One lesson you quickly learn while shopping in New York City is if you see something you like, you must buy it right then because if you decide to delay the purchase to think about it the item will no longer be there when you return.

I call this effect “The Trick of Wants” because the second you want something and then release it you have instantly forever tricked yourself from the opportunity of ever buying it while guaranteeing you will later cry over the loss. Hiding your want where no one else will find it rarely works because that’s a trick effect everyone else practices, too.

I have no idea if my tricksy Wants Effect theory has resonance beyond the New York City Metro area but if it does I am curious if the aftereffect of the trick is instantaneous as in New York City or if the item you want can linger for five minutes or an hour or an afternoon or a day until you finally decide you want it creating a lesser risk of not finding it again when you return.


  1. I found that same thing when I visited Manhattan. I saw something and put it down and I turn around and it was gone.

  2. Hi Veronica!
    It happens all the time! You can try to ask a store to hold on to it for you for a few hours but that doesn’t always work, either.

  3. That happened too. I put a shirt on hold and I came back later that day and someone else said it was theirs and bought it. Some stores in New York do so much business you can’t even have them order another shirt from another store. It’s frustrating.

  4. Yes! Once a store sells out of something — especially a clothing store – they don’t usually get the same product in again. They just sell what they have and that’s it. It can be frustrating trying to replace something beloved or wanted. I guess that’s why we have eBay!

  5. Yeah, eBay is the follow-up seller for all the stuff you missed out on buying the first time. It’s the opposite of your effect.

  6. I have the same thing out West. You go in and you better bag it and tag it behind the counter if you want it or think about it a littel or it will never be there when you get back. This is true of clothes, movies, software and games.

  7. Hiya Simms!
    I think things have changed since we grew up. Back then you could get whatever you wanted and if the store was out-of-stock you could order it and in a few day’s you’d have it. I guess today margins are thin that companies make barely enough to cover their hoped-for demand and after that they move on to something else like the Next Big Thing.

  8. When I visit my hometown I know they’ll hold something for me for a day or two. Most stores even in the Midwest will only hold something until the end of business and then it goes back out on the shelves because they can’t make money off it behind the counter. Bookstores seem to be the only exception. They’ll put a book back for you for a long while.

  9. Same thing here, Simms.
    Big cities have a less lenient policy about holding stuff while the smaller cities don’t seem to mind as much. In NYC it is rare a store will willingly hold something for you because they know if you don’t want it someone else in the next second will.

  10. Just had that happen, even worse because the item wasn’t new so they only had the one. A nice, well used leather laptop bag. Supple leather, plenty of space, even had the business card from an IT guy from Boeing still inside it. I “um’ed” and “ar’d” about it. Finally I talked myself into getting it and went back to the rack and it was gone.
    I checked the whole store in case someone picked it up and left it on another rack, dang.
    But we did get a trackerball, and three Microsoft ergonomic (those keyboards with the split keypads for typists. The wife loves them.) for 99 cents each and on 50% off day so we got them all half price too.
    But still bummed about the bag.
    Some places do layaway, but not many so you have to grab it when you see it.

  11. Hiya Mik!
    It’s great to hear from you today.
    Yep, that’s it! If it’s in your hand, BUY IT, or you’ll be sorry later and I’m sorry to hear you lost that bag. If you want to think about it, do it in the store and keep it in your hands.
    Janna has a hard time making the decision to buy and when she thinks about it and goes back later she is heartbroken it is gone.
    My mother was shopping for a $1,000.00 USD Mother-of-Pearl necklace with her boyfriend and she was “ooing” and “ahhing” over it for an hour in the store and all the shoppers in the upper-crusty store came over and looked at what was making her so guttural.
    Then she decided to think about because it was a lot of money.
    When she came back 15 minutes later to buy — it had been purchased by one of those onlookers enticed by her ooing and her mini-history lesson on why that piece was so special…

  12. By nature I am a very fast shopper, I know my budget, and I know why I am there and to buy what…so it normally doesn’t happen with me –
    But it happened with me once. I liked something, went to look for something more attractive – couldn’t find anything – came back to the previous one – it was gone!
    I learnt the lesson to pay attention to whatever I have with me in the present! At least in case of shopping! 😀

  13. Hiya Katha!
    Nice to hear from you again. I know you have been busy with the fun and excitement of Spring Break!
    You shop like a stereotypical man! We know what we want. We don’t window shop. We buy fast and clean. Sales people love us.
    Finding things that please you while shopping can be difficult. Buy that pleasure while it’s in your hand because if you put it down someone else will covet it.

  14. I know I shop like a stereotypical man, I take exactly 15 minutes to choose something and decide – be it a $50 thing or a $1000, it’s always the same! That’s why some of my friends always want me to accompany them while shopping and others discard me like plague………. 😀
    Window shopping….?…..Me….? No way. I have better things to do. Sometime I find something very attractive and am in a dilemma – whether to buy it or not….
    And I, myself discovered a process to overcome this – I ask myself, ‘’do I need it or want it?’’ If I need it I buy it without a second thought, and if I want it then I ask myself ‘’can I afford it?’’ If yes, I pick it up – no questions asked!
    [It’s between you and me, most of the time the answer for the second question comes in affirmative!!!]

  15. Hi Katha!
    I’m with you. When I get to the store I already know what I want and I don’t want to discuss it or see other options: Point me to it and get the commission and we’re both happy if I’m back out the door in five minutes.
    I love Circuit City. I can order my stuff online then go to the store and pick it up waiting for me, pre-paid, post-hassle, posthaste in person 15 minutes later. Now that’s shopping!
    “Windows shopping” is fine — online only!
    I’m also with you on needing everything I want!

  16. I’ve been looking for apartments and I’ve noticed the same thing. If there is an ad in the paper, the apartment has probably been rented. If it is still vacant, you had better get in touch with the owner and sign a lease, otherwise in a day or two, it will be rented. It’s a function of supply and demand. I’m surprised it is same way for consumer goods, since it seems that there would be a huge supply of items, whereas vacant apartments are limited in quantity.
    I’ve noticed when shopping that I’ve seen items moved to different areas in the store. I wonder if people were hiding their item while deciding if they really wanted to purchase it.
    I’ve found if an item isn’t a major mass produced item and the store has sold out, sometimes the net is the best place to go. Even “big box” stores will have items immediately available online that will take a while to order via the store.
    I haven’t asked for a special order, but I remember in the late 80s and early 90s the grocery store where I worked would order all sorts of special request items for people in an effort to provide the best customer service. I wonder if I could do the same thing at the store where I shop? I’ve never asked because if they don’t have something, I’ll just go to another place.

  17. I guess I don’t shop like a typical man, I like to shop. I am happy browsing stores looking at anythign and everything. I guess that’s why I have so many useless gadgets!
    Lately though I have been asking myself “do I really need this?” before making a purchase.
    Give me money and set me loose in a mall and I’m happy.

  18. Hey Chris!
    You’re right on point when it comes to apartment hunting. When we found this great place in Jersey City our realtor told us if you want this apartment you need to write a check right now because in an hour another couple are coming to look at it and they’ll grab it because they’re moving from out of state and they’re desperate for housing.
    Janna and I looked at each other and we really wanted this place but we didn’t bring our checkbook. Our realtor looked at us and said, “I will never understand why people look at apartments without bringing their checkbook! Landlord don’t take credit cards!” I told her we didn’t know we’d find a place and if we did we’d want to sleep on it. She said, “Look, I’m not going to waste your time showing you a lot of stuff you don’t want. I know what you want. This is the place you want right? There’s no sleeping on it. Get some money.”
    With that we raced to the bank and did the only thing we could on such short notice after 4 pm. We maxed out our ATM allowance for the day and pulled the rest on — GULP! — cash advances on our credit cards through the ATM network!
    We got the place but boy… what an expensive lesson learned… even if you pay it all back on your cards right away.
    Yes, when you find stuff hidden in places with non-similar items — that’s something that’s been “placed on layaway” while someone thinks about it or races out to get more money. Store staffers are trained to sniff out that kind of “contraband” and put it back where it belongs.
    Shopping online is great though the other day I had to buy a new toilet seat and the ONLY PLACE I could find one online was Bed, Bath and Beyond only sold the $500 heated version online. All my other tries ended up in dead ends.
    I don’t think chain grocery stores do special orders any longer. The mom and pop shops still might… though I imagine their distributors aren’t much help because it costs the same effort and money to order one of something or 1,000 of something.

  19. Hi Mik —
    You are not the stereotypical American man. We’re impossible. We have no attention span. We think with our eyes. We don’t want to waste time. We hate any sort of “shopping” if it takes longer than “picking up” something.
    That’s why salespeople in America love to sell to men and stereotypically don’t like to sell to women.
    Men know what they want. Women want to think about it and look at all the choices.
    You can see this in best evidence in the shoe department of a major chain store. Men find the pair they want, they give the size and they buy.
    Women look at several styles, try them all on, walk around, see how they feel and then make purchase if the salesman is lucky. After all that many women just leave to keep shopping without buying any shoes.

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