Buyer’s remorse is a form of cognitive dissonance, a condition caused by conflicting feelings or beliefs. When we look at making a purchase, there are two opposing forces at work. The practical, avoidance system of our brain is wary and wants to avoid risk, so it cautions us against making hasty decisions. The emotional, approach system wants to satisfy instant gratification and make you happy. They are mutually exclusive, so only one can be in control at any time.
When you make a purchase, you are doing so to be happy. Sometimes it’s an impulse buy. Some purchases are as small as a cup of coffee, some are as large as a home. Overall, statistics show that roughly 82% of Americans feel buyer’s remorse about approximately $10 billion worth of purchases.
The remorse is usually relative to the adrenalin boost you have at the moment of purchase. When a purchase is expensive or requires a commitment, it is most likely to create anxiety once the giddy excitement of purchase wears off. Tangible items have the original boost of joy, followed by regret. The most common reasons that people feel buyer’s remorse are that the item didn’t meet expectations, they didn’t end up using the product, they spent too much money, they found a better deal after the fact, or that they didn’t actually need it in the end.
In today’s world of technology, items can be purchased at any hour of the day with the simple click of a button. impulse buys, which 80% of us fall prey to, are front-loaded with emotion, and we often come to regret them within a short period of time.
A great way to avoid post-purchase anxiety is to buy non-tangibles that can provide memories to sustain you. If you buy an experience instead of a product, you are much less likely to compare your purchase with countless others that are similar. In fact, there is a legitimate fear of missing out that validates people regretting to not experience a unique moment, called FOMO.
Another reason why memories make for a better purchase is they provide a lasting bookend good feeling with the peak-end rule. If you attend a concert, you might not remember all the details but you will remember the high you felt when you left.