Does Shopping Make You Feel Guilty?

The retail industry is getting pretty desperate these days—how many more special events and functions will we see that scream “Oooo! Please, please come shop in our store!” According to the Wall Street Journal, the latest tactic in trying to woo the recessionary customer is to assuage shoppers’ guilt.

In some cases, this goes straight to the point instead of tip-toeing around the you shouldn’t be spending atmosphere. Take, perhaps, the best example out there, Gilt Groupe, a sample sale website (and admitted Frisky obsession) whose name is a play on the word “guilt.” The site’s co-founder, Alexis Maybank, explains that now retailers like her are placing emphasis on battling this new culture of consumer guilt: “It used to be about keeping up with the Joneses, and now it’s about outsaving the Joneses … We need to encourage people to get excited about fashion.” Gilt’s short-timed sales have set off a wave of similar online initiatives, which rev up shoppers and distract them from negative feelings.

Other ways retailers are working this angle include pop-up shops, which “[try] to catch consumers off-guard … and may not activate the psychological barriers that prevent shoppers from entering traditional stores.” Oops. Guess we were duped into thinking that it was a fun thing to do on a Saturday.

As well, more and more labels are offering charitable incentives where portions of the products go to charities. Which kind of makes us think—can you really feel like a do-gooder by buying a pair of shoes when you know the designer plugged a charity deal to lure you in in the first place? Now we just feel guilty for not donating as much as we should have this year to charities. (That is, in cash, not shoes.) [WSJ]