Tip: Resisting the Shopping Channels

Recent research makes definite and demonstrable what we already suspected: that QVC and other such channels are enabling and encouraging compulsive shopping. For an overshopper, these channels are simply too seductive. Don’t go there. Stay away. These are not retail stores, where, at your leisure and with sales pressure you can limit, you are able to compare one thing with another from an abundance of merchandise. Nor are the shopping channels brief interruptions, like magazine or television ads, where whatever buying urge an ad may generate begins to dissipate when the “primary” matter returns—when you go back to the article you’re reading or the TV show resumes.

The shopping channels are uninterrupted, dedicated, intimate, high-pressure sales machines, staffed by professional pitch-people who bring virtual evangelism to their craft. And their effect is significantly magnified by the carefully chosen images that accompany the pitch. As bracelet after bracelet, handbag after handbag, or CD collection after CD collection is offered, each one shining on camera as it never will in life, each one caressed by the pitchperson’s voice, each “an amazing bargain,” an “opportunity” passing you by right now on the television monitor, the psychological pressure to buy can become nearly unbearable. For the overshopper—and probably for most people—this is simply not a venue for intelligent buying decisions.

These channels rely particularly on the emotional connection that you begin to feel toward the pitch-people on the screen and that intensifies as you watch, a psychological bond carefully forged of three elements. First, there’s the intimacy of television, in which sellers seem right here with us in our living- or bedrooms. Next, there’s the presentation style, which intensifies that intimacy: sellers talk directly and warmly to us; they become, in effect, earnest and attractive friends. Finally, there’s the accumulated impact of repetition: as offer follows offer, we lose the power of resistance; we don’t, after all, want to continue to disappoint these new “friends.”

So beware of the combined appeal of two all-consuming pursuits, the double-whammy of shopping and television. Don’t even think about it. Take the fail-safe way: have your cable company disconnect the shopping channels, or, if you use satellite, exercise parental control over yourself and lock them out.

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