Bridget Sullivan Mermel CFP(R) CPA
Shopping Angst Revealed
I've got a theory about stress: it's cumulative. In other
words, stress isn't about the two big things that constantly
worry you. You can handle the big problems if you're not
constantly annoyed with the little ones.
One man who has studied the little stressors is Herb Sorensen,
author of Inside the Mind of the Shopper: The Science
of Retailing. This book instructs retailers how to get you to
buy more. He describes two of the low-level shopping
annoyances so retailers can avoid them.
That got me thinking; if we avoid retailers that strike up
these annoyances, we'll reduce some of our low-level stress.
Here are the two:
Navigational angst: This is when you go to a store and can't
find things. You have to search for an employee, interrupt
what they're doing, and hope they'll be familiar with their
Stores design can help with this. Obviously clearly marked
aisles help, but so does low shelving. If you can see the
entire store, you'll have less navigational angst. This must
be what CVS was thinking when they bought Osco and took down
the high shelves.
Choice angst: This comes from having too many items to pick from. One
study showed that shoppers bought ten times more when offered
limited choice. People spend less time in the aisle
scratching their heads and more time buying. This phenomenon
can help explain the success of Trader Joes and Aldi. Less
choice of one product = less stress.
Choice angst doesn't affect everyone, however. I have one
client who loves researching major purchases. This was
brought up by his wife, who reported that this tendency
stressed her out. I have a friend who is such a thorough
researcher that I want her to start her own newsletter. That
way I can keep up on what she's buying and buy it too. (As
Estelle Reiner said in When Harry Met Sally, "I'll have what