It is called buyer’s remorse, and it used to be my best friend for many years.
Are you familiar with the feeling that slowly turns from euphoria into a queasy sensation of concern, guilt and self-doubt? Do you hear a haunting voice in your head that says “Why did you buy that? You act like a selfish bitch with no consideration for your family. Return your purchases. NOW!” At this you reach a high level of anxiety that doesn’t let you sleep, and makes you toss and turn, and eat yourself alive for spending money on something you don’t need.
The next day you wake up in cold sweat and pack your new purchases in the same department store bags you brought them home in. You head for the store praying and hoping that the sales person, who earnestly helped you yesterday, is not there today.
You enter the store, you eyes are focused on the floor, avoiding any eye contact for fear that the sales people might recognize your guilty eyes, and instantly they know why you are here. You sheepishly approach the register where just yesterday you enthusiastically swiped your debit/credit card.
You take a quick glance in the mirror in front of you and jump, scared by your own repulsive gaze. And then… the horror! The sales person from yesterday approaches you. There is no smile, no greeting. Everyone in the store already knows why you dragged all these bags full of stuff back to the same counter you visited just the day before.
You hear the familiar voice but this time the tone is characteristically dry and every syllable distinct. “Can I help you?” You nod, forcing yourself to say with your usual flair “I have a return,” hoping it sounds like the declaration “I am here to buy the whole store.”
You courageously meet a physically heavy stare from the person in front of you. You feel almost deformed by the weight if this stare. Maybe the person behind the counter hopes that this will cause you to reconsider, take your bags and retreat. But you stand your ground. You wait patiently, nervously stepping from one foot to another, while the sales person is processing your return. All you want is run out of the store, screaming like a little girl.
Suddenly you hear a voice hovering on an edge between incredulity and mere bewilderment “Is there anything wrong with this merchandise?”
At this you want to cry, bury your head in the stuff that is conveniently laid out in front of you on the counter, and confess all the things that are wrong with you and only you. You want to apologize, you want to say how sorry you are for putting that person in front of you through all this unnecessary and painful experience. You want to shout that it is not their fault. But all there remains is silence. And shame.
Then you hear yourself saying in a surprisingly confident voice “Nothing is wrong. Just not what I want.”
In return you get a look that startles you for a second, and then puts you in a flight or fight mode. The look suggests that the person in front of you might leap over the counter, put their hands around your throat, and hold it really tight until they feel your life seeping out of you slowly and painfully. Just like they feel their commissions going away with every push of the button on the register – slowly and painfully.
A vague thought crosses your mind. You catch yourself hoping that this person will throw themselves on you, and put you out of your misery. Just for a fraction of a second it is exactly what you want them to do.
But you swallow these thoughts, and instead you start tapping your perfectly painted red nail on a counter to show the person in front of you that time is running out and you are busy doing… who knows what.
You finally leave the store. It was your third or fourth trip this week. After this self-humiliating experience most people would resign to a solitary life of a shopping diet. But not you.
You know that you will be back. In a week, or two, or maybe in a little while when the sales people forget the sound of your voice and the features of your face.
Disclaimer: I have not done this for a few months. I have to admit that I do not miss this experience. But in the past… I was a retailer’s worst nightmare.