Here's how shops get us to buy so much crap every chrtistmas!
From the Independent Newspaper
In the past week I have felt like a white lab rat in a capitalist experiment. I have panicked that bestselling Christmas items might sell out, despite the economic evidence to the contrary. I felt bad for not buying a Kindle, when Amazon has so charmingly demonstrated its interesting features every time I open my inbox. I paid extra in a clothes store to have an assistant gift-wrap my purchase, only to watch on as he screwed up said purchase into an unsightly ball of white tissue paper and stuffed it in a big, branded box that I know I'll chuck away. I have lingered in a deliberately well-heated branch of M&S as it snowed outside, allowing my eye to be caught by pretty boxes of nuts and fruit. In short, I've fallen for every trick high-street retailers have conspired to play.
But the tactic that really has me in a frenzy of breathless festive spending is the oldest in the book. Not discounts. Nor artful window displays. It is the sound of pounding, mulled wine hangovers, of doorstep-thick slices of pub-lunch turkey, of inadvisable snogs and four pounds of extra fat on the midriff. For some reason, though I loathe them in any other context, I can't resist the effects of Christmas music when I'm shopping. La-a-a-st Car-eest-maass, I gaaave you my heaaart ... At our local Tesco, this and other literally unforgettable festive pop is currently playing at rock-concert volume. But it really works. On Sunday, as I rounded the potato display, I saw a couple rub noses and mouth the lyrics as they loaded their basket with smoked salmon. More dancing ensued in the tea and coffee aisle. I wanted to sneer, I really did, but the strange result of the mass hypnosis that Tesco employed – for any retailers out there, I believe it was the standard Now That's What I Call Christmas CD – was a 50 per cent increase in my usual bill.
The connection between music and consumer spending has been scientifically documented, notably in several studies carried out in the 1980s (possibly not coincidentally, since that's the era of much of the Christmas music you'll hear). Slower, positively associated music is proven to make shoppers not only linger, but spend more. As the sound of Noddy Holder or Mariah Carey reverberates in our eardrums, we suddenly think we're having fun, engaging in a leisure activity, rather than performing an expensive, tiring chore. The same studies showed that volume has a converse effect on how long shoppers stay in a store; therefore loud, Christmassy music from yesteryear is designed to make us grin like loons, march around the shop loading up our trolleys in haste, before we can have second thoughts about that third packet of bite-sized stollen cakes.
The soundtrack to spending is of course something online stores can't control. I might be browsing Net A Porter listening to Joy Division, which would make me buy nothing, and sob into my keyboard. As it was yesterday. Etailers can dangle pages of discounted Bananagrams and Black Ops games and Kindles, but without Noddy or George warbling in the background, the spell is broken.