Shopping is not a team sport.

I’m a solo shopper. Always have been. For me, shopping is not a team
sport. I don’t even like doing it with one friend. I shop the same way
I exercise: alone. Not that this is always successful. Oh no. The
downside to solo shopping is that there’s no one to tell you that (a)
you can’t afford it (b) you don’t need it (c) you already own it (d)
you look bloody stupid wearing it (e) all of the above.

Last week, I met three friends for yum cha at Westfield and we decided
on an impromptu shop. As we cruised from Country Road to Zimmerman via
Tree of Life, David Lawrence, Midas and Mimco, it became apparent we
had very different shopping styles.

Jacqui* (all names change to protect credit ratings) had the most
extreme shopping personality. Over lunch, she begged us to muzzle her
wallet. “I have an ugly tax bill that’s overdue,” she explained “and
I’m the lead bidder on two Eastern Pearson dresses on Ebay.” Okey
dokey. We agreed to play the role of killjoy male and dissuade her from
“unnecessary purchases” (such a male concept….).

Perhaps it was the MSG from lunch but from the moment we entered the first shop she got a crazed look in her eye and started grabbing things. Remembering her plea and sharing her tendency towards retail bulimia (spending binges followed by guilt purges), I thought I was doing the right thing by discouraging her from buying basic cotton tops for $125 each.

Jacqui: what do you think?
Me (instantly): no.

This exchange was repeated with some unremarkable pants and an over-priced dress. The more justifications she came up with for buying something, the more abruptly I said no. Then she got cross with me. Apparently I wasn’t taking the time to give things proper consideration. When she saw me buying some of the things I’d banned her from, she nearly hit me. Hey, I’d paid my tax bill already and I was only following her ‘restrain-me-please” instructions.
As the afternoon passed, Jacqui transformed into the retail equivalent of a belligerent drunk – speaking little sense and becoming aggressive when challenged.


She found an Indian beaded skirt in Tree of Life. It dragged on the ground and was too big. Admittedly, it was stunning and $260 did say bargain. But I knew Jacqui wouldn’t wear something so elaborate to work or the pub. And it was going to need a good $100 of alterations before it could be worn anywhere. I sounded a voice of caution. She shot me down. I mentioned Ebay, she told me if the label on the skirt had said Eastern Pearson, we’d think $1000 was reasonable. I gave up. She bought it.

Next shop. There, Jacqui fell in love with a multi-strand black bead necklace which she – correctly – insisted would “go with everything.” It was $240. I bravely suggested she might find something similar at Sportsgirl for a tenth of the price (while admittedly forking over $220 for a different multi strand necklace of turquoise and gold that I’d fallen in love with). She told me to shut up and wondered aloud if Tree of Life would take back her beaded skirt because “where am I going to wear it really?”.

Friend two, Michelle, was very amiable in comparison. I later discovered she actually was a little drunk – the happy kind – having downed three glasses of wine with lunch.
Michelle was very self-sufficient and didn’t ask our opinions. She was, however, very generous with her own opinions, constantly offering them to those who asked and, frequently, those who didn’t.
I lost Michelle in David Lawrence, Country Road and then Zimmerman. Each time, I found her standing in the doorway of a stranger’s change room imparting detailed advice. They were uniformly grateful and she made some great sales. Pity she wasn’t on commission.

Friend three, Cath, had the most fascinating retail personality: total ambivalence.  She was happy to accompany us from shop to shop, she was patient while we tried things on and gave constructive advice. But she didn’t buy a thing. Wild. While the rest of us were getting more burdened by shopping bags and debt, she remained fashion-envyless. Smart girl.

As for me, it seems I have my own shopping quirks. In the interest of fairness, I should let my friends describe my shopping style:

“You are utterly unsupportive and narcissistic,” insists Jacqui. “You don’t give nearly enough thought before you say ‘don’t buy it’. You’re secretive and you keep disappearing.”

Well, the last part is true. Struggling to stay part of Team Shop, I did wander off a couple of times. Once was when the others were buying cardigans in David Lawrence and I snuck two shops down to Just Jeans. There, I found a great skirt for $69, fabulous aviator sunnies for $25 and the best cowboy hat I’ve ever had for $19.95. I didn’t mean to be sneaky. I wanted to share my finds and I texted them all to say “Quick, Just Jeans, almost free!”

But Jacqui’s laser-like shopping focus meant she didn’t hear her phone. Michelle was in someone else’s change room and Cath didn’t need to buy anything, cheap or otherwise. Go team.

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