Posted by: brian | November 20, 2008

I had to buy it – it was on sale!

When Best Buy announced its latest sales figures last month, the company reported “an unprecedented drop in consumer buying of items like flat-screen televisions,” said Ori Brafman, a business expert and an author, with his brother, Rom, of “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior,” out since June from Doubleday Business. “But when Wal-Mart released its report last week, there was a surprise. Consumers had increased their flat-screen purchases. Somehow, because Wal-Mart feels like a bargain store, shoppers who have deprived themselves of luxury items elsewhere rationalized their purchases at Wal-Mart as ‘getting a good deal,’ ” Mr. Brafman continued. “Granted, flat-panel TV’s at Wal-Mart might run a little cheaper than elsewhere, but no financial adviser would include one on his or her list of Items to Buy During Tough Times.”

This article reminds me of a (probably apocryphal) story my father used to tell. A woman goes to the market, and, always looking for ways to save money, uses a coupon to save a dollar on cat litter. That evening she proudly announces her savings to her husband, to which he replies, “But we don’t have a cat.” Surprisingly, I can still be surprised by people’s mindless consumerist urges.

I also perused a few of the reader comments (always a risky proposition, but sometimes worth the effort). My favorite:

Oops, I accidentally went to The Onion’s website when I meant to go to The New York Times’ website. How silly of me! Oh no, wait, this must be the “Stuff ‘Rich’ White People Complain About” blog.

— Mulvey, Coconut Grove, FL


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