Jan 27th, 2016, 08:42 PM

Bargain Shopping: Pourquoi Résister?

By Mia Windisch-Graetz
Why we should resist bargain shopping during Winter Sale season.

We secretly wish they were dead, and if looks could kill they probably would be. I mean all those bargain hunters during sales season. Always one step ahead of us, they appear out of nowhere and snatch up the best half-price pieces from under our nose. Simply because they were a split-second faster.

Every year, while we are still recovering from ‘Excessmas’, the shopping orgy continues throughout January. Enticed by les soldes that promise discounts up to 70 percent off retail prices, the masses flock to department stores and turn fashion retail shops such as H&M and Zara into consumer battlefields.

Whereas most people can’t resist seductive bargains and follow the crowd, others decide to swim against the tide. Despite the cheap sale prices, there’s a high price to pay to be among the lucky ones.

I need those little babies.

Following the principle of Galeries Lafayette’s slogan ‘Pourquoi résister?’ most shoppers just don’t see the point of resisting the pleasure when it is so easy to attain. We certainly don't need for a new pair of shoes at 60 percent off retail price. Still, we want them. At least for now. Low prices allow people to buy things without putting any specific thought into purchases, no matter what they really want, let alone need. We keep buying for the sake of it. Or as York University sociologist Colin Campbell says, "we need regular exposure to fresh stimuli if boredom is to be avoided."

Researchers found why people enjoy bargain shopping by examining the brains of test subjects using fMRI technology. The pleasure center of each subject’s brain lit up on a monitor when a desirable object was shown to them. The more the subject wanted the item, the more activity was detected by the fMRI. As soon as the item’s price was shown to the test person, other parts of the brain came into play. The medial prefrontal cortex weighed the decision. The insula, which processes pain, reacted to the cost. Deciding whether to buy the item or not put the brain in a “hedonic competition between the immediate pleasure of acquisition and an equally immediate pain of paying.” While pleasure kicks in just from the act of looking, there’s also pleasure in purchasing, or more specifically, in getting a bargain.  

But do we always enjoy shopping during sales season? Actually, according to the following examples, we don't.

70 percent less leads to stress.

Shopping during sales season sucks: If ‘70% off’ signs did their job by seducing us to enter the store, we mostly find ourselves being pushed by stressed-out crowds that have their eyes greedily glued on bargains.

Hot prices aren’t sexy.

Sweating our asses off while carrying around heavy coats and other winter accessories, with a difference of 25 degrees between the inside and outside temperature, does not necessarily sound like comfort.

Time is money.

Long waiting lines in front of changing rooms and at the cash desk can quickly turn the joy of bargain shopping into an annoying afternoon trip. People start being rude and ridiculous fights break out over trivialities. What a waste of precious time.

Just don’t.

"If you see a sign for more than 70% off, strike that retailer from your list of places to shop. One should see 70 percent-off deals as a huge warning sign. Inordinately high discounts reveal that the company is not trustworthy as the store was likely charging too much to begin with. Discounts in the range of 30-50 percent are therefore more legitimate.

Non, je ne regrette rien.

Or maybe just a little? If you already found yourself in situations where you were wondering why the heck you just bought this silly-looking Bambi print sweater that screams anything else but your name, you are probably not alone. Impulsive purchases that we regret shortly afterwards are common.

Bad buy, bad luck.

Too large, too small, too so-not-you. Sometimes one wants to get rid of the recently purchased item faster than expected. Retailers, however, know no mercy and do not accept returns or refunds on sale items -- even if the print came off before you have worn it.

A waste of waste.

One will never wear it anyway. No offense, Bambi, but items that are considered as fashion faux pas mostly end up lonely, abandoned and forever pushed back into deep, dark recesses of one’s closet. Or even in the trash. Besides a survey showing that American women own an average of $550 of unworn clothes, the Council of Textile Recycling estimates that Americans throw away 70 pounds of clothes and other textiles each year.

Love happens.

But not during sales season. Forcing yourself to go bargain shopping will probably be a complete flop. Or would you like to go to a bad, overcrowded club with annoying music just because the cover fee is cheaper than usual? Chances that you meet the love of your life are not very good either.

Special moments when you fall in love with a piece, when it is made for you and only you, and when you start missing it as soon as you step out of the store -- then you just know that you have to go and get it. No matter if it is on sale or not.

“Instead of buying six things, buy one thing that you really like. Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity.” -- Vivienne Westwood

Tip: Do not fall in love too easily. Start being picky. Keep those moments special. And don’t let yourself get ripped off by fashion chains with random leftovers that are neither available in your size nor your style.

Resist much, obey little.  

The fear of missing out on bargains is a fiction created by discount signs that make us want to fill our already overstuffed closet with new ‘finds’ that we are not going to wear anyway. Sales promotions only stress out our mind and generate mass hysteria.

So instead of turning into fashion victims at the beginning of the year, you should better treat yourself by curling up with a good book and cup of tea and keeping warm in the wool socks mum bought you last Christmas. Though they can't be returned, they can be worn and loved on many cold winter evenings.

(Photos: Clothingsale.co.uk; MyWishstyle.com; LaRed21)