Entries in Shopping (8)


Shopaholic Fights Her Addiction

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tawnie is one of nearly 18 million shopaholics in America.

“The average price I spend on a pair of jeans is usually $150 to $300–and I have at least 100 pairs,” she said on an episode of My Shopping Addiction, a show about compulsive shoppers that airs on the Oxygen network.

For recovering shopping addict Sarah Downey, who was also featured on the show, handbags and shoes are like designer drugs.

She’s even gone dumpster diving to satisfy her addiction.

Asked if that marked rock bottom for her, the Los Angeles resident gave a surprising answer: “That was my ultimate high,” she said.

Speaking in an interview that aired Monday on Good Morning America, she added: “At certain locations, you will see very affluent women jumping into dumpsters as well. I love it.”

Downey was so addicted that, in the course of four years, she spent thousands of dollars patronizing the one dozen thrift stores within walking distance from her studio apartment.

“It’s kind of better than sex,” she said of her habit, adding: “Well, I guess, you know, maybe I haven’t had very good lovers, but, you know,” Downey added.

Four years ago, Downey got a sudden and painful divorce after six years of marriage. The marriage had been filled with pricey shopping sprees, and when she and her husband split, she continued her shopping at thrift stores.

Downey got her wake-up call from psychologist Ramani Durvasula on My Shopping Addiction, a TV show on the Oxygen network.

Durvasula told Downey that she was 32 and broke, Downey recalled, adding: “You’re like ‘wow, you know, that hurts.’”

Durvasula described how people can recognize if they have a shopping problem.

“It’s a problem when we look at three major areas. Is it causing financial problems? Problem number two: your relationships. Number three: time,” she said.

Downey spent time shopping at the expense of personal relationships. Durvasula convinced her to donate hordes of merchandise and purchase only what she needs.

Many shopaholics are especially vulnerable to the temptation to spend more than they can afford over the holidays, but they are not alone, according to a new study conducted by Oxygen with Research Now. Half of Americans will spend more than they can afford this holiday season, according to the study, and 36 percent said they have gone into credit card debt in order to buy gifts.

Now, Downey’s life is different.

“In the last six months, I’ve probably shopped less than five times. So, huge change,” she said.

Now, when Downey cruises thrift stores, there’s no impulse to buy. When she walks into a store, she says, “It’s just like ‘I don’t have the time anymore.’”

That’s not to say she’s not tempted. She looks at a pair of red shoes, which she calls “pretty awesome,” but adds: “I’d like to have these, but I don’t need them.”

My Shopping Addiction
airs Mondays on Oxygen.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Urge to Splurge at Checkout Counter May Contribute to Obesity

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We all know impulse buys can lead to overspending.  But when something isn't on your shopping list, health policy experts worry it's also likely to lead to weight gain.

Tempting treats placed right near the cash register are literally eye candy, deliberately displayed so they'll catch your attention when you're waiting on the checkout line.  Tossing those high-calorie, low-nutrition vices into the cart is something consumers tend to do without thinking, even when they know deep down it's against their best interests.

Dr. Deborah A. Cohen, a senior natural scientist at Rand Health, says people are susceptible to spontaneous bad-for-your-health buys because of a struggle within the brain.  She has co-written a commentary about food marketing and the obesity epidemic in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

"Our brain has both automatic and deliberate thoughts, a fast and slow way of thinking," Cohen said.  "We are wired to act first and think later, so we grab a delicious food without stopping to consider the consequences."

People have the ability to make only so many choices per day, Cohen continued.  Marketers know this, which is why they place high-profit grab items like candy and soda at the end of the shopping experience when a shopper's decision-making capacity is shot.

"This is the most likely moment when consumers can't avoid the junk food and can't resist it either," Cohen said.

The trick seems to work.  Nine out of 10 shoppers make impulse purchases, buying items that weren't on their shopping lists, according to a recent survey by The Checkout, an ongoing shopper behavior study conducted by The Integer Group, a retail branding firm.  And, as another survey by the retail analyst group IHL found, there's a good chance all this mindless, spur-of-the-moment buying translates into excess pounds.

According to the 2008 IHL analysis, the average American woman eats more than 14,300 calories a year in impulse purchases alone; women could lose 4.1 lbs a year -- at least theoretically -- by simply resisting checkout candy bars and chocolate candies, chips and soda once they are in the checkout line.  Men fare even worse: they buy fewer but higher calorie items for a whopping 28,350 total calories worth of impulse buys per year on average.

Checkout lines aren't the only places retailers use to steer consumers toward high-profit food items they don't really want, don't really need and never intended to buy, Cohen said.  Goods placed in prominent end-of-aisle locations account for about 30 percent of all supermarket sales and can increase the sale of an individual item fivefold.

Vendors pay "slotting fees" to retailers to guarantee their products will be placed in prime locations.  In many cases, Cohen said, these fees will net stores more profit than consumer spending.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alzheimer's Drug Curbs Compulsive Buying in Shopaholics

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A drug used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may curb compulsive buying in shopaholics, a new study found.

The drug, called memantine, helps people with Alzheimer's disease think more clearly by reducing overactivity in the brain.  But it also eases impulsivity, a trait tied to rash decisions and impractical purchases.

"In a way, compulsive buying is similar to other addictions in that people are thinking about the immediacy of the reward without considering the consequences," said study author Dr. Jon Grant, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  "We asked: Could we use a medication to essentially enhance decision-making as a way to help them with their behavior?"

Grant and colleagues recruited eight compulsive buyers, all women, to take memantine for 10 weeks, and used cognitive tests and surveys to track impulsive thoughts and spending.  In the end, they found significant reductions in both.

"People with compulsive spending don't think through the full range of consequences of their behavior, and that improved with this medication," said Grant.

The study, published in the May issue of Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, gives hope to an estimated six percent of Americans who struggle with the euphoric highs and guilt-ridden lows of compulsive buying.

"It can interfere with people's jobs, their marriages," said Grant, describing how compulsive buyers squander their savings and invent lies to explain their actions.  "All of this leads to incredible personal distress.  A person might feel depressed and even suicidal because they don't know how to control their behavior and feel bad about being dishonest."

Despite being widely recognized as a disorder on par with alcoholism or gambling addiction, compulsive buying is not listed in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and there is no standard treatment.

"There is some evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy can benefit people with this problem," said Grant, describing the psychotherapeutic technique that aims to replace dysfunctional behaviors with healthier habits.  "Antidepressants have also been tried but were largely unsuccessful.  But this study represents at least a possible pharmacological approach."

Before memantine can be approved for the treatment of compulsive shopping, it has to be tested against a placebo in clinical trials, said Grant, adding that the drug is also being tested in other impulse disorders, including alcoholism and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shopaholic Says Shoplifting Arrest Was Her Wake-Up Call

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- For most people, a trip to the mall is, well, just a trip to the mall. But for Ronnie Haring, it a place full of dangerous temptations because the 38-year-old mother of two is a shopaholic.

"It's less a feeling of wanting to go, and more a feeling of needing to go," Haring said.

The term "shopaholic" has become commonplace, but Haring is among the estimated six percent of Americans who struggle with compulsive shopping. The American Psychological Association says that compulsive spending is an impulse control disorder that, like gambling or drinking, can spin out of control as sufferers ride that roller coaster of endorphin-fueled highs and guilt-ridden lows.

"It just feels so good inside," Haring said. "You're kind of floating as you're going through it and then, essentially, you just fall...very hard. You get home and you're like, 'Why did I buy all this?' And then you feel guilty. And the way to make yourself feel better [is] more shopping. And the cycle continues."

But when Haring went shopping, she said she was never able to buy just one item. She would always have to buy in bulk. For example, she would feel the need to buy every scent of a particular kind of hand soap or the same shirt in several different colors.

"If they don't have the right color, I'll drive to another mall to find the right color," she said.

Haring revealed that she has maxed out all of her credit cards and her credit card debt totals more than $50,000. She also endures phone calls from debt collectors.

Her shopping was so out of control that Haring is filing for bankruptcy, her family lost its home near Lansing, Mich., and, unless she changes her ways, she could lose her husband of almost 20 years.

"We've had our moments where it's to the point where you want to throw in the towel and walk away," said Bill Haring.

But even with the threat of her marriage ending, Ronnie Haring said shopping continued to seem more important to her.

It wasn't always so bad. Haring said her compulsive shopping started slowly and grew over the decades. As a young girl, she remembered wanting the latest fashions. As a mom, she wanted nice things to furnish the house or the newest toys for her two kids, now ages 10 and 13.

"It was so slowly escalating that you didn't realize it until it was all over, until you get to the point where it's like, 'Wow,'" Haring said.

She began shopping in secret, leaving work early to go to the mall and then hiding new purchases from her husband.

"And he'd say, 'Is that something new?' and I'm like, 'No, I've had this for a while,' so it wasn't a lie. It just wasn't the truth," Haring said.

And when she maxed out her credit cards, Haring went into her husband's wallet and started using his. Then as her lies grew bigger, Ronnie Haring grew more brazen.

"She goes to the extreme of copying down the card numbers and hiding them," Bill Haring said. "She even went to the point of calling the bank and disguising her voice as me to transfer money to buy things."

When Haring finally went completely broke, she said, she still went to the mall but turned to shoplifting. Last month, Haring, a Midwestern soccer mom, was arrested and charged for shoplifting at a local mall in Lansing and thrown in jail.

Haring only spent 30 minutes in a jail cell before her mother bailed her out, and she is expected to plead guilty at her upcoming sentencing hearing, but she said that was the wake-up call she needed to get help.

After her release, Haring reached out to shopping addiction specialist Terry Shulman for counseling. He explained that she used shopping as a way to fill a void of "emptiness."

"With Ronnie, there's a core of self-esteem and insecurity that [says], 'I'm not good enough. Who am I?'" Shulman said.

Her intense urges to buy in bulk, Shulman said, stem from Haring's childhood when her parents got divorced, and as a result, Haring is afraid to let things go.

"There's a feeling of being abandoned or being rejected," Shulman said. "For Ronnie, having to, you know, just pick one was like taking it away from a family and for her... it was intolerable and unthinkable to separate them."

Haring's recovery from her compulsive shopping could require years of therapy, but her husband has helped her take the first steps with imposing strict rules on how and when his wife has access to money.

"We have one checkbook with just my name on it. If she wants to write a check, then I have to sign my name to the check," Bill Haring said. "It's a way to kind of regulate what bills are paid and when they're paid. Otherwise, if she needs to use a debit card for something, then I would like the receipt."

"You have to treat her like a child if she's not responsible," he added. "And if you don't keep your money and pay your bills, then you lose what you have."

Today, Ronnie Haring said, she doesn't know if she will ever be fully cured of her compulsive shopping, but she has made progress and realized she must get better or face severe consequences.

"Otherwise, I'm going to end up in jail or lose my family, and that is too high a price to pay," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Protect Yourself from the Germiest Spots at Malls

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While the health hazards of increasingly competitive holiday shopping now include stampedes and pepper-spraying, bargain hunters can help assure that all they bring home from the mall are good deals, not other people's cold and flu viruses.

Shopping centers that teem with people also teem with their germs.  But alcohol-based hand sanitizers and good old-fashioned hand-washing can defeat most common microbes.

Before hitting the mall, it pays to plan how you'll deal with germy hot spots:

The Air

Hand sanitizers and hand-washing cannot protect you from what's floating in the air, said Dr. William Schaffner, the chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. "The great hazard is being that close to so many people and being in everyone's breathing space," he said.

"We live in a world that's not sterile, but what we'd like to do is be hygienic, so let's try to avoid the obvious coughers and sneezers in the crowd.  Go to another counter until they've passed," Schaffner advised. "If you are coughing and sneezing, put off your shopping a bit, which would be the kindest thing from a public health point of view."

Public Restrooms

Public restrooms can be a germ-laden nightmare, but they're also where you can wash away unwelcome microbes.  Although soap dispensers and faucet handles "can be a little nasty," after being touched by people who have just done their business in the stalls, you can wash your hands thoroughly, then grab a paper towel and quickly turn off the faucet with the towel, Schaffner said.

Food Court Tables

Think about how many people have touched the tables, napkin dispensers and chair backs at a mall food court or restaurant, and you have another reason to wash your own hands or use a hand sanitizer.  Just as kitchen sponges offer a warm, moist environment that lets food bacteria to multiply, the rags used to wipe down dirty tabletops are "a decent medium for bacteria to dwell in," said Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

Escalator Handrails

Most people grip the handrails when riding escalators inside malls and stores, leaving behind normal skin bacteria plus other germs picked up from rubbing their noses or mouths.  Schaffner said he's not too worried about this particular hazard.

"If you use your hand sanitizer periodically during your afternoon safari at the mall, I think you'll be pretty well-protected," he said

Toy Stores

All those sniffling tots inside toy stores, along with the healthy ones who just like to put everything in their mouths, can leave invisible coatings of germs behind -- not to mention what they spew into the air when they sneeze or cough.

"The number of hygienic children in the United States I can count on the fingers of my hands," Schaffner said.  "I have to admit, children are the great disseminators of respiratory viruses.  They do so because, first of all, when a virus infects a child, the child actually breathes out a lot of virus, more so than adults.  They do so for a longer period of time."

Electronics Stores

The slick surfaces of smart phones and tablet computers can harbor a variety of germs, including staph, capable of living several hours.  However, just because environmental hygienists can swab such surfaces and find a variety of bacteria doesn't mean they necessarily will make you sick, said Schaffner.

"Try out your candidate iPhone, look at it, play with it, and then do you hand sanitizer thing," he said.

Some Surfaces Not to Worry About

Although women frequently hear they should avoid shared testers at makeup counters, "infections associated with shared makeup are virtually nonexistent," Schaffner said.  "They are not a recognized public health problem."

Worries about picking up germs from ATMs at the mall might be exaggerated, too, even if you've never see a bank employee wiping down ATM keys.

"If for some reason, you're a little queasy [about uncleaned keys], go the ATM, get your cash and use your hand sanitizer," Schaffner said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Shoppers to Wear Sweat-Sensing Bracelets on Black Friday

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- This Black Friday stores want to know what makes people spend. Fifty shoppers in Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta will wear sweat-sensing bracelets as part of a market research effort aimed at understanding the body’s response to buying, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The bracelet, developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, measures movement, body temperature and electrodermal activity -- barely noticeable changes in skin sweat levels. If a shopper’s excited or frustrated, electrodermal activity will go up. If they’re relaxed or bored, it will go down.

The researchers, from Shopper Sciences, hope tracking sweat and spending sheds light on why people buy -- whether they’re in stores or online. The team will also use cameras to monitor online shoppers’ facial reactions to finding deals and navigating websites.

Market research, a field once dominated by surveys, is increasingly turning to technology to get more reliable reactions from consumers. By measuring biometrics like skin sweat, facial expressions and even brain activity, researchers are teasing out what really makes shoppers tick -- and what ticks them off.

But skeptics stand by standard market research, saying subtle physiological changes are too complex to tie to shopping behavior. Either way, it’s safe to say someone’s paying close attention to what you buy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Retail Therapy: No Joke?

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Shopping may not be good for the wallet, but it may be good enough to extend your life, especially if you’re older, according to a new study out of Taiwan.

Researchers surveyed nearly 2,000 people aged 65 and over and found that those who shopped on a regular basis lived longer. It’s the physical activity, social interaction and mental stimulation that researchers say benefits people the most.

"Compared to other types of leisure-time physical activity, like formal exercise, which usually requires motivation and sometimes professional instruction, shopping activity is easier to undertake and maintain," researchers concluded.

The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Money Main Cause of Stress in Americans

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON ) – Most Americans say that money is their primary source of stress, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association.

The APA found that 75 percent of Americans consider money their biggest stressor regardless of whether they had too much money, or too little.

Nikiya Spence, a licensed financial therapist and money coach, told Consumer Affairs that issues over money can have serious consequences on financial and personal behaviors.

"People inherit problems around money from their family and this can have to do with spending and how they grow to feel about money in general," Spence said. "These underlying feelings can cause problems when it comes to finances if you're not aware of them.”

Spence said that most problems with handling money, such as spending addictions and over and underspending, are subconscious and caused by dysfunctional emotions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio