I have concluded that when God was forming my inmost parts he left something out. You see, I’m a girl. According to the rules of the universe, that means I ought to love shopping. But I don’t. Instead, I put it in the same category as cleaning and laundry: important and necessary, but to be gotten over as quickly and painlessly (and cheaply) as possible.
I know I’m not the only female who feels this way, but I’m definitely in the minority. With the advent of the online shopping party, I am feeling this aberration in my female makeup in a new way. For several years now, every time I log into Facebook, there is an invitation to an online party: Jamberry Nails, Lula Roe, Thirty-One, Lilla Rose, Norwex . . . the list goes on.
Actually, more often than not, it isn’t an invitation but rather a notification that I have been added to a party without my knowledge. I don’t mind, as it is easy enough to remove myself or turn off notifications if I’m not interested. But on occasion I have stuck around just to watch—and try to understand—the appeal. So far I still don’t get it.
Online Parties Use the Power of Group Persuasion
I am reminded of an experience my husband and I had in our younger—and more gullible—days. I don’t remember precisely how it happened, but we once got roped into believing we had won a vacation. We went to an event to claim our prize and found ourselves in a roomful of others who had come for the same reason. It soon became clear that we weren’t there to get a prize but to be sold a timeshare we had no intention of buying.
It was fascinating to watch the psychology of the whole thing. All of the usual hard sell tactics were in play, but more interesting was the group dynamic. Even though the people in the room were strangers to one another, there was extreme peer pressure to buy. When a sale was achieved, great rejoicing ensued, with popping of balloons, tossing of confetti and congratulatory displays of celebration around the purchasers. It was all designed to make you want to be one of those getting all the attention and applause.
My husband and I, having no room in the budget for a timeshare, eventually figured out that we had been suckered and excused ourselves, at which point we were quickly removed and ushered out a back door as though we had committed a crime. Big surprise: we never did get the prize we had been promised.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that the online parties for companies such as those listed above are engaging in the kind of dishonesty that I witnessed in our timeshare experience. I know many people who buy and sell these products to the great and mutual satisfaction of all involved. But I do see a parallel in these events in the utilization of group psychology to facilitate commerce. In the online parties I have witnessed, there is huge encouragement, if not pressure, to buy.
I have seen participants post that they are thinking of purchasing something and be met with an enthusiastic cheering section: “Buy it!” “Do it!” “That would look great on you!” When a purchase is made, it is shouted to the group, and there is much celebrating by those in attendance, just as in our timeshare experience. It has sometimes seemed to me that it’s as much about the social aspect and bonding with friends as about the actual purchase. As one who looks at shopping as something on the level of a dental cleaning, I am left wondering what all the excitement is about.
Online Parties May Work for Thee, But Not for Me
That’s why ultimately the online party doesn’t work for me. First, I am naturally cynical. When someone is trying to sell me something, all my suspicious radars kick into high gear. I don’t like mixing those feelings in with my friendships.
Second, I am cheap. Because I am cheap, I am a tough sale. If you want me to part with my money, I have to not only need but love the thing you’re selling, and it has to be a great buy. There is little I hate more than finding out I paid more for something than I needed to. In my experience, the prices of products available through online vendor parties are usually higher than I care to pay, even if the product is one I am interested in (most of them are not). I am happy for those who are willing to expend more money and time for the sheer fun of it, but I am not.
Finally, I am an introvert. My inclination to spend money is slowed rather than accelerated by having people around, whether online or in real life. Social interactions drain me, taking away the mental energy I need to consider making a purchase.
There have been many times over the years that I have found myself shopping with friends. But it always ends up being window shopping, because in order to buy something that’s not food, gas, or booze I have to do some deep and serious soul-searching: picking the item up, carrying it around the store for a while, and putting it back at least three times, all while having an extended conversation with me, myself, and I. It’s hard enough for the three of us to agree—I don’t need a bevy of girlfriends at my elbow making the decision even more angst-ridden and difficult than it already is!
The online shopping party is a natural development of the digital age. Our mothers gathered in living rooms to drink coffee and purchase Tupperware and Avon. Ladies today gather online to have virtual versions of the same thing. More power to them! I’m glad for those who are able to use these opportunities to buy, sell, and have some fun.
As for me, I’ll see you at the mall. And when I do, if I’m actually trying to shop for something I need, I’ll put on my dark sunglasses and walk the other way.