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Buyer beware: One luxury item can spark shopping spree

NachoBroadway

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Ever happen to you?

A new fancy purchase can make other possessions look shabby, researchers say

By Linda Carroll
msnbc.com contributor msnbc.com contributor

The gift giving season has come to an end and you might be thinking it's time to permit yourself one little luxury "” a small purchase, not anything that would break the bank. It might be an exotic end table, some designer shoes, or perhaps a fancy throw pillow.

Bad idea, scientists say. Just as a tiny bite of chocolate cake can dash a dieter's will-power, the purchase of one special item can spark a shopping spree, a new study shows.

In a revealing series of experiments researchers discovered that the acquisition of one high end item can spur us to spend lots more if the original purchase turns out to be a lot nicer than our other possessions, according to the report published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

"When we buy something with unique design elements and it doesn't fit in, it frustrates us, says the study's senior author, Henrik Hagtvedt, a professor at Boston College. "This is because the design has intrinsic value. Rather than returning the item, we actively seek ways to make the item fit, often by making complementary purchases."

So, has Hagtvedt found the shopping equivalent to the "gateway" drug, where a pair of designer shoes leads to a complete wardrobe makeover or a bite of cake leads us to consume the whole thing?

Kind of, says psychologist April Benson, author of "To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop."

"It's even worse than taking a bite of cake," Benson says. "Once the cake is consumed, you're not looking at it anymore. With a purchase, you keep seeing it."

That doesn't mean we can't ever buy anything special, Benson says. We just have to be aware of the menace of mismatches.

And, before buying, we need to know whether we can enjoy our one nice piece of furniture or whether we'll get frustrated because it makes the whole room look shabby in comparison.

"You have to know what you're getting into," Benson cautions.

Â
2010 msnbc.com. Reprints
 

patrickBOOTH

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Definitely. I also don't buy certain luxury items because it will mean I have to pair it with other things I don't own.

I love when I was in college in New Jersey and I would see girls in sweatpants, hoodies and $3,000 LV bags. In my opinion, if you can't carry the whole look don't bother because you look stupid.
 

NH_Clark

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always
... and now my wife is saying "I want nice stuff too"
 

musicguy

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Yup... it all started with my first nice suit. I quickly realized I needed better shoes, better shirts, better ties... fuck it's neverending!
 

ljrcustom

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^
very true... it's an endless cycle

-LR
 

TC (Houston)

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Every once in a while I take a step back and realize that our consumption (meaning that of my wife and I) has gotten completely ridiculous. At what point did we start expecting to have only the very best of everything?

The problem is not splurging on a luxurious item here and there, as in, you see something in a store that is nice but more than you planned to spend, but you buy it anyway. The problem is the quick and easy access to expert resources and research for virtually anything you are thinking about acquiring. A mild case of OCD coupled with financial resources and internet access is a veritable disaster. Most of us probably stumbled upon SF looking for information on some mundane item of clothing. Fifteen minutes later you decide those items are total shite, and two years later you have a $XXk wardrobe. WTF?!

The only solution is to be an ignorant consumer. I haven't bought a TV is about 4-5 years. I suspect the technology and picture quality is light years ahead of the stuff we have in our house, but I wouldn't know because I refuse to look into it.
 

Achilles_

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Originally Posted by musicguy
Yup... it all started with my first nice suit. I quickly realized I needed better shoes, better shirts, better ties... fuck it's neverending!

x2 It's a vicious cycle!
 

Jay

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Originally Posted by TC (Houston)
Most of us probably stumbled upon SF looking for information on some mundane item of clothing. Fifteen minutes later you decide those items are total shite, and two years later you have a $XXk wardrobe. WTF?!

So true. I've been working on replacing most of my wardrobe after discovering SF.
 

GoldenTribe

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Originally Posted by TC (Houston)
Every once in a while I take a step back and realize that our consumption (meaning that of my wife and I) has gotten completely ridiculous. At what point did we start expecting to have only the very best of everything?

The problem is not splurging on a luxurious item here and there, as in, you see something in a store that is nice but more than you planned to spend, but you buy it anyway. The problem is the quick and easy access to expert resources and research for virtually anything you are thinking about acquiring. A mild case of OCD coupled with financial resources and internet access is a veritable disaster. Most of us probably stumbled upon SF looking for information on some mundane item of clothing. Fifteen minutes later you decide those items are total shite, and two years later you have a $XXk wardrobe. WTF?!

The only solution is to be an ignorant consumer. I haven't bought a TV is about 4-5 years. I suspect the technology and picture quality is light years ahead of the stuff we have in our house, but I wouldn't know because I refuse to look into it.


/thread
 

Tobacco Man

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Originally Posted by TC (Houston)
Most of us probably stumbled upon SF looking for information on some mundane item of clothing. Fifteen minutes later you decide those items are total shite, and two years later you have a $XXk wardrobe. WTF?!.

I came across SF a few months ago while searching the internet for reviews on a Brooks Brothers umbrella... now I've redone my entire wardrobe.
 

kirbya

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...this is why I try to stay away from the malls and to focus on the essentials which, for me, are shirts. I find that the shirts allow me to leverage my wardrobe much more than any other single category of clothing.

My splurge, though, are shoes. Wish I could buy more than I can!

My wife definitely runs into this problem... seems that in the past 6 months we have gone from item to item needing upgrade. First it was a purse, now a watch, next boots, etc. etc.
 

mr monty

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Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH
Definitely. I also don't buy certain luxury items because it will mean I have to pair it with other things I don't own.

I love when I was in college in New Jersey and I would see girls in sweatpants, hoodies and $3,000 LV bags. In my opinion, if you can't carry the whole look don't bother because you look stupid.


$3K LV bags are not that common? You sure they were 3K bags or just a figure of speech?
 

Threadbearer

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Originally Posted by TC (Houston)
Most of us probably stumbled upon SF looking for information on some mundane item of clothing. Fifteen minutes later you decide those items are total shite, and two years later you have a $XXk wardrobe. WTF?!
Been there; bought that. Still buyin', too.

Originally Posted by TC (Houston)
The only solution is to be an ignorant consumer. I haven't bought a TV is about 4-5 years. I suspect the technology and picture quality is light years ahead of the stuff we have in our house, but I wouldn't know because I refuse to look into it.
Then whatever you do, DON'T click here: http://www.cnet.com.

Just walk away, man.
 

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