Sunny days always seem to mysteriously draw-out the consumer in me, and just as the forecast predicted, I found myself taking a stroll down Queen Street West this past weekend and checking-out the shops in the area. I went into this one particular store because it had really cute dresses in the window and I did need to find something for my friend’s bridal shower this month. When I saw they were having a 25% off sale on all clothing that pretty much sealed the deal. I went in and this store was the dream shop for the little girl in me who reluctantly has to realize she’s an adult now. It was as though she were saying, “Sure, but I ain’t going without a fight.” I was immediately drawn to the shoes (surprise, surprise) and I spent about five, okay, ten minutes just basking in their girly, Tim Burtonesque glory, but knowing I really didn’t need them I started to walk out of the store.
As my right foot stepped over the threshold of the doorway, I noticed my left foot didn’t quite want to let go. Out of the corner of my eye I could barely make-out the 1950’s housewife inspired dresses; think `Mad Men’. Before I could even consider it my hands were already skimming through the rack. I found a couple of potential candidates that were within my budget and I was immediately escorted to a change room. While I was in there I could hear the conversation of another customer who had tried on a dress and was now showing it to her significant other and going through the buying decision process out loud.
“Well the question really is can I afford a $200 dress, because I know I look great.”
Just by the sheer delight I could hear in the intonation of her voice I knew she had already decided to buy the dress. Then she started mentioning all of the things she was going to have to give-up in order to justify the purchase to herself.
“Well, I was thinking of getting a new MacBook, but I’ve already thrown that idea out the window, and I don't know about that trip to Florida anymore.”
I thought, "Really...? Was that the case before you tried on the dress?" Finally, she used the shopper's trump card:
“Am I not a good enough reason to spend $200 on a dress?”
When the guy asked her how good the dress made her feel and she responded with
“Well, I feel good enough to take myself out to dinner in this dress.”
In my head I could literally hear Samantha from ‘Sex and the City’ say “Honey, if you can barely afford the dress what makes you think you can afford dinner?”
This purchasing decision became a fantasy for this girl, and this fantasy included a lifestyle she really couldn’t afford without making some major adjustments to her spending. In the end she bought the dress, now whether or not she would make the necessary compromises I really don’t know.
From past experience I’ve learned that if I can’t afford to fall in love (with any manner of items) I just walk away. Why bother putting myself through the torture? Because although on the surface this may have appeared to have been a ‘happy’ shopping experience for the young woman, in those 15 minutes she had to consider her financial situation which was obviously tight, contemplate all the other things she would have to give-up like the MacBook and the trip to Florida, and then try to justify everything and make this a ‘happy’ situation by talking about taking herself out to dinner. Now if I’m with a guy I’m interested in, and I’m in a cute dress that I look great in, and the best I can imagine is taking myself out to dinner, not only am I not buying the dress, I’m not dating the guy.
But in the end, who knows? Maybe while she’s out taking herself to dinner in this enchanting dress, and just as she’s about to hand over the credit card, the waiter will say, “No, mademoiselle, it’s already been taken care of by the dark, handsome executive across the room, whose just finished closing a business deal in Dubai. He wants to know if you would like to join him for dessert,” in which case the dress would have been totally worth it. I do hope that dress brings her every bit of happiness she can actually afford...let me rephrase that...I hope that dress brings her every bit of happiness it can afford her, and then some.