Monday, December 15, 2008

IO! Saturnalia! Turned Into IOU

Having gotten power back on the dependable side, watching the media in action, I am not sure that's such a good thing. Anyone else inundated with bright colored dancing cute things' ads telling you life isn't complete if you don't go to (your ad here)? And I got a kick out of seeing somewhere that there is a new way to view the festive Saturnalia/(your holiday of choice here) which is a big new sales event on Saturns.

This isn't just a season that threatens those now jobless with a bad time, it seems to be hell on wheels for shopaholics. I may have to get that Chia pet... to put away for next year. Okay, what I really want is some flight shoes.

Anybody who has gotten a deal on a car, a dress or an electronic gadget can relate to the euphoric thrill that comes with shopping. But this year, the combination of retailers' aggressive discounting and current economic anxiety "is a disaster" for people who feel a compulsion to shop, says Terrence Shulman, a social worker and founder of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending, in Franklin, Mich.

The bombardment of promotional emails and discount coupons from retailers this season is "like giving matches to a pyromaniac," says April Benson, a New York psychotherapist who specializes in the disorder.
A group of Stanford University researchers caused a stir in 2006 when they reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry that about 5.8% of the U.S. population can be said to have "compulsive buying behavior," characterized by an abnormal preoccupation with shopping, purchasing of unnecessary items and adverse consequences, like "impaired social or occupational functioning, and/or financial problems." The researchers, who conducted a random survey of 2,513 people, were surprised to find that it affects men and women almost equally -- about 6% of women and 5.5% of men. Compulsive buyers tend to be younger (mean age 39.7 years, as opposed to 48.7 years for other respondents in the survey), and earn under $50,000 a year.

This month, the Journal of Consumer Research published another study of compulsive buying, using broader diagnostic criteria, which found that the prevalence of compulsive buyers in the U.S. could be 8.9% or higher. The study, conducted by marketing professors at the University of Richmond who surveyed 1,200 people, also found that compulsive shoppers are more likely to be anxious, materialistic, have low self-esteem and harbor negative feelings that are relieved by shopping.

Candy Thompson, a 30-year-old single mother of four in Indiana, attributes her shopping binges to bipolar disorder. In recent months, she says ballooning debt and other financial pressures have forced her to cut spending. But she nevertheless posted an ad recently on craigslist seeking "pointy toed boots and heels."

"I am a shopaholic and...I need to build my collection," she wrote in the ad. She says she already owns 220 pairs of shoes.

Okay, my closet holds a few pairs of really great shoe buys that have yet to be worn, but any day, now, there will be a need for them. More like a garage sale in my future. But it could be worse. I could be buying a wardrobe so that I will have something to wear with them. There's an inspirational thought for the season.

At least it's not 220 cats.

That this is a Wall Street Journal article is all the more ironic. It's their BFF's who desperately are crying for us all to Go Shopping, and get More Debt. Without the rampant buying spree that the Saturnalia season has become for those businesses, there will less for all those welfare CEO's.

Desperate times might remind our corporate sector that without a living wage, consumers mysteriously disappear. That would take an inspiration. Well, 'tis the season.


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