Wikipedia defines retail therapy as “shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition” and that it is “often seen in people during periods of depression”. For my part, I don’t understand this. Even when I’m not depressed, shopping makes me feel suicidal. And while I agree that suicide could be a cure for depression, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘therapy’. It’s more of a last resort.
Frankly, I can’t even believe that ‘shopping’ and ‘therapy’ could ever be in the same sentence. Unless the sentence is ‘People who like shopping really need therapy’.
Shopping is one of the most stressful and agonizing things I’ve done. From the time I walk into the store until the time I walk out, every moment is excruciating.
When I enter, the guard at the door wishes me a ‘good morning’. I know that he’s trying to be polite, but I can’t help but feel that his words are slightly mocking, because how can he wish me a ‘good morning’ when he knows that I have to spend the rest of my morning shopping? That can’t possibly be his, or anyone’s, definition of a ‘good morning’.
Then I have to hand over any other bags that I might have, to the lady at the baggage counter. She spends an eternity searching for a free baggage compartment, then stuffs my bag into it, and hands me a token that I have to keep safely for the next few hours, if I want my bags back. Yeah, thanks a lot. This is how you treat potential customers. You give them tiny plastic discs that they’re not allowed to lose. That’s basically like saying, “Thanks for coming to our store. Here’s your welcome gift: stress. Enjoy your shopping!”
After that comes the actual shopping. All I need is a T-shirt that fits. But then a swarm of enthusiastic salespeople coming rushing towards me, offering to help me find myself a whole new wardrobe. “I just need a T-Shirt,” I say quickly. “What colour?” they ask. “Umm…red, I guess.” I say. So they go away for a few seconds and then come back with all the T-shirts in the store. They proudly display T-shirts that apparently are shades of ‘crimson, ruby, rust, maroon, salmon’ and more strangely, shades they refer to as ‘desire red and lusty red.’ “But all I need is red,” I say helplessly, “Plain red. No lust and no desire.” This usually stumps them. So I leave my mother to decide which shade resembles ‘red’ the most, and I go off to the footwear department to measure my feet on the foot-measuring gauge for the umpteenth time and to wonder why my left foot is a size larger than my right.
When my mother comes back with an almost red shirt, I have to try it on. I go to the changing rooms which is jam-packed with people asking their relatives and friends if the clothes they’ve picked out make them look fat. Well, I’ve got news for them. No one ‘looks fat’. Either you are fat or you aren’t. If you’re fat, you’re going to look fat as well. Skinny jeans are not going to make you miraculously thin. When I finally manage to squeeze into a changing room, I wear the shirt cautiously. I have no idea why, but until today I have never worn a T-shirt to find that the first size that I pick is the right size. I’m forced to try on every size until I find one that fits. And that’s only if I’m lucky. Usually my size is an odd number, and since they only make T-shirts with sizes in multiples of two, nothing really ‘fits’.
By now I’m frustrated and almost weeping in despair so I just grab something wearable and go to the billing counter. But here too I’m forced to stand in a line because only one billing counter’s open because the others are off ‘having lunch’ at eleven a.m. in the morning. In shopping store speak, ‘having lunch’ means ‘watching cricket’.
I’m invariably stuck behind a woman who has bought new wardrobes for her entire family. Apparently, she’s also carrying her entire family with her in her handbag, because when the man asks for her credit card she rummages through it for an hour, one by one procuring everything she owns. When she’s finally found it she hands it over, and then the man gives her a scratch card and says that she should text the alphabets on the scratch card to some particular five-digit phone number, and then she might win a trip to Malaysia. Or, less extravagantly, a 5% discount on her next purchase. She scratches it excitedly and then spends the next hour searching for the letter ‘x’ on her cell phone keys, while I try very hard not to kill myself by slitting my wrists with my fingernails.
When I’m finally done, I rush towards the door. But once again I am forced to wait while the lady at the baggage counter struggles to find my bags that are sitting right there in front her.
When I’ve finally got everything I rush out into the open air, and breathe in the freedom, like a prisoner stepping out of jail after being imprisoned for ten years. It’s a good feeling.
I’ll summarize by saying that the things which make shopping so bad include the queues, the meddlesome salespeople and the dim-wittedness of some shoppers. But the absolute worst thing about shopping is this: There is no solution to it. It is something we will be forced to live with.
I can end by saying only one thing:
Shop till you drop is the worst consumer advice ever.