ON JANUARY 27, thousands of people thronged to Big Bazaar, Phoenix Mills, to avail of discounts ranging from 80 to 100 per cent. Class barriers collapsed as long queues of a diverse crowd inched towards discounted products ranging from Pepsi bottles and basmati rice to microwave ovens and plasma TVs.
Graphic designing student Viraj Velinkar had been standing in queue for one and a half hours and expected to be in it for “three hours more”. “I’ve wanted to buy my jeans and tshirts for a long time, but was always too lazy to do it. When I heard of the prices being quoted I got over my laziness,” he said.
For many, the Bazaar was a family affair. “There’s only a 50 per cent chance of the quality of what we buy being good. But they have on offer household utilities we’ve been wanting to buy for a long time,” said Mahendra Mandli, standing in line for hours with his wife and uncle. “Now we can buy all of it at one shot.”
“There is such a crowd perhaps because yesterday was Republic Day and tomorrow again is a Saturday,” said B Cyclewalla. Many shoppers stayed back even though there were loud speaker announcements that they would not reach the shop before its closure. “This attitude is scary,” said Rishi Batra, who was there to shop with his sister. “So many people refusing to leave was what caused the chaotic incidents yesterday.”
Ignoring his observation were many people walking past a large ‘Shop Closed’ sign, at the Phoenix Mills Compound gate, right into the shopping area. One exclaimed “This is madness” in frustration and went right ahead to join the queue himself. Police constable S P Rathore echoed Batra’s observation – “The crowd was in control till now, but it was day time. Now it’s evening, and the crowd is thickening to as much as it was yesterday, if not more!”
While shoppers like banker Faisal Merchant were cynical about whether new product brands like ‘Pigeon’ would “last even their warranty period”, they were tempted by prices like Rs 17,000 for a TV with a DVD player and Rs 8,000 for 12 kgs of Basmati rice, to be taken in instalments via coupons every month.
Some ‘shoppers’, however, came only to see what “this Big Bazaar” was. Auto driver Vikram Marathe said, “My wife and I are curious to see what this sale is like because we’ve heard so much about it. If we find something cheap, we will pick it up.”
SHOP, SHOP, SHOP!
IF THE country-wide Big Bazaar sale showed one thing, it is this: we live in a time when the compulsive shopper is the king. And that happiness is the next purchase away.
Studies in the US have shown that compulsive shopping has affected anywhere between 2 per cent and 8 per cent of the population, and experts believe that the disorder is only on the rise. Mumbai-based clinical psychologist Varkha Chaulani points to a deepseated disease in the making. She cites the example of one of her clients who prided in giving away gifts to people, unmindful of the fact that she was actually suffering from low-self esteem. Another would siphon money by lying to her husband, sometimes resorting to stealing from her children’s school fees.
Says Chaulani, “You see people who buy all these latest gadgets and gizmos… they are not “techno-savvy” as we like to call them. These are all buying fads. People believe that by possession their self-worth or position can be lifted. What they do not realise is that it is temporary.”
The middle class does not take kindly to deprivation. The change in mindset, she observes, has occurred in the last five years.
She believes that although shopping is a pleasurable experience, one must know where to stop.
ARE YOU A SHOPAHOLIC?
- Are you really going to use it? Or are you just buying it to be accepted by your peer group or neighbours. Or because you do not want to feel inferior.
- Buying things you can’t afford.
- Incurring significant debt and other financial problems because of shopping.
- Feeling a need to shop rather than a desire to shop.
- Having a sense of exhilaration during shopping; feeling guilty after shopping.
- Dealing with anger from family members about the purchasing and debt incurred.
- Not feeling right when not shopping.
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: