Maybe Girlfriends Aren’t a Spending Hazard

So guess who spends more when shopping with friends?

Women, who love to shop together, because they egg each other on (“Ooh, that looks so cute on you—you have to get it!”).

Men, who rarely shop in groups, but get competitive when they’re with a pal. (“Actually, the $4,000 rider-mower is more my speed.”)

Who studies this stuff anyway?

While the stereotype of women roaming the mall in hordes persists, it turns out that men are the ones more likely to overspend when accompanied by a friend, says Jeffrey Inman, professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh business school.

Inman and his colleagues conducted live, in-store studies of men and women in different retail situations. One was a simple assignment to buy batteries. The other was a trip to a mass retailer like Target.

The report will be published this October in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Men spent about 7% more on batteries when they shopped with someone they’d met previously (in this case a confederate, who was part of the experiment) compared to shopping alone—and 56% more at the mass retailer.

Women showed little change in how much they spent when they were accompanied or alone.

“Men tend to spend more because their social expectation is to show off,” says Inman. “It didn’t matter whether they were with female or male companions.”

Of course, researchers weren’t able to observe shopping behavior with real friends. If the studies were replicated with people’s real friends, we posit that men would still show off, and women would spend more going out to eat.

Air your differences. Do you spend more when you’re with a girlfriend?

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