Amazon Prime Day is nearly upon us again, and with it comes the hazy rush of excitement attached to getting a new speaker for half the original price. The euphoria of a good bargain is powerful and hard to ignore, even if you weren't necessarily in the market for a new set of speakers in the first place.
But that's the thing about getting a good deal: The satisfaction is often more about the act of shopping and the excitement of a bargain, than it is about the actual thing you're buying.
Kit Yarrow, PhD, a consumer psychologist and professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University says that we get so revved up about sales like Amazon Prime Day because there's an element of competition involved. There's a time constraint (36 hours, in this case), and there's competition against other people for what seems like a limited amount of items (who among us hasn't been incited by "only 9 left in stock").
"There’s a physiological response when we feel like we’ve won something, and I think people really look for that and want that, and Amazon Prime Day is just another day of the year where people feel like, Oh I can get that thrill of winning, of getting something for less," Dr. Yarrow says.
That's probably why Amazon Prime Day keeps getting more popular every year. Last year, Amazon told CNBC that its Prime Day sales grew by 60% from 2016, surpassing its Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Some of those shoppers log on for Prime Day with the intent of saving money on that TV they've been eyeing all year but haven't let themselves indulge in. In that case, it makes perfect sense to be excited. But for others, it's all about the thrill of the chase.
"For other people, maybe they don’t even have something in mind, they’re just craving that feeling of being a successful competitive force shopper," Dr. Yarrow says. "In other words, they want the thrill of feeling like they scored a big victory."
What you’re really hunting for is the thrill of a bargain, which is when I think a lot of consumers make mistakes.
Kit Yarrow, PhD
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but Dr. Yarrow says that people are more likely to experience buyer's remorse when they're just looking for a good deal.
"What you’re really hunting for is the thrill of a bargain, which is when I think a lot of consumers make mistakes," she says. "In my research, what I’ve found is that people spend a lot of money to get that feeling of success, but they’re not as happy with their purchase."
In fact, Dr. Yarrow says that people who make purchases during a sale tend to trick themselves into thinking they like something more than they really do, and then realize later that they never really wear that thing anyway (hello to the cornflower blue Reformation dress that's still sitting in my closet after exactly two wears).
"When you do score something, it feels great so you have this burst in dopamine, and people want that feeling again, and it causes a lot of shopping errors," she says.
There's nothing wrong with being proud of your bargain-hunting abilities, or with spending your hard-earned money on what you want. But if you're really trying to save cash, it's probably a good idea to spare a second to think about whether or not you'll use that Kindle after all.