Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Retail therapy - is not a therapy - it's a disease in itself that needs to be cured

Indulge in retail therapy today – said the day’s horoscope. This line caught my attention.
What does this mean? Is it possible to “indulge” in a “therapy”? So I looked up the dictionary to understand the meanings of these two words.
Therapy means treatment of physical, mental or social disorders or disease
To indulge means to satisfy a desire or to allow someone to have what one wants. To indulge also means to pamper or to spoil. The latter is the more popular among all usages of the term.
Going by the above, if someone wants to indulge, the chances are that therapy may be needed to stop him / her from indulgence.
In the last few years, this term “retail therapy” has been quite popular. It is promoted as a “stress buster”. So what is retail therapy?
Wikipedia defines “retail therapy” as under:
Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer's mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as "comfort buys".
Retail therapy was first used as a term in the 1980s with the first reference being this sentence in the Chicago Tribune of Christmas Eve 1986: "We've become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy."
To put it another way, it is a way to indulge oneself into the act of shopping without feeling guilty about it. Or it is a way of separating one from one’s money minus the guilt associated with it, till the credit card company sends the bill.
We all indulge in shopping once in a while, but to use it to lift one’s mood – well, think about it. I read some of the usages of the phrase on the Internet, and was shocked. Here are a few samples:
·      My boyfriend dumped me. I went for retail therapy and felt better.
·      I failed in the college exam. I need some retail therapy.
·      Nothing beats spending money to forget about your troubles.
Beats me, at least.
All these examples are about curing the symptom called “bad mood” and not curing the problem – not even addressing the real problem. This is not a great insight – this is as clear as the sunshine.
Retail therapy, in my understanding, is a term coined by some smart marketers to keep their cash registers clinking. As mentioned earlier, it is a way to make consumers spend more without feeling guilty about it.
This is not to suggest that you should not spend. It is your money, after all. Spend your money the way you want. If you want to splurge, nobody should stop you. However, just be honest to yourself. Call is splurging, call it indulgence, call it spending, call it by any such name; just don’t give it the name of therapy to fool yourself and everybody around you.
This could turn out to be a trap and the pains would be felt later – sometime much later, either when the bills come or when the retirement corpus is insufficient.
Retail therapy is not a therapy. It's a disease in itself that needs therapy.
Happy shopping this festive season!
-       Amit Trivedi 

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