The Art of Shopping for Friends
By Bongtao Chaiyanat Satjaporamet
I have just returned from Tokyo, the most popular destination for Thai travelers at the moment. It is so popular that we see Thais going to Tokyo more often than Pattaya as if Shibuya is just another stop along Bangkok's Skytrain. One thing people can unanimously agree on is that Tokyo is a shopping Mecca, with so many skincare shops that it feels like a Disneyland of cosmetics. And then there are the countless shops full of snacks and desserts in such cute packages that we just must have them, regardless of taste. Likewise, the ubiquitous Japanese toys are so irresistibly adorable that we just must make them ours, regardless of price. We cannot deny that Japan is really the best place in the world to find these commodities.
Knowing all this, you understand why people normally shop till they drop in the land of Hello Kitty. But consider that shopping with your friend's money can be a technique that extends your shopping endurance.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting you use your friend's money to buy things for yourself. What I mean is, that when I shop on behalf of my friends while I'm on vacation, I can continue to enjoy shopping and buying things without worry and without spending any more of my own money!
I believe that many people still get annoyed when friends ask them to buy things when they go overseas, especially the type of friends who lack manners and ask for more things than the traveler can conveniently carry back. Also, if the traveler accidentally buys the wrong items, it could end in hard feelings between friends. Nonetheless, these problems can be easily mitigated when both parties agree on some simple conditions ahead of time.
With almost every trip I take, I allow people to place orders and I will make purchases for them. But, before every trip, I always explain my conditions to the order placers. If they accept these conditions, then they usually get what they ask for. If they cannot accept these conditions, then they are better off making their own trip. My conditions are the following:
A majority of my friends agree to these conditions, and when both sides understand the conditions from the very beginning, they can be at ease. I can simply follow my original travel plans, and if I come across the goods my friends want, I buy it for them. Sometimes I even fall victim of my friends' product hype and buy one for myself too.
If you are wondering whether I make any profit from doing this or not, I would say not. I do not charge my friends any more than what I pay for the goods. However, apart from credit card points, I benefit from the fun I have shopping, especially when the requested product is something I am also interested in. I had one colleague ask me to purchase special blend tealeaves from France. Coincidentally, I am also a fan of this type of tea. Sampling dozens of different tea blends was truly a great pleasure. Moreover, the tea my colleague asked for is an exclusive edition that is not always available and has a surprisingly high price. It is so difficult to find that I had to visit five different shops before I found it, but when I finally obtained the goods I was filled with such a great sense of accomplishment that it overpowered any feelings of it being a burden.
If this does not encourage you to do some shopping for friends on your next vacation, then just try to imagine what it's like to win a shopping spree. It's shopping without using a single cent of your own money, which is really fun and exciting! There is scientific research that shows the happiness we feel when shopping does not come from actually owning the products, but it comes from spending money. The scientists conducted an experiment and found that at the very moment people handed over the money for the purchase, their brain produced dopamine, which caused them to feel happy. But once they stepped out of the shop with their goods and returned home, their brains also returned to a normal state. This explains why people sometimes feel "buyers' regret" a short time after the purchase is made. So then, why would you use your own money to produce this dopamine when you could use your friend's money instead?
It's not that I'm a dopamine addict and that I accept every shopping request on every trip I go on, it just depends on whether the requests can be fulfilled conveniently or not. For example, on a business trip, my priority is to get work done first, and if there is enough time after that I will go shopping as a reward to myself. Also, I cannot bring much back home when flying budget airlines with restrictions on baggage. You should never go to extremes to fulfill orders because purchasing things on behalf of others should not be an objective of your trip in the first place.
The ultimate benefit of shopping on behalf of your friends comes when you return home and meet them to hand over the goods. Maybe you had no interest in the products you bought for your friend and maybe it was easy to find, but when you see the joy on their face, it makes you feel happy too, and unexpectedly makes you feel as if your whole trip was more successful.