The Ninja Turtle Pinball Machine: Impulse Buying Infographic

Even though Christmas shopping for my son was pretty much complete a couple of months ago, he recently became fascinated by the concept of owning a pinball machine.

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In fact, it was the only thing he asked Santa for at Bass Pro Shop.

So in an order to help Santa out, I checked out Target. I’d already found a cheap, tiny made-in-China type of thing at a party store earlier that day; the kind you’d find in the bottom of a box of Rice Krispies.

But it was at Target that I found the perfect pinball machine for him:

A Ninja Turtles pinball machine, on sale for about $22 (from $25); which is more money than my wife and I agreed to spend to help Santa out on this.

My wife and I are strict Dave Ramsey followers. Therefore, every dollar is specifically accounted for. But in addition to our shared income budget, she and I also each have an annual stipend consisting of birthday and Christmas money from family to last us all year.

I texted my wife: “I am tempted just to spend my own money to buy this for him!”

It was the perfect opportunity for an impulse buy. He would be so happy and so surprised on Christmas morning to unwrap that!

But I thought about the gifts we had already bought him, and considered the other mysterious gifts he’ll get from others, and decided against buying the pinball machine.

If he really is disappointed with the “cereal prize pinball machine” he’s getting, he can spend his own money on the Ninja Turtle one at Target; though he probably won’t. He’ll probably spend it on Legos instead.

So I did it: I resisted the urge to make an impulse purchase. I’m almost surprised at myself.

I will close with an infographic that explains the psychology behind an impulse buy:

Generation Z Marketings Next Big Audience

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Is It Okay To Take Our Jogging Stroller To The Mall?

Predetermined and Preconceived Expectations (My Take on Encores, Bartering, and Who Pays for Dinner)

Yes, the title is redundant.  But there isn’t a more appropriate way to describe how ridiculous some of our modern traditions are.

Since the 7th grade, I have been to more concerts than I can count; starting from  when Christian rock music was still awesome (from 1992 to 1998) with now defunct bands like dc talk and Audio Adrenaline, to current favorites like Guster and John Mayer, to class acts like Michael Buble.  I love music and I love concerts.  (Yes, there are people who don’t actually like music at all.  They are the ones who say they like all music, including both rap and Country equally.)

After you’ve been to a few concerts, you become overaware of how virtually every concert will end:  After the “last song” is finished, the band hurries off the stage while saying “Good night (enter name of city where the concert is), you’ve been great!”  But the lights stay off in the auditorium or arena.  This gives the necessary opportunity for the audience to cheer “Encore!” or “We want more!” until the band predictably returns to the stage to perform a few more songs- where they typically include at least one acoustic version of one of their songs and also one of the band’s most notable songs they conveniently left out of the main set.

Fact: Encores are lame.  I say either [crap] or got off the pot.

In my mind, this concept clearly relates to the mostly un-American tradition of bartering.  During my first summer teaching English in Thailand, I paid full price for souvenirs.  If a price tag had said that an imposter Hard Rock Café: Bangkok t-shirt would cost me 7 or even 10 bucks, I paid it.  Because that sounded pretty reasonable to me.  But by the end of that first summer, as Thai friends starting accompanying me, I learned that the asking price was not meant to be taken seriously.  If the asking price was $10, the after-barter price was typically as low as $5 or even $3.50.

As an American, I had been used to finding my own way to negotiate prices in America: With coupons or Internet specials, or simply just “price shopping” until I found the store with the cheapest price.  I pride myself in never paying full price for anything if I can help it.  But in Thailand and in so many Third World and developing countries, there are no coupons or Internet specials.  Instead, you barter with the merchant.  Otherwise, you get hosed.

Unnecessary map of Koh Samui, Thailand

Granted, bartering does indeed exist in America.  Like when you buy a car, go to a garage sale, or buy something off of Craig’s List.  But typically it’s not worth my time to do business that way.  I’d rather spend my time finding the product somewhere else where the price is firm and already low.  Otherwise, I will not be an active consumer.

Fact: Bartering is lame.  Instead of getting involved with the predictable “buyer asks too low a price, seller asks too high a price” banter, I will simply find another way to buy the product.

Lastly in my trilogy of examples is the awkward game of “who’s paying for dinner?”  If I am going to buy someone’s dinner, I am very clear with them up front before we arrive at the restaurant: “I am taking you to dinner.  I really appreciate how you (I name the reason I am buying their meal, even if it’s as simple as thanking them for their general kindness and friendship).”  There is no guessing to be done.  I am buying their meal.

That means when the waiter comes by the table when it’s time to pay up and asks, “Will this be together or separate?” there is no grabbing for the bill by both me and the other person.  I don’t like the feeling that I owe someone for anything unless there’s a good reason for it.  So this whole idea that “you bought my meal this time, so I’ll buy yours next time”, it doesn’t work for me.  Because then I have that “IOU” hanging over my head.  Let’s make it simple.  If you want to buy my meal, tell me up front.  As I will do the same.  Otherwise, it’s assumed that we’re paying separately and the only bill anyone grabs for at the end is their own.

Fact: I can’t truly enjoy a meal if I think there’s a chance that I am expected in the least to grab the other person’s bill.

I live a simple life where clear-cut expectations make me happy.  This is my version of reality.



Reading the Backs of Cereal Boxes for Entertainment

The childhood habit lives on in me today.

An important part of being a kid at the grocery store with your mom was getting to decide which goofy cereal to commit to that week.  My mom always let my sister and I each pick out our own box of cereal to enjoy for the next seven days, given that the first ingredient was not sugar.  Back then, in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, the Major Three (Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post) were all about competing with each other by seeing who could give the coolest toy in the bottom of the box.

But aside from the rainbow colored oat bits, unnecessary marshmallows, and the free sticky octopus toy that would cling to the wall when you threw it, there was still that entertaining back of the cereal box to look at.  Mazes, crossword puzzles, “can you find?…” pictures.  Enough entertainment to stay preoccupied to the point that you almost forget your brother or sister is sitting there just a few feet away trying to find Barney Rubble hiding behind a Stegosaurus on the back of the Fruity Pebbles box.

Because without the barriers of those boxes in front of us at the kitchen table, that meant that we might accidently look at each other, or purposely look at each other, to “bother” the other person.  As a kid, there were a plethora of ways to be annoyed by your sibling, and for some reason, being looked at was one of them.  I thought it was just my sister and I that had to read the backs of cereal boxes so we “wouldn’t have to look at each other”, but after recently walking down the cereal isle at Publix with my wife, revisiting our favorite childhood cereals, I learned it was the same way at her house.  So I can only assume this is an American phenomenon- an expected part of Saturday morning breakfasts.

Now as an adult, I still read the backs of my cereal boxes.  Learned habit, I’m sure.  I have to admit though, the back of the box of Shredded Wheat isn’t quite as fun as Lucky Charms always was.  And of course, no free prize at the bottom of the box either.

How to Be Weird in a Publix Grocery Store and Get Away With It

When a small kid falls and bumps their head, there is a Two Second Delay where he or she must decide whether to cry or to laugh, whether it is a painful or funny moment. They must choose which they want more- nurture or fellowship. As an older brother in 1987, I clearly remember that happening to my sister, who was three years old at the time. I said, “Dana, don’t cry. Laugh instead.”

Then I started making indistinguishable animal sounds and rolling my eyes and puffing up my cheeks. Her facial expression went from the verge of crying to actually laughing instead. That’s when I learned that it is possible influence the response of a young child during The Two Second Delay. Since then, I have been keeping this in mind as I am exposed to antsy kids in shopping carts at stores, forced to go shopping with their moms.

Last Sunday, in the produce section of the local Publix, a Russian-speaking mom with her little boy and girl facing her as they both sat in the cart caught my attention. The boy was grabbing for some grapes and his mom told him no. So he did it what he knew best.

He started squalling. Whining. Crying. Over grapes.

The Russian mom’s back was turned away from me, but the boy could clearly see me from 15 feet away. I made eye contact with him and started doing my best impression of a bumbling buffoon. It worked. From tears to giggles.

And the best part: I only did it when his sister, who was sitting right beside him, was looking the other way. So every 10 seconds, I would make stupid faces at the boy. Immediately, he would tug on his mom’s shirt sleeve and bump his sister with his elbow, each time failing to get their attention in order to see me before I stopped.

This happened for several minutes, as we all made our way through the the fruits and vegetables. And I never got caught. That boy went home, with his mom and sister, both thinking he was crazy for pointing at nothing. I’m sure they were just glad he stopped his tantrum.

I have been doing this procedure for about 20 years. It’s really great. I highly recommend it.

boy candy