to understand history, to experience beauty, to think about the meaning of life... shopping reduces that to immediately practical or entertainment-value concerns.
Or, what kookoobirdz said above, much more eloquently.
posted by mdn at 7:43 AM on April 5, 2006

Intersting responses people! My take is slightly different. I come from a very poor background by Western standards. We rarely went hungry but buying clothes for example was strictly a Christmas or Easter thing. Each child got one good item of clothing, pants, dress, shoes and the rest were hand-me-downs. I started earning small amounts at 13 but everything was handed into the family budget until I left University. So I still feel the most intense sense of joy and freedom when I spot something I don't actually need but can now afford to buy, just because I like it and this is 20 years on!. Spending money on a lovley scent for example is a slightly guilty pleasure. it simply feels good.
posted by Wilder at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2006

I never shop as recreation - I go when I need to buy something, preferably more than one thing, and I take a list. I hate browsing and nothing makes me more pissed off than to spend a few hours shopping and come home empty-handed. I also loathe crowds.

And I usually either make my own clothes or buy them secondhand, so I generally only buy shoes, hosiery, lingerie, t-shirts, exercise wear, and some accessories in the malls. Otherwise I shop in yarn, fabric, and thrift shops.

This said, I generally enjoy the shopping I do. Because I make so much of what I wear, shopping is part of a creative act. Informing and defining one's taste can be quite rewarding. I see something new and get inspired. Buying the perfect earrings and shoes to go with the dress I've made is an extension of the creative process.

As a very visual and tactile person, it's a pleasure for me to see and handle the beautiful range of colours and textures.

And it makes me smirk to see something priced at $100 when I know I could make a better version (better quality workmanship and materials, better fitting, more attractive, in a more flattering colour) for under $20.
posted by orange swan at 7:46 AM on April 5, 2006

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