Are you guilty of Amazon-ing and iTunes-ing after imbibing? You're not alone. The New York Times reports that online merchants are cashing in on legions of drunken consumers. Here, a brief guide to "buying under the influence":
People are shopping drunk?
Yep. E-retailers say that traffic patterns and anecdotal evidence suggest that a growing number of consumers seem to be buying after having a couple of drinks. On eBay, 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. is the busiest time, and the company's Steve Yankovich says alcohol is "absolutely" a factor. "If you think about what most people do when they get home from work in the evening, it's decompression time," he says. "The consumer's in a good mood."
Is there other evidence beyond eBay?
QVC also sees a spike in viewers and traffic after 7 p.m., and accessories and cosmetics sell especially well in the evenings. "Call them girl treats — they seem to attract a really strong following once you get past dinnertime," says Doug Rose, a senior vice president with the company. "You can probably come to your own conclusion as to what's motivating her." ChannelAdvisor, a company that runs e-commerce sites for hundreds of retailers, says sales tend to peak at 8 p.m. and that shoppers are increasingly placing orders later into the night.
How are retailers taking advantage of this?
A number of companies, from Neiman Marcus to Lowe's, are flooding shoppers' email inboxes with offers in the evening. Online luxury retailer Gilt Groupe is adding more sales that start at 9 p.m. or later to take advantage of the traffic boom, and potentially inebriated shoppers. "Post-bar, inhibitions can be impacted, and that can cause shopping, and hopefully healthy impulse buying," says the company's president, Andy Page. "Still, the nighttime spike requires delicacy among retailers," says Stephanie Clifford in The New York Times. "For reasons of propriety, they do not want to be seen as encouraging drunken shopping.
Is drunken shopping an unhealthy habit?
Possibly. Baylor professor Kristin A . Kassaw warns it can wreak havoc on shoppers' bank accounts. "When you're loading things you can't feel or touch into this fake cart, you don't have a sense of, 'I'm buying all this stuff, I'm buying too much,'" she says. "It takes you away from the actual spending-money experience." New York psychologist April Lane Benson notes that shopping and alcohol addiction can go hand-in-hand. "We know there is an association between compulsive shopping and other behaviors, such as eating disorders, alcohol or drug abuse and depression."
But it's at least good for retailers, right?
Not necessarily. Clifford notes that drunken shopping can lead to high rates of sober returns, which cost retailers in shipping and processing. "We do occasionally get people who return things, saying they spent too much, and we see that their order was placed at midnight," an anonymous rep for a retailer tells Lucky. "We wonder if they would have spent $8,000 at a more sensible hour!" In some instances, the practice is also bad for the goods being purchased. This past summer, New York pet store owners had to crack down on post-happy-hour puppy purchases. "The adorable sight of furry faces in the window and the effects of alcohol can be a bad combination," says the manager of Le Petit Puppy.