If you’re an avid online shopper, you’re probably aware that one of the biggest dates on the calendar is coming up next week – the Vogue Online Shopping Night (VOSN).
The online shopping bonanza will kick off midday on Wednesday April 3, and run right through to midday on Thursday April 4 – that means 24hours of serious spending, scouring the retailers you would never normally be able to afford. Participating stores will slash prices on their latest and greatest products, in a sale that touches all corners of the online shopping kingdom: clothes, accessories, homewares, beauty and more.
It’s very exciting.
So exciting, in fact, that it’s easy for the novices and professional shoppers alike to get caught up in the flurry of flashing banners, red dots and too-big-to-miss ‘% off’ labels. The last thing you want is to go to sleep on Thursday night, already feeling the effects of an oncoming VOSN hangover.
Did you know that – according to a very fancy English research study – 82% of people report feeling regret or guilt over a purchase they’ve made? Whether it’s an iPod or a tub of ice cream, it seems that no one is safe from buyer’s remorse, and it can creep up on you at any time.
According to an article by The Hustle, buyer’s remorse is the result of two warring psychological systems within us: the avoidance system, which tells you to avoid risks and negative consequences, and the approach system, which tells you to do whatever makes you happy in that moment.
“At any given time, one of them is trying to control what we’re doing,” UT Austin psychology professor, Art Markman, tells The Hustle. “But whichever one is more closely aligned with your goal (either physically, or in time) will be more dominant.”
Buyer’s remorse is a form of cognitive dissonance, a period of mental discomfort caused by conflicting beliefs and attitudes. It happens when you get caught in a downward spiral of ‘why’s and ‘what if’s, and it’s particularly common if the thing you bought doesn’t meet your expectations, doesn’t get used or cost too much money.
Clothing, shoes and apparel are the most common purchases that cause buyer’s remorse, but above all, it’s those spur of the moment “impulse buys” that lead to the most regret/
“Buyer’s remorse has intensified in the age of e-commerce, one-click checkouts, and streamlined supply chains: consumption is easier, cheaper, and faster than ever before,” says Zachary Crockett from The Hustle.
Exhibit A: Vogue’s Online Shopping Night.
You’ll be happy to know that these impulse purchases aren’t entirely our fault – they’re spurred on by clever marketing tricks that make you feel like you need to commit to the purchase, there and then.
Take ‘buy one, get one free’ deals.
“Deep down, most of us understand that nothing is truly free. Corporations don’t offer us deals out the goodness of their hearts — they do it because it’s great for business,” says Zachary. “Sometimes, these promotions can even be flat out deceptive.”
The word ‘free’ has what some researchers have described as a hypnotic power: its inclusion in marketing promotions doesn’t just lower the cost, but makes us believe that its benefits are higher. Our demand – need – for the item dramatically increases, just because it’s free.
“For example, most of us would never purchase a low-quality, ill-fitting t-shirt at a store for $15,” says Zachary. “But when that same t-shirt is free, launched from a cannon at the ballpark, we’re willing to break bones and spill $12 beers to get our grubby hands on it.”
Whether the retailer is inflating the price of the first item to cover the cost of “giving away” the free item, or just getting rid of products that may have gone to landfill anyway, ‘buy one, get one free’ deals are rarely as much of a bargain as they seem.
Similarly, stores that offer free shipping over a certain amount – the bread and butter of many participating VOSN retailers – probably aren’t really giving you shipping for “free”.
According to The Hustle’s expose, platforms like Amazon will factor free shipping into the price of the item: a coffee mug that usually sells for $10 + $3 S&H will go for $13, with FREE shipping.
“We’re far more likely to buy the mug with the latter pricing model, even though we’re paying the exact same amount for it,” says Zachary
So, to avoid getting too caught up in the excitement of VOSN – and sucked into the downward spiral of buyer’s remorse – try these three tips:
- Make a shortlist of the items you would absolutely, definitely buy if they came on sale – before they go on sale. Make note of the RRP before the sale starts, as well as standard shipping and service costs.
- Question the asterisk – it’s your first port of call if you think you’re being duped into a deal that feels too good to be true. Look at everything from sneaky service fees to inflated postage and handling costs.
- Purchasing something you don’t need to avoid paying $15 on postage is not a saving. Purchasing something you don’t need to receive a “free” item is not a saving.