– A pastime or an obsession?

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When I go shopping, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t like to dicker over price. I want to go in, buy what I want and move along. To me, shopping over the Internet was a Godsend as I can browse at my leisure, compare prices, and order what I want without the hassle of talking to a sales clerk. I don’t like to barter, but I know a lot of people who do. My father was a past master of the trade, particularly when it came to cars. When negotiating with a salesman, he treated it like a game as to who could outdo each other. I knew a lot of guys from his generation who liked to shop for cars the way he did. Plain and simply, it was the love of the joust they relished. Although my father would get the price down, I couldn’t help but believe in the end, the salesman had the last laugh. As for me, such shenanigans are a waste of time.

“Horse trading,” as we still refer to it, is still a lively pastime. I’ve got friends who actively engage in it and their goal is to always “trade up” for something better. For example, I have seen them start with a bicycle, trade it up for a chain saw, to a scooter, to a motorcycle, to a camper, to a car, and finally to a boat. It takes them a bit of time to go through the process and requires them to fix and cleanup the current commodity du jour, but they thoroughly enjoy the game. True, they’re ultimately making some money in the end, but they’re also spending money cleaning and fixing up the merchandise as well as devoting considerable time to their hobby. The one thing I’ve learned about these people is they do not form any attachments to their property. They will wheel and deal in all of their material possessions, even pets and livestock. I don’t know if these people are to be envied or pitied for their obsession, but they certainly seem to enjoy it.

I am also not one of those guys who longs to go shopping at a mall for an afternoon. Frankly, I think I would rather have a prostate examination instead. I marvel at how people can do this as much as they do, particularly before Christmas. Women shoppers amaze me as they methodically go in and out of stores, examining merchandise, trying on clothes, and buying nothing. It’s kind of like watching an ant canvass an area scrounging for food.

I have a female friend who I would classify as a professional shopper. She knows where virtually everything is in the city she lives, and makes routine rounds around town in a constant search for the lowest prices and latest sales. She has done this so often, all of the sales clerks in town know her on a first name basis. Each time she goes out, she is compelled to buy something. If you were to visit her home you would find racks of clothes which still have the price tags on them. Interestingly, just about everything she buys is returned. As an aside, her monthly credit card statements read like “War and Peace” with numerous pages of debits and credits, yet the monthly balance always ends up at zero. You would think such shopping madness would get tiresome. Surprisingly, it does not. It is the love of the hunt that drives her just as much as “horse trading” does for my other friends.

I have heard the act of shopping called everything from a hobby to an obsession, to a disease or some form of addiction. For those obsessed with it, Psychiatrists have a name for it, Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD) which can be treated by medication and support groups. Interestingly, CBD is found in approximately 6% of the American populace, 80% of which are female.

Aside from CBD, I think what drives shoppers more than anything is the incentive of financial rewards. Other than this, I cannot see any enjoyment in shopping for its own sake, regardless of how the store is decorated or its friendly service. If you are shopping just to occupy your time, you must be a glutton for punishment.

As for me, while everyone else is at the mall, I’ll be sitting at the beach quietly reading a good book. It sure beats a prostate examination (or shopping).

Originally published: April 23, 2010

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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