I don’t know if it was a full moon, the holiday weekend, or whether I was just engaging in more people watching than usual, but I had an odd experience in Target this week. I ran in to pick up a prescription and a few grocery items, but while I was there I noticed that everyone looked the same. They were all pushing carts around the store which were loaded with mostly the same things. Their eyes were sort of glazed over and they were shuffling aisle to aisle just picking stuff up and putting it down (or dropping it into their cart). Few of them seemed to have a real purpose for being in that store, yet their carts were full.
I saw these shopping zombies everywhere I went in the store. They were just going through the motions and I had to wonder how many of the items in their carts were things that they needed or had come to the store to get, and how much of it was just stuff they’d dumped in there as they were wandering around aimlessly. How expensive was this trip into zombie-land going to be, and how much would they regret their actions once they “came to?”
I know Target does a good job of getting and keeping people in their stores, but this seemed to go beyond simple shopping. So I watched in other places I went that week. I saw the same thing in Walmart, PetSmart, Staples, Best Buy, and even the grocery store. People just wandering around the stores, seemingly shopping for nothing, but at the same time managing to load their carts full of stuff. And it was the same stuff that all the other zombies were buying. Rare was the uninfected person who seemed to have a mission in the store, who was moving purposefully from aisle to aisle, who was buying what they needed and no more, and who was seemingly alert to prices and the differences between items.
Becoming a shopping zombie is expensive. When you simply wander the store, stuff you didn’t plan to buy has a way of finding its way into your cart. When you’re not paying full attention, you’re more likely to fall for the tricks retailers play to get you spend more money. You’re less likely to compare prices and quality/features of items. When you’re not using a list and shopping with a purpose, you’re more likely to overspend because you “think” you need things that you really don’t need. You can’t let yourself be lulled into a zombie state when you’re shopping if your hope is to save money. There are too many ways for a retailer to relive a shopping zombie of his cash when he’s not looking.
So how do you avoid being a shopping zombie? Some tips:
- Make a list and stick to it.
- Have a purpose when you go to the stores; don’t just go in to pass the time or to relive boredom.
- Get in, get what you need, and get out.
- Stay alert to prices and product sizes.
- Don’t fall for flashy displays and banners that scream “sale” or “clearance” if they don’t pertain to the items you came to get.
- Don’t buy stuff just because you see it in someone else’s cart and think, “Oh, I need one of those.”
- Keep moving and don’t slow down to browse.
The less time you spend in the store and the more alert you are while you’re there, the less you’ll spend. It’s also less likely you’ll be infected by the shopping zombie virus. Night of the Living Dead might be an entertaining movie, but shopping zombies don’t save money. They spend it.
(Photo courtesy of Brendan Riley)