Have you ever had a mysterious package show up on your doorstep from eBay or Amazon?
Do you cringe when it's time to check your credit card statements?
Do you own any cardboard cutouts of celebrities, have a closet full of novelty clothing items, too many accessories for your pets, or have your friends commented on your bizarre taste in home decor?
If any of the above are true, you may be guilty of drunk online shopping.
At MONTAG, we are not here to judge you, and you should know you are not alone.
According to a 2017 report on e-commerce trends from BigCommerce and Square, with insights from Mercury Analytics, 96% of Americans with the internet have shopped online at least once, and 80% of them have done so in the past month.
One in ten admitted to buying things online after drinking alcohol, and the study found that men are more than twice as likely as women. Younger generations (the infamous Millennials) are five times more likely to drink and shop than their older counterparts, and parents are twice as likely as non-parents. So whether you're an older gentleman, a millennial mom, or anyone in between, it's likely you've committed a PUI (Purchase Under the Influence).
Another 2017 survey by Finder has found the average of a drunk shopping spree online, from a sample of approximately 3,000: $139 per spree – and for men alone, the average is over $200.
Of course retailers have noticed this uptick in post-happy hour retail therapy, and an oft-cited New York Times article from 2011 pointed out that online sales were increasingly being offered after 9 PM. It was stated in the same article that eBay's most popular hours are from 6:30 to 10:30 PM in each time zone that they operate, and the effect can also be seen in QVC shopping trends, where more cosmetics and accessories are sold after 7 PM.
How to not
The combination of accessibility, intangibility of risk, and lack of impulse control inherent in online shopping while drunk is a powerful cocktail for bad decision making. While it can cause significant financial harm to those with addiction or impulse control problems, in general, online shopping after you've had a few is a fairly low-risk vice.
That said, most articles warning about the seductive power of shopping under the influence offer some tips to avoid it, so before we get into the entertaining things people buy, here are some of those tips:
Know your triggers: both overindulging with alcohol and shopping can be due to stress, low self esteem, or a host of other seemingly unrelated problems. Look for patterns in both drinking and spending that could point to an underlying issue.
Hide your cards, hide your wife: credit cards are the main culprit in most cases of buyers' remorse. If you know you'll be tempted to spend beyond your means, get them away from your laptop and don't save your credit card information where one click is all it will take to make a transaction. The best tip we saw for this was actually freezing them in a bowl of water so they have to thaw before use.
Use wish lists and be aware of the shipping and return policies where you shop.
Block tempting websites at drunk o'clock. There are a lot of productivity apps that can help you do this.
If you didn't think there was already an app that would do all of this for you, welcome to the 21st century. DRNKPAY connects your linked cards to an app and locks them for 12 hours. The app then syncs with a Bluetooth breathalyzer, and you must blow under a pre-set limit to access your funds. It also has a feature that allows you to pay for an Uber, and that's the last sober warning we'll give you: please please please do not drink and drive to your local retail outlet of choice.
What we buy and why
"You want to choose something that's questionable but turns out to actually be hilarious or amazing"
In 2015, the same year that SkyMall, the alcohol-and-altitude-fueled purveyor of "who would buy this?" home products, filed for bankruptcy, web creative Chris Baker launched the app Drunk Shopping. The now-defunct service was simple: at 2:00 in the morning on Saturday night (technically Sunday) it would text a product suggestion designed to trigger that "I think this is awesome, but I would never buy it sober," impulse.
Although you couldn't actually buy anything through the app itself, it highlights a genre of weird products you find on the internet that make you think, "Who in their right mind would buy this?"
Tyler Mahan Coe, the proprietor of DrunkMall, said this in an interview with Mic about the selection of products he offers to his inebriated online customers:
"What you want out of the ideal drunk purchase is two things... There needs to be a period of doubt that begins the day after your drunk order. You think, 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't have bought that.' Or, 'There's no way it's actually going to be cool when it gets here.' Because that makes it so much better when a solid drunk purchase shows up and just destroys all of that doubt. So you want to choose something that's questionable but turns out to actually be hilarious or amazing.'"
DrunkMall appears to still be going strong, and its success may be due to its web design as much as its product selection. Command C, an e-commerce design agency, lists the UX features that are essential to creating a retail site that will be accessible to people at all levels of sobriety, in their article, "Ecommerce Website Consideration: Design for Drunks" and DrunkMall follows the same principles of bold simplicity to a point that looking at the site does seem to require beer goggles.
The blocky, red "I WANT IT" buttons direct you to external sites where you can pay actual money for products like zombie lawn gnomes, LED tutus, Netflix and Chill condoms, a sports bra that holds a bottle of wine, a Bill Murray shower curtain, 3,000 Jazz dixie cups, a really fake looking shark head for your wall, or an 8 foot long, 26-pound gummy snake.
The novelty item chicken-egg problem
There are countless lists of "X NUMBER OF HILARIOUS FUNNY CRAZY SILLY DRUNK PURCHASES" and as you may guess from the clickbait-y title, they're usually full of the same slightly off-kilter novelty items. After combing exhaustingly through many of these lists, and categorizing over 200 items, this is the definitive breakdown of what kind of weird dumb crap people buy when they're drunk – or think it would be funny to.
Novelty clothing, home goods, celebrity-themed items, weird things for your pets, bulk items of food, toys, animals (including taxidermy), and weapons, instruments, or sports gear are the major types of products that drunk people gravitate towards, according to lists of "the craziest/funniest/most regrettable/not regrettable drunk purchases".
According to the survey cited earlier from Finder, these lists are fairly accurate for intoxicated e-commerce as a whole, where the top categories of drunk purchases were 1. Shoes and clothes, 2. Gambling and cigarettes, 3. Movies and DVDs, and 4. Technology.
You don't have to be drunk to buy your pet toad 1,000 top hats, or 14 Snuggies for yourself
There's a strange relationship existing now between things people bought in the past while drunk that became jokes, were included in these lists and websites, and the suggestions of similar items that should be or are marketed to drunk people.
In a sort of feedback loop, drunk people repeat the joke actions of others drunk before them and perpetuate the myth that novelty printed shower curtains, or horse head costumes, or portraits of animals dressed as people, are all expressions of self through consumerism that are only acceptable with the caveat of inebriation.
There's no need to hide behind inebriation to justify your deep desire to outfit your cat with a unicorn horn.
Sure, maybe you'll eventually regret buying that grappling hook or set of Freddie Mercury coasters, the Ouija board or the Batman bathmat, the snake bite extraction kit or 8 jars of Betty Crocker frosting, but you won't know until you buy it.
And if you won't buy it until you're drunk, then you're either a coward, or must admit that none of these things is worth spending a penny on under any circumstance.