Shopping And Gifting — A Substitute For Sex?
I can’t believe that my dear husband, who suffers from “crowd-o-phobia” actually took me shopping on Black Friday. It just proves that nobody is immune to a good sale.
Pittsburgh, whence comes this Black Friday article, is really no different from anywhere else in these United States. I remember when growing up, my brother of blessed memory and myself were told by our parents that the Friday after Thanksgiving was simply a strange ritual in which Christians had some sort of mob-fever, and if we stood out of downtown Boston and the bigger shopping centers, as a family, probably nobody would get hurt. Now, shopping seems to have a fervor previously reserved only for religion. I think this year is the first time I ever heard the term “Black Friday” which I think is a perverse one and sounds rather too goth for my taste. Rest assured that people have spent a lot of money on the study of applied psychology of what makes people buy things. After all, people who sell things for a living have a highly vested interest, even though I have heard of nothing but enormous margins in retail sales, and this article insists they are small.
U. Texas at Austin is really trying to illuminate the situation, even though some of their assertions seem like we already know them. For instance, they nail the differences in sensory input patterns that make women enjoy the shopping experience more than men do.
It is probably good for you to know that the ways in which objects are displayed for sale are meant to be seductive beyond consciousness, and that everybody seems to know that the longer they keep you in the store, the more likely you are to buy something.
Like any task perceived as important, Christmas Shopping can be perceived as a subject of … Procrastination. Yes, this is actually recognized as a sub- specialty in psychology. I have a vivid memory of shopping for my friendly histology professor, a glamorous and brilliant woman, in downtown Paris, where she had an apartment in close proximity to a shopping mall. She gave me some cash and a list, and her amazing prediction was true. She sent me out about one hour before the stores were to close on Christmas eve. I got the shopping done in record time, as there was not a single person in the entire mall, a situation I have not experienced before or since, and am reasonably sure cannot be experienced anywhere I know in America.
Apparently there are people with “trait procrastination” — People who procrastinate in other areas of their lives, and who do so in Christmas Shopping, too. They generally have “excuses,” such as improved prices right before Christmas. It occurs to me, malls were a new idea in France back then (the late 1970s), and maybe people just didn’t know how late the Parisian mall was open on Christmas Eve. There is one thing that is certain — people love giving gifts. The idea of somehow rendering concrete that which most people regard as difficult to speak of yet consider primordially important — a relationship — is seductive. We don’t send out many gifts anymore, but my memories of giving gifts are far more likely to bring a smile to my face than any memory of receiving one. For receiving one, it was a Freudian colleague who once pointed out to me that it was a sexual equivalent. If so, even if a gift has been a bit pricey, with the avoidance of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and maybe at least some limitation of emotional involvement, it may be the safest sex going. So enjoy gifting as well as gift receiving (and opening), primarily a secular and maybe a sexual exercise, but apparently the safest we have.