BUI: Buying Under the Influence

We all know that a DUI can result in major consequences, but what about Buying Under the Influence?  Learn how to catch yourself before you slip!

Well, we’ve just passed the autumnal equinox; summer’s given way to fall. This means we can begin to hope for some relief from the heat. It also means that shopping season is almost upon us. As we approach the season, I’d like to briefly explore a not-so-well-known liaison, the unsavory pairing up of drinking and shopping. It’s a phenomenon we call BUI, or buying under the influence.

It doesn’t take much imagination to read this handwriting on the wall. If you’re a shopper, if you even lean toward overshopping, BUI is something to stay away from. Let’s acknowledge the temptation, whether we’re taking bricks-and-mortar or, especially, the Internet. The “All the Rage” column of the L.A. Times puts it colorfully, noting that Shopbop, the online boutique, “knows all about consumers who click on a Marc Jacobs dress and slur, Hey there, frock. I want to take you home tonight.” The boutique doesn’t, of course, have breathalyzer data—but they know. “People definitely do it all the time, says Shopbop spokeswoman Alle Fister. It’s click, click, click after a few cocktails.” And while most online retailers accept returns, admittedly a less painful way of dealing with morning-after remorse, returns cost time as well as money.

That same column nails it. “The appeal of the BUI is as clear as a shot of Stoli. With every glass, inhibitions and judgment soften. Much like drunk-dialing an ex, the impulse to buy becomes an urge that quickly blurs into a must. Suddenly, that $850 David Yurman amethyst and 18K gold ring doesn’t seem like a silly splurge. It’s a reward.”

Recently, the New York Post ran a story about a city pet store that had to ban drunken puppy-buying. “Customers tend to stumble in after happy hour and purchase a dog without thinking,” the owner of Le Petite Puppy said. She now forbids the inebriated even to hold her puppies, and instructs the more insistent to come back next day.

Joanna Douglas, writing in Shine, offers these sensible caveats.

  1. Don’t drink near your favorite shops.
  2. Don’t day drink.
  3. Avoid late-night infomercials.
  4. Restrict your online use after drinking.
  5. Have a support system.

The bottom line is, drinking and shopping don’t mix, just as drinking and driving don’t. Mindful shopping—the only kind that makes sense—is a way we search for ourselves and our place in the world. It requires judgment, the fine balancing of resources, identity, and need. Drinking clouds all that, leaving us prey to unmediated impulses and unacknowledged needs. Particularly as we head into shopping season, firmly resolve to take good care of yourself this year. When you drink, don’t shop.


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By Carrie Rattle

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Read More