70% off…my rocker

An account of my troubled relationship with online sales

Look, it’s not completely unnatural….it’s a perfectly normal human tendency to have an increased heartbeat, dilated pupils, and drool dripping down the side of your mouth when you see a banner proclaiming those magical and damning words “ 70 frigging percent off”. What’s not to like? Why, you just have to do the math to understand. With a 70% discount, I can actually buy not just one useless product, but three!!! I can buy bags (at 60% off) which will be used only to store other bags; I can buy orange shorts (at 53% off) and find out while cleaning my wardrobe that I had already bought the exact same thing last month; I can buy shoes for 200 bucks and find that they feel like wearing paper bags around your feet, and I can buy pretty dresses which will be some 10 sizes too small and will later have to be dumped on an unassuming younger cousin.

I admit that it’s a slightly futile exercise, to put it mildly. But there’s a lot of sound economic theory that goes behind it. The whole exercise of shopping in sales finds its basis in the theory of optimization of costs, in economics of scale, in buffering yourself against market fluctuations and numerous other things. But like all economics, this too is deceptive. Because on an online site, it doesn’t matter whether you need the product or whether you like it. What matters is what they tell you. What the ad plastered across your computer screen tells you. Because like H.G. Wells said, “Advertising is legalized lying”. So it’s not my fault that I blew up half my allowance on a dozen products that I don’t use. They led me to it. They did, I tell you.

It’s not like I make rash decisions while shopping. Being a pro at online sales requires some serious considerations to be made. Is an offer of buy 2 get 1 free better than an offer of 70% off? Do I need the red top or the light red one? Should I buy the leggings in this sale or the next one? Because there’s always another sale. And there’s always another site. And there’s always another style. And there’s always another offer. Which do you choose? Aaaghhh. Decisions, decisions.

In reply to the admonishing looks that my friends give me when I go off on one of my shopping sprees, I have just one thing to say to them – I can look right back at you with cheetah-printed cat-eye sunglasses (36% off), sit down on my amazing multipurpose foldable chair, cross one gladiator-ed foot over the other, and point a deaf, bejeweled ear towards you…that is, if I ever happen to take any of these things out of the colossal storage box that I bought at 40% off. See, that’s how thoughtful the curators of these online shopping sites are; they know the utility, or lack thereof, of each of the products, and so they accompany them with other products which NEED to be bought in order to make the first one useful. So once you make the mistake of buying that oh-so-gorgeous white dress, you just NEED to buy the oh-so-gorgeous burgundy heels to go with it because all of the heels that you already own will simply refuse to match the dress. That’s another thing with online shopping. Each new product begets another in this Sisyphean odyssey. Everything else that you already own is from another universe, a universe of real stores with real salesmen to tell you what you really need, and a real mom behind your back to tell you what you really don’t. But the online world is different. A sinister pit luring you into the inescapable clutches of a sale, with the words “BOGO, clearance, end of season, spring sale, summer sale, winter sale, monsoon sale, autumn sale” wrapped around you with the tenacity of tentacles. And India doesn’t even have a season called autumn for that matter, at least not according to what our geography teachers taught us. But it doesn’t matter that we don’t have an autumn, we still have a sale for it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have money; I have a debit card. And a laptop. And with these two diabolical twins together, there’s nothing stopping me from shopping all the way to bankruptcy.

– Jasmine Kaur


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