I was at a friend’s house where he was proudly showed off a new tablet he got.
“How much did that cost?” I asked
He told me that he got it “free” as part of his new phone contract where he had to pay an extra £20 a month, which was said in such a manner you would think it was a bargain.
But financial irresponsibility is not what inspired this post. I inquired why he needed it.
“With this, I will write my book” he said with a grin
“No he won’t” I thought but didn’t say.
I have known this guy 16 years and he was writing a book then on a pad of A4 paper, where he would painstakingly think of a good title – write it in the middle of the page and that would be the last anyone saw of the masterpiece.
Next week he would repeat the same process.
So how many books has he written in those 16 years?
You guest it zero – absolutely nothing whatsoever.
So what makes him thinks a tablet would help him towards his goal?
He uses consumption as as an excuse to achieve his goals.
The Sat Nav
In a similar situation a family relative bought a Sat Nav because he was beginning to delivery Kleeneze catalogues and justified the expensive purchase that it was needed to help him get to locations.
He needed help getting to locations where he had already delivered catalogues?
The money spent on a Sat Nav could have provided enough fuel for his car to deliver magazine for at least a few months.
Again this is another example where instead of making realistic progress towards achieving a goal, consumption was used as subsitute.
The power of buying
So why do people buy? Reasons can be found in things ranging from psychology to sales literature. The buzz of owning something creates a false sense of esteem. This sounds like a replacement for failing to get what we want from life – sometimes we just buy to replace what we cannot have and never will.
The power of branding will always have an impact on us – we see someone with the latest tech gadget and rather than sticking with the tools we have to achieve are goals, we see the product as making our life better.
The money spent on branding is what make something cost £100 instead of £20 and It is why we want one car, when another is half the price, is just as good and has cheaper maintainance costs.
What is the alternative?
Don’t worry I am not doing some anti-capitalism propaganda here – I am just making people think about how and when they make purchases.
1) Surely a better way of treating consumption is to treat buying as a reward and not a right.
So my relative would buy a Sat Nav only when he made so many sales and my friend would buy the tablet when he has written his first book.
2) Or alternatively, if it is really needed get a cheaper option. When I wanted to start cycling again I bought a crap bike for £10 from a charity shop. Only when I was still using it three months later I decided to treat myself.
What can be learnt?
- Spend weekends and evenings working on goals instead of shops and Amazon, you will get the same satisfaction doing something that you would as a purchase
- Only buy an item as a reward (and if you can actually afford it)
- Never mistakes consumption for self-improvement
5 thoughts on “What makes people buy?”
I tend to buy expensive stuff only on a ‘need to’ basis. I still have a 1980’s midi-system on which everything works apart from the cassette decks which I wouldn’t use nowadays anyway. And I still have a 1990’s cathode ray tube telly, the audio output of which I have routed through the midi-system speakers. The telly I just use for watching DVD’s occasionally as I gave up watching broadcast telly even before the analogue signal was turned off.
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Thanks for the comment – some things I will not replace until they break. Personally I think it is the best way to be rather than wasting money to meet the standards set by others.
If you try and follow fashions for the latest gizmos, it just ends up being a treadmill. I’m kind of attached to my old midi-system, it feels ‘customised’ to my needs. My speaker stands are beech-coloured barstools that I bought from Oxfam twenty years ago, the TV stand I bought second-hand at about the same time for my old telly, which I only replaced after it conked out. I don’t actually like the look of new widescreen flat screen tellies and if placed in the corner of the room they don’t save any space anyway!
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I’ve found a ton of value in the concepts Seth Godin’s book Tribes discusses. I completely agree with your statement: The buzz of owning something creates a false sense of esteem. I’d add that we make purchases that feed our sense of identity. Your family member may have unecessarily bought the Sat Nav because (from his perspective) it helps him move closer to the identity that he wants.
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Thanks for the comment – It is great to get your perspective
I have not read that book, but will have to add it to the ‘must read’ list.