Are you a normal, neurotic, primitive or psychotic shopper? Is shopping an addiction? A KSU professor has you pegged.
Everyone has a distinctive shopping personality. And a Kent State University associate professor of marketing has your number.
By observing you as you make your way through a mall, Paul J. Albanese, author of a highly informative, sometimes unsettling study, has radarlike perception in determining which of the four kinds of shopper you are. He has been studying personality and consumer behavior for more than 25 years.
THE PRIMITIVE (COMPULSIVE) SHOPPER
So when the boutique doors swing open and smiling sales associates greet you by name, isn’t that a good thing?
Maybe not, says Albanese. You may fall into his primitive/compulsive personality category.
“What drives the compulsive shopper is severe anxiety. What they’re buying is not particularly important to them.” he explained. “Simply the act of buying and, to some extent, the relationship with the salespersons is what works for them. Typically, a compulsive buyer, when they finish their shopping binges and go home, hide the purchases and often don’t take the price tags down. The compulsive shopper’s level of personality development has been arrested at a certain level.”
Treatment for such people is similar to the 12-step program created by Alcoholics Anonymous.
“It’s like dealing with a buyer who compulsively uses cocaine or any other drug. Their choice is shopping,” Albanese said.
Compulsive/primitive shoppers typically tend to prefer a particular item, whether it be clothing and shoes for women or electronic equipment for men. Other areas of their lives, including eating, drinking and exercising, often are affected by compulsion.
Holiday shopping is especially hazardous for primitive shoppers, he warned. Twinkling lights and colorful decorations provide more stimulus, pushing these impulse-control challenged shoppers over the edge.
THE NEUROTIC SHOPPER
But, take heart, perhaps you’re a neurotic shopper. That puts you a cut above the primitive shopper. Your personality is more evolved, said Albanese.
“Their problem is they shop excessively, always looking for the perfect item. They tend to plan their shopping for something they need or want and sometimes can’t distinguish between the two.
“They tend to be somewhat perfectionists. They really love shopping. The buying part of it is not as important to them,” Albanese continued. “They’ll shop and shop and shop, and if anyone shops with them, typically they’ll become exhausted but the neurotic shoppers go until they find what they’re looking for.”
Say they are looking for a particular style of sweater. Yes, yes, finally. The style is perfect. But what color to choose?
“That’s another huge decision. So they may buy several in different colors, take them home, try them on and pick one or return all and start over again. Neurotic shoppers tend to return things,” he said.
The good news is neurotic shoppers tend not to create financial problems for themselves thanks to their better-evolved self-control. Usually, they stop shopping before it impairs personal and professional relationships.
“Their problem is more of a problem to them than to other people,” Albanese said, “unlike the compulsive shoppers who will spend all the money they have, and that behavior is something that affects people around them.”
THE PSYCHOTIC SHOPPER
Albanese’s third category is the psychotic shopper.
“When I publish research like this, a lot of reviewers don’t like it. The typical neurotic spenders are women who have bipolar disorder, and when they’re in a manic episode, they go on spectacular spending sprees. They tend to be episodic, and they really go overboard in a big way,” he explained.
Often, marketing researchers mistakenly identify psychotic shoppers as compulsive buyers. They are not, Albanese said, specifically due to the differences in personality development.
“I started reading biographies of people with bipolar disorder, and one woman in her lifetime went through two of these spending sprees,” he continued, “In an afternoon, she spent about $30,000. It’s episodic and spectacular, but you can’t do that every week.”
THE NORMAL SHOPPER
The easiest way to peg a normal shopper, Albanese said, is learning he regularly saves money.
“People who are normal tend to plan their purchases and are more utilitarian in their spending,” Albanese said. “They spend less than they earn and save for things they can’t buy in the present. They’re what I call prudent consumers. They understand the elements of delayed gratifications, planning and foresight.”
Albanese hates to shop, even at Christmas.
“If I need something, I’ll put it on a list, keep the lists for days, weeks, months. And if I go out and do that, that’s all I do,” he said. “Maybe it’s a new suit, but I don’t enjoy the shopping part. I do it in a targeted way. Then I’m done.”
Spenders Anonymous: www.spenders.org
Shopaholics Anonymous: Counseling services via Skype, videoconferencing and phone, (248) 358-8505
Recoveries Anonymous: Web site is http://www.R-A.org
debtorsanonymous.org: Provides on-line or telephone meetings
PORTRAIT OF A COMPULSIVE SHOPPER
At the end of each class term, Paul Albanese shows students a documentary created by researchers on a man who battled addictive behaviors.
“He was a heroin addict and kicked that. Then he became an alcoholic, and he kicked that habit, too. But then he became a compulsive buyer of Mickey Mouse memorabilia.
“At least the Mickey Mouse merchandise collecting did not have an adverse affect on his health. And collecting brought him in contact with other dealers, and once he had those interpersonal relationships with people like them, it was possible to lead to favorable changes in his personality.”