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Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Are Your Customers Tightwads or Spendthrifts?

By Holly Buchanan
February 6th, 2007

I like to consider myself a tightwad. I don’t like to spend money on “stuff”. I’m not that into clothes, or jewelry, or even….shoes (gasp!). My sister will spend over $600 for a pair of stiletto heels and I shudder at having to pay $25 for a pair of flip flops. She insists we cannot possibly be related.

I was staying at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale and walked 12 blocks to a 7-Eleven to buy water because I knew it would be at least 50 cents cheaper than buying it from the hotel mini-bar. Yup, I think I have the makings of a fine tightwad.

So tell me, please do tell me, why I spent $40 on a bottle of 3 Blind Moose Merlot at dinner last night. I usually won’t dish out more than $15 bucks for a bottle of wine. But the name and the super fun label with, you guessed it, 3 blind moose, was just too good to pass up. I’d never even heard of this wine, and yet I was willing to pay twice my usual amount to share it with my friends.

Was I trying to look cool? Trust me, you do not look cool ordering something called 3 Blind Moose. Did I know it was really good? Heck no – never even heard of it. So why did my nice logical tightwad brain fail me? The pleasure center in my brain lit up when I read that catchy and unusual wine name. It sounded fun and whimsical. Drinking moose merlot sounds like something everyone should do at least once in their life.

John Tierney did a great article about a recent study on how tightwads and spendthrifts make buying decisions.

Tightwads slightly outnumber spendthrifts, according to surveys by George Loewenstein and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, Scott Rick and Cynthia Cryder. These behavioral economists think tightwads aren’t any more rational than spendthrifts, because neither group is carefully weighing the long-term benefits of a Foreman grill versus college tuition. Dr. Loewenstein says the brain scans demonstrate that both kinds of shoppers are guided by instant emotions.

The article goes on to examine why we do and do not buy. It’s worth the read. But if there’s one thing you can take away, it would be the importance of emotion and the pleasure centers in your brain when making buying decisions. Do your product descriptions cause your visitors’ brains to light up? Never underestimate the power of words. Here’s an example…

Look at this product description from Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport for Mick Fanning Reef flip flops. I’m sorry, but “Water friendly synthetic nubuck upper” and “Contoured EVA foot bed” do not get my neurons firing.

Compare that to the product description for the same flip flops from

“Reef’s Fanning Sandals are flip-flops that pop tops. The Reef Fanning Sandal has a bottle opener built into its sole so you can pop the top off a cold one after paddling in the ocean all day. Reef made the Fanning sandal as a tribute to pro-surfer and party-animal Mick Fanning. Cheers to that.”

Which website did I buy from? I’ll let you figure it out.

And note – I spent $45 for a pair of flip flops. Still think all tightwads care about is price? What are you doing to create “instant emotions”?

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Comments (2)

  1. I received a 3 Blind Moose Merlot for christmas as a return gift I orderd some Moose Gear. What a mistake the gift was poorly packaged and damaged in shipment. After three attemps for resolution still no responce. I’ll regift the bottle before I drink it.

  2. It’s great.

    Thank you.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

More articles from Holly Buchanan

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