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Retail Stores are Seductive. Seriously.

Last week I had some free time around lunch so I decided to go for a little walk around the city.  With Mother’s Day around the corner and wedding season in full swing, I figured I should keep both eyes open in case I came across the perfect gift.

Being on Fifth Avenue, I knew I was out of my price range, so I headed eastward along 23rd street, home to my favorite stretch of NYC thrift stores.  I went from massive 10×10 foot window displays showcasing a few watches, to cluttered racks and shelves crowded with crap just a few streets over.

As I was sifting through a pile of used and discarded home goods at Goodwill I started thinking about how all these items were at one point purchased.  I imagined how they were originally displayed, shiny and new.  Every thing I now picked up in the back corner of the store I could see in my minds eye at Target or Pier One, tempting me to put it in my basket and make the purchase.  But now, as I rifled through the dust ridden bins, that temptation was noticeably absent.

Everything was in working condition.  Sure, things weren’t in their original packaging, but there were certainly no faults or defects.  So if the items were the same, why the lack of temptation?

Am I really that easily manipulated by the in store atmosphere and the glamour of the shopping experience?  Why were the designer handbags on a dimly lit shelf behind the cash register at the thrift store not calling to me like the coach bag so perfectly placed in the display on 5th?   And conversely, why does a trip to Pier One make me feel like I need throw pillows, when I don’t give them a second look otherwise.

I accompanied a good friend of mine on a trip to Anthropologie a few weeks ago.  I don’t shop in the traditional sense very often, so when I walked in, I remember being totally overwhelmed.  It was all so beautiful.  I kept thinking, I want ALL of this.   There were even moments of, “I don’t even know what this is, but I want it”.

Luckily, I’ve become enough of a pro at avoiding impulse buys that I was able to walk away.  But I did have the thought, “Maybe some day when I’m rich.”  Well, that doesn’t really sit well with me either.  Why should I buy a $20 coaster from Anthropologie when I can get an equally awesome one for a buck or two at the thrift shop?  Hello, lifestyle inflation!

After this thrift shop epiphany, I’m challenging myself to remain hyper aware in any retail environment.  Do I really need this?  Do I really even want this?  Or am I just being seduced by a well-crafted retail atmosphere?  Is this purchase going to serve me or will it just take up space in my apartment until it eventually winds up in the back corner of the local Goodwill?


Does the retail atmosphere ever seduce you into spending?

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