Sawasdee from Phuket,
When an American won the Australian Open tennis championship this year, she said, amongst other banalities, that she would be spending the next little while in Melbourne, shopping. And then, when some Australians had their cruise aborted during the Coronavirus outbreak, after spending two weeks in quarantine in Howard’s Springs, one of them said they were looking forward to doing some shopping – on the thinking that the intervention had robbed them of the opportunity. When I accompanied a busload of teenagers on an exchange to California some years ago, and I suggested some relief from the visits to retail outlets by venturing out on a whale watch, there was resistance. They wanted to go to other outlets! What on Earth is going on here?
Is shopping a recreational activity?
Since when is shopping a recreational activity? For someone who has always struggled with the concept that a shopping expedition is anything other than a perfunctory chore, this is befuddling in the extreme.
Here in Phuket – an otherwise beautiful place – there are these so-called retail outlets which set themselves up as alleged wholesalers. They are supposedly offering discounts because the middle man has been removed from the supply chain. People come here from Russia, Australia, the US and Europe. They’re here ostensibly for the warmth, the spectacular scenery, the food and the cheap accommodation (not necessarily in that order). But enough of them are also here, apparently, for the shopping (!?!).
Of course, the Americans have a name for this: Compulsive Buying Disorder. And an abbreviation to add to the array: CBD. In a recent study of the phenomenon, Dan Fassnacht and Mike Kyrios of Flinders University found that there were psychological explanations. Fassnacht says, “buying an object will lead to emotional security or that not purchasing the object will lead to a loss of opportunity”. Kyrios says, “buying appears to be a strategy that we use to compensate for deficiencies that we see in ourselves”.
We don’t need studies to inform us on this topic. Even the most hardened non-shopaholic will notice the euphoric feeling of carrying that new bag down the street or unwrapping the beautifully-wrapped parcel when they arrive home. These are deficits that society should be actively seeking to eliminate. Instead, the capitalist system breeds from it and wants more of it. The notion of ‘retail therapy’ is thrown about as a harmless affliction: a source of mirth rather than a dangerous malady.
You would have thought that a vacation would provide people a chance to escape the mundane aspects of life, like shopping. But, airports have modelled themselves as shopping opportunities – and they must be succeeding. Destinations like Phuket are part-beach, part-shopping experience. And some people even go on shopping holidays.
You might have even thought that society’s resources would be allocated to doing something about the underlying insecurity that so many females must feel, to fall for this disease. But no, the marketing efforts are all about understanding the problem, not to fix it, but to get more blokes to feel the same way! Another example of Corporate Social Responsibility gone AWOL.
Ping Lao from Nai Harn on Phuket,