You can’t put a price on love — but not putting a price on items that symbolize love can cost you a pretty penny, recent research shows.
A recap of three studies in the latest issue of the journal Judgment and Decision Making finds that when people are shopping for items such as engagement rings, cremation containers and birthday cupcakes, they:
- Choose higher-price, higher-quality items over equally appealing lower-price, lower-quality items.
- Search less for lower-priced items.
- Are less willing to negotiate prices.
The researchers conclude:
“Our inquiry reveals that, when a purchase is symbolic of love, people are reluctant to seek cost saving options and thus spend more money than is necessary given the availability of lower cost (yet equivalent quality) items in the marketplace.”
Lead author Peter McGraw, associate professor of marketing in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, explains in a CNBC report that people are generally good about seeking out cost savings. But that process makes people “deeply uncomfortable” when associated with love:
“It just doesn’t feel right to be negotiating lower prices on a casket for your beloved grandfather.”
In one study, for example, participants imagined they were purchasing either a container for the cremation of a loved one (which the researchers referred to as a sacred purchase) or a container for the storage of a grandfather clock (referred to as a secular purchase).
The participants were less willing to search for a lower-priced alternative and more willing to search for a higher-quality alternative when purchasing the sacred.
Even in a study involving birthday cupcakes, the researchers found that participants were willing to pay “significantly” more for customized cupcakes when they were buying them for a loved one.
Over the course of a lifetime, such decisions can add up to five figures on up, McGraw tells CNBC:
“At the end of 60 years of spending, this is not hundreds of dollars, this is thousands and thousands of dollars. There’s an opportunity cost there.”
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