The other day I popped out to buy a BBQ chicken and came home with two new bras and a superman costume. True story. Even I was a bit puzzled by this until I remembered I am female and suddenly it made perfect sense.
[I’m well aware that these kinds of gender stereotypes infuriate some people and I’m going to peeve others by drawing attention to my occasional reckless consumerism. Worse still, I may even be irreverent about it along the way. Yes I know. I’m the reason this planet is going to hell in a hand basket. Glad we got that out of the way early.]
My BBQ chicken experience was a classic case of Accidental Shopping, something I have accidentally perfected over many years. It’s very rare that I go out with a specific intention to buy something and then come home with it. That would be far too easy.
In fact, I’ve always had a theory that the more urgently you need to buy something, the harder it is to find. The Universal Shopping Gods are perverse like that. They can sniff desperation and they like to mess with your mind as well as your Mastercard.
Looking for something to wear to your cousin’s wedding next weekend? Devoted an afternoon to shop for winter clothes? Job interview in 48 hours and nothing appropriate to wear? Each of these scenarios guarantee that everything you try on will look dreadful, you’ll develop a painful blister and nothing will be available in your size. Frustration and disappointment will ensue.
However. If you’re madly dashing to an important meeting that’s already started or you have a whining child hanging from every limb, there will be a riot of extraordinarily cheap, flattering and well fitting items seductively calling your name from every shop window you pass.
This is how Accidental Shopping happens and how a BBQ chicken can turn into a bra. Or two.
Integral to my Accidental Shopping theory is my belief that there are certain situations where money is free or at least dramatically discounted. These situations are like a parallel shopping universe where your normal reasoning is temporarily tasered by your environment or your state of mind.
Obviously, this leaves you vulnerable to Accidental Shopping so in the interests of buying fewer bits of unnecessary crap, here are the situations in which you should be alert and alarmed:
1. WHEN YOU’RE USING FOREIGN CURRENCY
Foreign bills are a bit like Monopoly money. They don’t feel real and thus, spending them doesn’t seem terribly real either.
If you’re lazy, you may also be prone to approximating the exchange rate. As in “An Aussie dollar is worth ABOUT the same as the US dollar” when it’s actually 65c. Hard to believe those pesky little 35c add up but they do. Oh how they do
2. ON HOLIDAYS
Your holiday environment can have an intoxicating affect on your shopping judgement. When you’re relaxed and stress-free, full of sex and cocktails (assuming you’re not accompanied by children who will preclude all of these things and most others) it’s easy to believe your feeling of holiday well-being can be transported home via a wardrobe of expensive beaded sarongs or a collection of jauntily patterned home wares made by local artisan. Naturally you will return home and realise none of your holiday shopping remotely fits into your actual life and you have no storage space for your ugly plates.
3. WHEN YOU ARE AT AN AIRPORT
My penchant for shopping in airports could be a by-product of the fact that as a nervous flier, I’m often off-my-dial before boarding a plane. When I was really bad, I had to start medicating myself before I left home which made me the last person who should have been in charge of a credit card. These days, I’m better and unmedicated but still in urgent need of distraction before I fly. For others, it’s just boredom, another dangerous headspace when in close proximity to shops.
4. WHEN YOU ARE DRUNK OR HIGHLY CAFFINATED
Bad, very bad. See above.
5. WHEN YOU’VE JUST COME FROM THE HAIRDRESSER AND YOUR HAIR LOOKS EXCELLENT
This is a deceptively easy trap and I fall into it with pathetic frequency. Especially since it’s usually possible to staple on an extra half hour of shopping after a hair appointment. Don’t. Not even on the way back to the car. Do. Not.
Everything looks better on you when your hair has been professionally blow-dried. Even things that don’t look good on you at all.
6. WHEN YOU DIDN’T MEAN TO GO SHOPPING
See above re: BBQ chicken. Truly, all I needed was a chicken. But on my way to the chicken shop, I had to pass a toy store where I saw an adorable little Superman costume for my toddler. On the way back to the car I impulsively popped into a boutique and found some terrific bras, the kind I’m always looking for but can never find.
I’m not sure if there’s a moral to this story but I do know that was one expensive chook.
Has this happened to you? Do you have other times you think are dangerous to shop?