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SUI: Shopping Under the Influence

Drunken online shoppers often make purchases that they can't remember the next day—middle-aged people in particular.


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By McCarton Ackerman


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To drunk texting, add another activity that's best delayed till morning, for fear of remorse: a survey from Kelkoo, a UK shopping habits site, shows that people shopping under the influence (SUI) online spend more than they would if sober, and are more likely to regret their purchases. And 20% of those surveyed admit they can't always remember what they've bought the morning after; others have packages show up at their door that come as a total surprise. The biggest SUI offenders are people over the age of 50, who are spending more time online and may be experiencing their children moving out or the loss of a spouse. "I think we all know people who shop when they are lonely or bored. [In my practice] I've seen ample evidence of how the loss of a mate or friends triggers compulsive shopping, and certainly older people have more experience with loss," says April Lane Benson, a counselor to shopping addicts and the author of To Buy Or Not To Buy: Why We Overshop and How to StopSusan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, adds that midlifers are especially at risk because they often mix booze with sleep aids or other prescription meds, not realizing "how intoxicated they are when they sit in front of the computer." Opportunistic online retailers are well aware that their peak shopping hours arrive after work when people start drinking, and often create "limited time only" specials to take advantage. Whitbourne says treatment for people who compulsively shop while drinking often involves addressing symptoms of depression and loneliness, after which the urge to shop drunk often goes away.

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