By Kit Yarrow
Kit Yarrow is a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and author of “Gen Y: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty-Somethings Are Revolutionizing Retail.”
Holiday shopping is full of “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” As in, “I could have gotten if for less if I’d waited.” Or, “I should have bought it last week, now it’s sold out.” Or how about: “I would have bought a gift card if I’d known it was going to cost so much to mail it.” It seems like most people have to be a retail expert to get through the holiday shopping season without regrets.
Believe it or not even the experts get tripped up by shopping mishaps: overbuying, procrastination, impulsive purchasing and falling prey to promotions. It might be a comfort to know that even though retail pros know better, the holiday rush can get the best of anyone. Here are some pitfalls that even the experts have made:
1. “I got too excited by free gifts in Victoria’s Secret.”
Play it cool when it comes to big promotions. Retail analyst Jennifer Black, president of Jennifer Black & Associates, spends a lot of time in malls in the course of her research. “I get caught up in the fever like everyone else,” she says. On Black Friday she found herself at Victoria’s Secret “buying things I didn’t need just to get the free gift with purchase.” As SmartMoney.com reported, free shipping is another area that isn’t as it always appears.
2. “…and in-store samples tempt me to buy even more.”
Also, beware in-store demonstrations. Kimberly Palmer, author of “Generation Earn,” recently got taken in by some free and tasty samples. Palmer says she recently left Williams Sonoma with a pricey bottle of olive oil that was “not exactly a necessary purchase.” She says, “I usually end up splurging on a few last minute in-store purchases that are entirely unnecessary.” Here are other ways retailers try to warm up their customers during the holidays.
3. “I don’t keep a shopping list and buy more than I need.”
Buy early and during the sales, but keep track of past purchases just like grocery shopping. Jayne O’Donnell, retail reporter for USA Today, wishes she’d taken her own advice. Like over one-third of Americans she purchases holiday gifts months before Christmas. And like many others, she sometimes forgets what she bought. O’Donnell says this year was no exception: “I did not keep good track of what we’d bought my daughter Cate and so I over-purchased.”
4. “I talk about shopping apps, but don’t always use them.”
Shopping apps are great for making split-second comparisons on prices. Not everyone takes their own advice, however. Retail consultant Doug Stephens, known as The Retail Prophet, knows all about new digital shopping tools, but doesn’t always use the magic at his fingertips. “I don’t leverage technology to its full potential when I’m making holiday gift decisions. I feel in too much of a hurry.” Here’s more on Google Mobile and five of the best apps for the holidays.
5. “I do nothing until the last minute. Then go online.”
Of course, buying gifts for loved ones might also be fun. But, like many stressed-out shoppers, David Rogers, author of “The Network is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in the Digital Age,” (pdf) is a holiday shopping procrastinator. Rogers says his holiday shopping takes place in three stages: “Denial. Avoidance. Amazon.” That said, the experience of professional shoppers like Rogers shows that no-one is perfect when it comes to the holiday rush.
For more shopping tips, read here about how consumers can act more like investors.