If you are trying to cut back on impulsive purchases, you may want to refrain from drinking that coffee. An international study led by the University of South Florida (USF) found that caffeine affects what you buy and how much you spend when you shop.
The research team conducted three experiments in retail stores – an industry that is increasingly adding coffee bars near its entrances. In their study published in the Journal of Marketing, they found that shoppers who drank a cup of free caffeinated coffee before wandering into stores spent about 50% more money and bought nearly 30% more items than shoppers who drank decaffeinated or water.
“Caffeine, as a powerful stimulant, releases dopamine in the brain, which excites the mind and body. This leads to a higher energy state, which in turn enhances impulsivity and decreases self-control,” said lead author Debian Biswas, Frank Harvey Professor of Marketing at the University of South Florida. Caffeine intake leads to rush shopping in terms of more items purchased and higher spending.
Experiments included setting up an espresso machine at the entrances to a retail chain and home goods store in France and a department store in Spain. Upon entry, more than 300 shoppers were provided with a free cup – half of them were coffee with around 100mg of caffeine and the others decaffeinated or water. They then shared their receipts with researchers as they walked out of stores. The team found that caffeinated individuals purchased significantly more items and spent more money compared to those who consumed decaffeinated coffee or water.
The researchers found that caffeine also affects the types of items they buy. Those who drank caffeinated coffee bought more non-essential items than other shoppers, such as scented candles and perfume. However, there was little difference between the two groups when it came to utilitarian purchases, such as kitchen utensils and storage baskets.
They set up a fourth experiment in the lab and had similar results, this time with regard to online shopping. They divided a study group of 200 business school students between individuals who had both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and asked them to choose the items they would buy from a preselected list of 66 options. Those who consumed caffeine chose more items that were considered reckless purchases, such as a masseur, while others chose more practical items, such as a notebook.
While consuming moderate amounts of caffeine can have positive health benefits, there can also be unintended consequences from consuming caffeine while shopping. That is, consumers trying to control impulsive spending should avoid caffeinated beverages before shopping.”