Put down that mouse. Shopping addiction has become a problem

WASHINGTON — The ease of online shopping has created a nation of over-buyers.

The National Library of Medicine says one out of 14 adults has some form of shopping addiction, known as oniomania, and Americans are buying way more than they need.

Younger consumers are more prone to develop obsessive or compulsive buying habits.

UNITS Moving and Portable Storage, whose franchises across the country see the end effects of overbuying first hand, has launched an awareness campaign ahead of the busy holiday shopping season called “Empty Your Shopping Cart! Top 10 Tips to Stop Browsing and Buying.”

UNITS Moving and Portable Storage said its business has seen 20 percent growth each year for the last three years, and its franchise operators see mountains of things customers accumulate they end up putting in storage.

Eric Miller, co-owner of the Northern Virginia UNITS franchise in Manassas said driving down a neighborhood street provides evidence of Americans’ propensity to collect stuff.

“People no longer park in their garage. And the reason for that is the garage door goes up and the garage is full of possessions, furniture, boxes, toys, whatever,” Miller told WTOP.

UNITS wants its campaign to help people identify their compulsive shopping problem, and offer some tips on how to curb it.

Among those tips, don’t “window shop” online.

“When you start window shopping, it just leads to buying, even if you don’t need it,” said Northern Virginia UNITS co-owner Kris Kay.

Emotions can also play a roll.

“For some people, going to the computer and doing some online shopping when they’re sad or depressed gives them a little bit of a high,” Kay said.

Other tips for curbing unnecessary online shopping:

  • Delete credit cards from retailer websites, to make the check-out process less convenient.
  • Unsubscribe to deals and sales emails.
  • Block internet access to your favorite shopping sites.
  • Delete shopping apps from your mobile devices.
  • Don’t fall for ploys, like “spend $100 and get free shipping.”
  • Before you hit “confirm purchase,” walk away and think about it. Maybe even sleep on it.

A recent NPR/Marist poll found 9 in 10 consumers rarely or never returns online purchases,even though it is a fairly easy process to return something they won’t wear or use.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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