Some people, when they get fed up, will go shopping. Shopping is a kind of therapy.
Not buying. Ideally, they don’t buy they just shop. Well some buy, but in the knowledge that they can return the stuff later — so they are still technically just shopping.
Marketers have noticed this, and as a result there are TV channels devoted entirely to shopping which are very successful. Fed-up people spend hours shopping on TV, very occasionally buying of course, but I suspect the shop to buy ratio is very high.
Why is shopping so enjoyable?
Could be because it’s all opportunity without any commitment. It’s like joining an online dating agency just to browse. At any moment you might commit, but you don’t. But you could, if you wanted. You choose not to. That’s the thrill of it.
The funny thing is that this thrill spreads to other aspects of everyday life, beyond shopping and online dating.
Many of us have experienced the Netflix paralysis, or the Amazon indecision. Endless browsing without any decision. I could watch this, but then there’s that. Maybe a series. No — don’t want to get drawn in. That film is over two hours though. Oh — I like her maybe I’ll watch that. Wait — isn’t that Nicholas Cage? Now this one looks good, but I have a feeling I may have already seen it.
That’s a bit like shopping.
A lot like shopping is visiting those endless gift shops, often located in picturesque places you visit, and even browse the real-estate listings, but would never live — where you know you will never, ever buy anything save some sort of event that leaves you temporarily without reason. The shops that all smell the same — like scented candles is it? — and all sell stuff like those fake old signs with instructive phrases on them (Follow your dreams! or Live! Love! Laugh!) that are about as original as next door’s cat.
Unlike shopping, but offering similarly inconclusive pleasure, is gardening. Or walking the dog. Cooking stuff you don’t really want to eat. Oh — of course — browsing the damned Web.
Browsing the damned Web is a really good example, because you get led from one thing to another like next door’s cat following a laser pointer, without having to apply any sort of concentration, or expend any amount of staying power to any one topic. Again, pleasure without investment.
I feel sorry for those compulsive goal-setters among us who will seldom know this pleasure of the inconsequential. When they shop, they buy things that they intend to keep. When they browse, they look for information that they need. They check out the list of Oscar-nominated movies, then go to Amazon and watch them.
What’s up with that?