There are four kinds of shoppers :
- The compulsive shopper
- The reluctant shopper
- The practical shopper
- The online shopper
My mother is a compulsive shopper. Much like Alice in Wonderland, she imagines every article in the world is imploring her to ” Buy Me” and the words “Let’s go shopping” are enough to bring her on her feet and rarin’ to go. She’s found shopping opportunities where there were none and while growing up we’ve carted around vegetables bought on the way from or to different places on the way home – ripe strawberries from Mahabaleshwar, stinky,heavy jackfruit from Goa and even rasagullas in an earthenware pot from Kolkata. She always kept a cloth bag handy to carry the stuff she bought and when that was full, she’d remove the cushion (kept in the car to help her drive) from its cover and stuff that with onions and potatoes !!! This passion to shop is not restricted to vegetables but covers the entire gamut of consumables from jewelry to knick knacks.
And then there’s the shopper like my father who hates shopping and actually strains at the leash outside a shop, scowling and shuffling waiting for his shopaholic wife to finish her purchases. Shopping with him is a pain because he makes each step seem like Chinese torture. So he tells my mother to shop for him instead with such specific instructions like buy only this from this shop and only if it costs so much…….blah, blah and even more blah…..so that even she, a compulsive shopper is reluctant to do his shopping.
These two genes obviously nullified each other in my DNA because I am a practical shopper. I only shop when I have to and I only buy things that I need. Unlike my father I enjoy visiting the shops and unlike my mother I don’t buy for the sake of buying. I actually find shopping enjoyable when I’m in the mood for it and enjoy discovering cities through their shops and marketplaces. I love people watching and find shopping a great way to pass time.
But the shopping gene seems to have mutated into a sterile compulsive shopper in the case of my daughter who cannot deny her inherited love of shopping but whose busy lifestyle has become more an excel sheet and shopping is factored in as one of the jobs to be done… She is the kind who surfs the net for all kinds of deals from essentials to holidays and is adept at shopping online. She has cupboards full of clothes with price tags intact and shoes unworn, all because she is an online bargain hunter.
Shopping portals or shopping malls?
But shopping today is not the laid back easy way it was years ago – when you could walk down the market without being pushed around or shoved. When you could make a game out of bargaining and ask the shopkeeper to keep a thing for you while you looked around before making up your mind. When you could park your car right outside the shop, quickly jump in and make your purchase and dash off. Today shopping is quite a head ache. Even if you go to a mall or a supermarket, it is hardly convenient to shop . You have to get a parking spot, then you have to get the items that you want and finally you have to wait in a line to pay and then cart the whole stuff home!!! This is quite tiring because somehow you can never get all the things in one place at one time. There’s always something that out of stock or not carried by that store. So going from shop to shop is par for the course.
With shopping malls bringing in standardisation in terms of merchandise, shopping has become more manageable but with the cookie cutter malls there is very little to distinguish one mall from the other and shopping can become monotonous and boring. While its comfortable to shop in air conditioned surroundings, the mystique of the local bazaar, the charms of various shopkeepers, the character of each stand alone store makes shopping more an entertaining experience than a mere shopping experience.
What are you shopping for?
If you are shopping for groceries I think shopping portals are better than shopping malls. I mean Surfexcelmatic is the same whether you buy it in shop A or shop B. So for articles such as these online baniya is the best. All you’d do is register yourself on the online shop, fill in your shopping list, swipe your card or choose a COD option and voila just wait for the shop to deliver!
But I wouldn’t extend this to other areas. Durable consumer goods like refrigerators, toasters ovens or gadgets that need to be used before a consumer decides the product is right for him still require an actual touch and feel experience. In fact I would go one step further – the gizmo companies would offer a trial period without any strings attached to potential customers – some even going to the extent of letting you use several competing brands and models to zoom into your preferred option. I’ve just recently bought an android phone and it is only after using it did I realise what I really want in an android so my next purchase will be better informed. However technology too will have changed by that time so I think the best way to make a purchase of a gadget or gizmo is to allow the customer a trial period….. especially when the article is expensive.