Why You Should Never Drink Coffee Before Shopping

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Woman drinking coffee
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Heading to the mall? Skip the coffee if you don’t want to ruin your finances.

People who drink a caffeinated beverage prior to shopping tend to purchase more items and spend more, according to a recent study from researchers at five U.S. and European schools.

In particular, caffeine-fueled shoppers seek out “high hedonic” products, according to researchers from the University of South Florida, Louisiana State University, European University Viadrina, SKEMA Business School and Neoma Business School, the latter two in France.

These include items such as:

  • Scented candles
  • Fragrances
  • Decor items
  • Massagers

The effect of caffeine is weaker when it comes to “low hedonic” products such as notebooks, kitchen utensils and storage baskets, according to the findings recently published in the Journal of Marketing.

Interestingly, the impact of caffeine on spending is stronger for those who drink a little over two cups of coffee or less each day than for those who are heavy coffee drinkers.

The researchers note that caffeine is “one of the most powerful stimulants that is both legal and widely available” and say that around 85% of Americans consume at least one caffeinated beverage every day.

Previous studies have shown that consuming caffeine boosts arousal. That can lead to a positive hedonic state — referred to as excitement or energetic arousal — or a negative hedonic state known as “tense arousal,” in which one experiences tension and nervousness.

People who experience energetic arousal are more dialed in to their perception of product features. That causes them to be more interested in buying hedonic products such as buttery popcorn, chocolate candy and luxury vacations, the researchers say.

In conducting the study, the researchers set up an espresso station outside retail stores in France and Spain. As people entered the stores, half of 300 shoppers got a complimentary cup of coffee, while the other half received decaf coffee or water.

It was later revealed that the newly caffeinated shoppers spent far more — and purchased more “hedonic” items — than their decaffeinated peers.

The researchers conclude:

“Overall, retailers can benefit financially if shoppers consume caffeine before or during shopping and that the effects are stronger for high hedonic products. This is important for retailers to factor in to determine the proportion of hedonic products in their stores. Policy makers may also want to inform consumers about the potential effects of caffeine on spending.”

If you are struggling to tame your tendency to shop impulsively, check out “15 of the Best Ways to Stop Overspending in 2022.”

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