Drunk Shopping – Impulse Control in the Internet Age

Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

People are impulsive, and impulse control is a popular research topic among behavior analysts.  In a previous article, we discussed a special issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior all about this topic, including studies relating it to alcohol and money management.

A recent survey conducted by The Hustle, dovetails nicely, as they suggest drunk shopping is on the rise in the United States, and is estimated to bring in approximately $45 Billion every year.  Moreover, companies are noticing and designing late-night ads to target the segment.

Though not the most scientifically sound survey ever to be run, the site surveyed a few thousand of its alcohol-consuming readers.  They averaged in their mid 30s with higher than average income, with a few more males than females in the sample.  They state “the data presented here is by no means definitive or conclusive; nonetheless, it still provides an interesting snapshot of the drunk shopping market.”

And we agree.  The sheer estimate of the drunk shopping industry and the fact that companies are targeting the segment lends enough social validity to gain our attention.  These were people who had a few too many and went online to Amazon and other sites to make purchases they probably wouldn’t otherwise…and in some cases don’t even remember making.

So what are the setting factors that participate in drunk shopping?

Being Female

Their survey found that women are slightly more likely than males to shop drunk.  They are also more likely to favor wine.  If they drink liquor, they favor vodka.

Being Young

Millennials took the cake for drunk shopping, followed by Gen Xers, and then Baby Boomers.  Even though the youngest were most likely to shop, however, the oldest spent the most money.

Being Well Off

The more money you have, the more likely you are to drunk shop.  For the five income brackets targeted in the survey, the likelihood of drunk shopping increased with every higher bracket.

Your job matters.

Those in the sports industry had a 94% chance of shopping drunk, while writers were the least likely, though still more likely than not, at 60%.

How much you drink matters.

Drunk shoppers were found to drink around 10 drinks a week, while those who didn’t typically had half that – 5 per week.

Where you live matters.

Those living in Connecticut and Kentucky spent the most when drunk shopping.  Other top contenders included New Jersey, Iowa, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, most of the Deep South, and California.  Montana spent the least.  Generally, the closer you live to an ocean, the more likely you are to spend.

Have you ever drunk shopped?  Do you know anyone who does?  Share your stories in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is a science writer, social philosopher, behavioral systems analyst, and the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which aims to connect behavioral science to the world in an engaging, non-academic way.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  His publications follow a theme of behavioral systems analysis, organizational performance, theory & philosophy, and language & cognition.  He has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org

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