Buyer's remorse is an emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items such as property, cars, computers, jewelry, etc. The common condition is brought on by an internal sense of doubt that the correct decision has been made. With high-value items such as a property, this is exacerbated by the fear that one may have acted without full and complete information, for example, the property was not fully surveyed or that (perhaps) one harbours doubts about the veracity of the surveyor. An equally common source of disquiet is a sense than one cannot actually afford the item or that it represents more of a want than a need, despite any protests to the contrary.
Causes[edit | edit source]
Fundamentally, it is a natural human reaction, rising out of a sense of caution. It cannot therefore be considered "bad" although it may also stem from a sense of not wishing to be "wrong". In an extreme situation, an individual who struggles with or cannot accept the possibility that they may have made a mistake, may be suffering from a more serious and severe condition that is truly little to do with "buyer's remorse".
Frequently, the anxiety has its roots in the individual's doubt that they have purchased the right product, purchased it for the best price or that it will be acceptable to significant others in their lives.
Psychologically, in the phase before purchasing, the prospective buyer feels the positive emotions associated with the purchase (desire, a sense of heightened possibilities, and an intimation of the enjoyment that will accompany using the product, for example): afterwards, having made the purchase, he or she is more fully able to experience the negative aspects: all the opportunity costs of the purchase; and the reduced purchasing power remaining.
Before the act, one has the full array of options, including not purchasing; afterwards, one's options have been reduced to two: a) continuing with the purchase, surrendering all alternatives, or b) renouncing it. So that before purchasing, one experiences oneself as acting in a virile way, creating a situation; while afterwards the time of acting has passed: one is deflated and experiences oneself as having been acted on by the former virile self; one feels bound by one's remaining limited choices.
Buyer's remorse can be caused or increased by the knowledge that other people will later question the purchase or claim to know better alternatives.
Extreme shopping activity and any associated remorse is, again, probably a sign of some deeper disquiet and normal "buyer's remorse" should not be confused with the complex emotional dynamics of "shopaholic" behaviour, no more than eating too much on special occasions should be confused with a serious eating disorder such as bulimia.
A purchase, unlike many decisions in life, is invariably either reversible or at least recoverable and should not be a source of enormous anxiety.
Buyer's remorse, when evidence exists that it is justified, is a classical example of cognitive dissonance. One will either seek to discount the new evidence, or truly regret and try to renounce the purchase.
Buyer's Remorse has been suggested to also be related to one's childhood or time of economic hardships. Such times caused many to settle for simple needs where wants were never allowed or acceptable. Living in a world where simple needs such as food, shelter, and safety were the main focus disallowed one to cultivate a world of tangible goods of worth.
It can be argued that Buyer's Remorse may not solely find its roots in doubt of purchase or one being unsure, but, may very well be an "old" deep rooted behavior manifesting in a time where money and ability to have more than needs is a reality. Such sub-conscious regressive behavior can be linked to a time when doing without was a way of everyday life. Thus, a major purchase or even a minor one may trigger guilt feelings for purchasing beyond needs.
Many people that grew up and lived during the era of the Great Depression experienced Buyer's Remorse. This is still common among those that grew up in poor households. Many people feel they just don't deserve "expensive" items after they have made a purchase although the item may have not cost much at all. This, however, does not preclude the fact that a person may and will re-visit old feelings of living with basic needs. Regardless; these feelings can prevent one from enjoying their purchase and may not be able to grasp the concept that having may be a sign of personal success and growth.