The Prodigal Chum

I was thinking of titling this week’s post as Confessions of a Shopaholic. However, I decided against it as it was a girly movie. It didn’t receive favourable reviews and I don’t intend to watch it. Today I’m going to do what I do best: sharing a story. I know this guy, Pip (not his real name). I noticed that every time we meet, he keeps checking his phone. Why, I asked him. I’m following up the tracking details of my parcel, he replied. This seemed to be a regular thing. I often notice him rocking his new purchases. Here’s a recent inventory. He bought this leather watch from Myer. He also showed me a pic of his new pyjamas from Peter Alexander. Being a big Jordanaire, of course he had to grab this retro Chicago Bulls dad hat from Mitchell and Ness. That’s just the start of his oniomania or compulsive buying disorder.

Shopping = happiness

His friends and family have urged him to change. Save, his dad told him. His younger brother concluded that he has an illness and he needs to sort it out. His step mum told him to stop buying clothes as he already has too much. It will become a space eating nightmare, she warned him. I asked him why he didn’t listen to his family. He replied that ‘shopping gives me fleeting happiness. After this I feel empty and need to stock up some more.’

Even though we hung out, I didn’t recognise the warning signs. Pip seemed unhappy and malcontented even though he was buying the best stuff. As a result, his wallet hit a roadblock. His payment would be gone after a few days. He had to repay Zip instalments, his mobile plan, his Apple TV+, his credit card, his Uber One, and OnePass. That’s a lot of payables for a guy who wasn’t Elon Musk. He does buy items that he truly need but he’s the first to admit that they are ‘about less than half’ of his buys. I inferred that if it were only essential stuff, his extravagance would be greatly diminished.


My pal reminded me of The Prodigal Son. The biblical parable is a famous one about two sons who end up in different directions. The older son is wise with his money. He always saves for the rainy days. The younger one is more free flowing. The latter forces their dad to give their inheritance early. The older son stays with his father and takes good care of his cash. The younger one immediately leaves the family and blows his money on trivial stuff until he has nothing left. Penniless, he returns to his dad who welcomes him with open arms. The father orders his servant to cook the fattest lamb. This irks the older one as he seems to be taken for granted. He, in fact, chose to look after their elderly dad. The latter, being fair, said that he values both sons and that they should rejoice that his sibling has returned.

The main interpretation of this tale is that God will accept you come what may. If you erred and forgotten Him, He’ll always welcome you back to His fold. Returning to Pip, I did some searching recently, hitting up the term ‘shopping addiction.’ As per above, it is a real condition. Pip’s younger sibling was on the money (pun intended). Another term for this is being a shopaholic. It has similarities with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). What usually occurs is that the person buys a lot of unessential goods. A clock here, a jacket there. A pair of shoes here, a leather wallet there. A used CD here; an electric fan there. You get the drill. To them, everything they snap up is necessary.

All Regrets Policy

This compulsive buying is often met with regret upon purchase. It’s like a void that needs to be filled. The more you feed this vortex, the worse your affliction gets. In some cases, people get addicted to online shopping. This is usually a result of social anxiety. Since the offender is obviously not very sociable, they substitute face to face interaction with an inordinate concern to hoard everything. There is no bargains that they couldn’t have. They’re only marginally better than gamblers. Don’t be mistaken: shopping could be a vice.

I think my pal’s condition is getting worse. Before, it was only two or three items a month. Now, he’s topping up every other day. Before, he was shopping at Target. Now, he’s frequenting David Jones, the glitziest department store in the land.

An old malady

Shopping addiction is not new. It was coined as oniomania way back in 1892. The epic rise of the internet and online shopping has foregrounded the issue to the masses. To be honest, you can be forgiven for dismissing this malady as a first world problem, if not, as per Kevin Kwan, ‘rich people problems’. However, we must remember that this condition really exists. Instead of being dismissive, we must try to support those affected. Perhaps they need to see a counsellor or talk to a financial advisor to curb their urges. The first step is always acceptance and I’m glad that my friend has owned up to his extravagance.

The good thing is that my friend is willing to change. Like most addictions, it will probably be a gradual decline. As they say, ‘The journey to a thousand miles start with a single step.’ Me, his other friends, and his immediate family, are doing our best to aid him. Good luck, Pip.

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