August 13, 2022

There’s a theory that when women are depressed, they go shopping. Men invade another country. Now if only Putin had dealt with his low mood in early February by going on a binge at Perekrestok — Russia’s supermarket chain — the world would’ve been in a better state today.

Wars aside, we all know that men and women react quite differently to the word ‘shopping’. In fact, gender experts believe they are planets apart: Men are from 7-Eleven, women are from Big Bazaar. Males look for convenience, females are excited by choice. These basic shopping instincts, like everything in life, can be traced right back to the cave-people era. 

Men were essentially born hunters, women were gatherers. Early man set off to catch a beast or bird for the day, focused on where to find it, clubbed it and brought it back home. The early woman, however, thought of distant future needs, about variety and surprises, and sneaked off to the local jungle to see what unplanned stuff she could pick up.

That instinct continues to surface. Women are intuitive shoppers. Men are practical. Women know that they can save Rs 264 a year, for the next 5 years, if they buy 20 kilos of a miracle drain-declogging powder right now at 15% discount. Men are not likely to notice this amazing bargain even if a huge banner advertising it fell on their heads at the store. Because they drove four miles here, mid shave, only to get that one battery replacement for their shaver.

Get in, get it, get out. That’s how many guys view shopping. Gals, however, enter a  mall with a shopping lust, rather than a shopping list. 

I decided to hang around a new Shopping Mall, (sometimes spelt as Shopping Maul) to make close observations to confirm my theories on shoppers. I walked towards a huge sale of clothes, 90% OFF! (the word ‘Upto’ just before 90% off was written in the size of newborn ants. Only a tray of mismatched socks was selling at this price). This didn’t stop hundreds of crazed women rushing about and crowding the counters trying on everything in sight. At one point I saw two women putting in a leg each into identical palazzo pants. The problem was it was the same pant both were trying on. Another woman was frantically hunting in a huge bin for the right half of a pair of sneakers; finally settling for two left-foot-shoes; so what — she’d just saved 200 bucks on that pair. I saw an overworked store manager attending to a lady. “Please may I try on that black dress in your shop window?”  “No ma’am, you should use the trial room like everyone else,” he replied. Clearly, he was a harassed man.

I wandered off to the grocery section. Outside that store, I saw a couple of men slumped into chairs in a deep coma. I politely asked if I could ask a couple of questions for my survey. 

“Hello! Are you waiting for someone here?”

“Yes. My ex-wife. We were married though, before she entered that sale, several hours ago.”

“Hi! I notice you’ve got eight large boxes of cornflakes in this cart. You must have a large family.”

“Oh no. We’re newlyweds. But my wife got eight teaspoons free with them, so she’s gone back to get four more boxes, as we need a dozen teaspoons.”

It was pleasant bumping into my friend Maddy at the Mall’s cafe. “Hi, Maddy! Why such a thoughtful expression?” “Oh, I was thinking of the time I waited for my wife-to-be walking down the aisle with a beating heart… who knew I would be doing that every day thereafter in a supermarket?” 

Well, a lot about shopping and gender differences changed dramatically, thanks to a guy named Jeff Bezos. He launched a worldwide campaign called ‘Save the Amazon!’ as his bank account was depleting to his last 20 billion. Suddenly men caught up with women, with online shopping, fastest finger first. ‘Add to cart’ became the motto of all varieties of humans, in a movement that even a worldwide pandemic couldn’t stop. 

Meanwhile, around a big river, coincidentally also called the Amazon, lots of trees were cut down as they had to be turned into cardboard — as Jeff Bezos needed to make packages to deliver billions of orders every day right at our doorstep. 

Well for many like me, there’s still nothing like the joy of good old fashioned exciting, exhilarating, exhausting live shopping, trundling along a real shopping cart. So see you somewhere at the newest shopping mall in town. Retail therapy is definitely cheaper than paying a psychiatrist, you’ll agree.

(He Said/She Said is a monthly column on gender issues— funny side up. The author switched to a career in Advertising/Travel Writing as world markets may have collapsed if she ever became an economist. Reach her at [email protected])