January 10, 2006

Chronic Returners May Be 'Bulimic' Spenders

Chronic Returners May Be 'Bulimic' Spenders
Excessive Returns May Cost the Retail Industry Billions

Jan. 7, 2006 — There are an estimated 15 million shopaholics in America and many of them are chronic returners. Some are driven to return the things they just bought because the feel guilty, or some make the purchase for the high and never really intend to keep the items. Some compare it to the eating disorder bulimia — also characterized by binging and purging. Many consider it a harmless habit, but a woman who asked to remain anonymous said she spends 20 hours a week returning items. Shopping once cost her home and 401K fund. Returning is her way of fulfilling the emotional need to spend. "One hundred percent of the time I have regret, remorse, guilt," she said. "It can make me physically ill." It's been estimated that one in 20 Americans struggle with compulsive shopping and 70 percent of Americans visit the mall once a week.

Dr. April Lane Benson, a psychologist who authored "I Shop, Therefore I Am," said serial returning is a well-kept secret because it carries so much embarrassment and shame. It's "something people don't tend to talk about because the person who is the compulsive returner is often very perfectionistic and feels that they should be more in control," said Benson, a psychologist who specializes in treating compulsive shoppers. Benson said dopamine levels rise during the anticipation of the buy and then crash afterward.

The Impact

It has been estimated that retailers lose billions of dollars a year to bad returns.

To avoid the problem, Mauro Farinelli, the co-owner of the Denim Bar in Arlington, Va., has a seven-day return policy. "You understand how much the item costs, and it looks really good on you which brings you happiness, so there should be no reason why you would want to return," he said. "If you have shopping bags lining your hallway … and your car trunk is a revolving door, you may have a problem," Benson said. She added that people with "bulimic spending" may send others to return their items because they are ashamed and embarrassed. Benson said people should ask themselves a few questions before they buy: Where am I? How do I feel? Do I need this? What if I wait? How will I pay? Where will I put it? "Those questions slow you down so that you really begin to think about what you're doing and what are the consequences," she said.

5 comments:

  1. I received this article in my inbox a few days ago and wasn't sure whether to post it or not. But I think it is an important issue.

    I find this dismissive to bulimics. I've heard it all now 'shopping bulimia'. Yes I am aware that over-spending can be a huge problem but not to the extent of the damage bulimia can do to the body. Do shoppers cause physical damage to their bodies? They are not even getting into debt a sthey return the goods.

    Once again, I feel as though this makes a mockery of eating disorders - what do others think?

    Sarah Lou
    xoxo

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  2. As someone who has defintly used retail as a form of therapy, way beyond what my time or finaces could allow, I have mixed feelings. As a bulmic who also overspent, I am well aware of the additional stress that I was adding to my days....soemthing that led me to be even more destructive. However, I find the term a little ridiculous. I'm sure they could come up with another one. I was also not a person who returned anything, though often gave it away soon afterwards, and did in fact deal with the stress it put on my finaces. Some days I just really needed to be occupied and that was the best option I could come up with. I guess that doesn't leave you with a very clear idea of what I'm trying to say, just a bunch of jumbled ideas. Maybe I have yet to form a solid opinion here...
    s.

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  3. Just a thought ..... When I was in the midst of my bulimia I over spent by thousands of pounds and I never returned anything, so does that make me a 'binge shoppper' or an 'over eater shopper'? See how saying that takes all the seriousness of an eating disorder away. I just think that using the term 'Bulimic Spenders' is like a joke - lets all laugh at the Bulimic Spenders and hey whilst we are at it why not laugh at the bulimics too.

    Hugs
    Sarah Lou
    xoxo
    PRC

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  4. I agree Sarah Lou,
    that is my feelings when I read it. What! they think there is a comparison, because the returner maybe ashamed or embarressed. The people may have a problem, but the comparison is ludicris.
    I also find shopping very fulfilling, and sometimes feel the urge to buy something big to really feel good, but I am the worst returner. So I guess I would be a binge shopper!!

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  5. I have mixed feelings on this one too. On the one hand, it's helpful as an analogy for the cycle of Bulimia. If I had a nickel for every time I had to clarify to someone that Bulimia and Anorexia are completely different diseases and that Bulimics are not necessarly, more often not, obsessed with being thin....Well, Payson Road would be a rich place.

    So in that respect, it does help explain it somewhat. But I agree that it's dismissive and also, there's a really negative tone with this. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the whole Wynona Ryder fiasco--in which she was actually criminally charged and convicted. I know we're not talking about stealing here, but it's dangerously close for my taste, when using it as a comparison to Bulimia. The last thing we need is more negative comparisons.

    But I think it's an interest article. And definitely worth a discussion. Thanks SL for posting.

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