my dumbest purchase ever its a mindset

March 6th, 2008

My Dumbest Purchase Ever – It’s a Mindset

Over at DebtKid, he’s feeling bad about a fairly recent purchase (a Nintendo DS Lite) and giving it away to one lucky reader. But like anyone miserable, he wants company, so he’s asking bloggers to share their dumbest purchases with him. Everyone who shares their story has a chance to win the DS. Honestly, I am not sure what a DS Lite is other than a video game system of some kind (although, if I won it, I am sure both my spouse and my son will be THRILLED) but I was interested in sharing my story so I thought I would. :)

I am going to choose my dumbest purchase ever not as one big thing, like my first car, or my current “My engine died before 100,000 miles” Saturn (although I probably could make a strong case for either), but more as a mindset I had that led to a long string of purchases.

I am a reformed addict of Bath and Body Works. Their marketing had me hook, line, and sinker. I don’t know how many of you have shopped in their stores, but they use two very tricky marketing ploys to hook you on spending tons of money there, and I completely fell for both of them over and over again – scarcity and special deals.

First, scarcity. Although they have a set of “core” scents that they tend to keep around for a long time, they also have special “seasonal” scents. Every few months, a set of scents comes out that are for a limited time, and you don’t know if they will ever return. The scents aren’t the same set every fall, for example, by the next fall they might have an entirely different line of seasonal scents. So if you like one – you’d better snatch it up right then or you may never see it again. Well, okay, but seriously, do you need to forever have every single scent you have ever thought smelled nice? No, of course not. But I bought lots of rather forgettable scents just because they were only available for a limited time. And I still have half-empty bottles of Pumpkin Pie, Hazelnut, Chocolate, Candy Apple (okay, so I like food scents) and probably a dozen others in my linen closet. They’re all nice (to me) but I could have just selected one I *really* liked and bought that, versus an assortment every season. Blackberry – that’s the one I should have bought two bottles of, instead of one bottle each of 25 different ones over the course of three or four years.

And that brings me to the special deals. Every time you walk into Bath and Body Works, they have some kind of special deal going on. 4 bottles for $25! 6 bottles for $30! Buy one, get one free! There is always something. And I *always* got the deal. Why pay $10 for one bottle when I can get 6 bottles for $30? That’s only $5 a bottle! What a savings!

Except – who needs 6 bottles of lotion? Especially every few months? I don’t. I use lotion every single day, sometimes twice a day, and still, I have tons and tons of Bath and Body Works stuff left over from my buying heyday (which I stopped doing several years ago, I might add). Even selling off a bunch of my unopened and unused bottles on craigslist, I still have more lotion than I probably can conceivably use in a lifetime. I was a huge sucker for their special deals, and I collected a lot of lotion that I didn’t need and honestly, some I didn’t even particularly want. But it was a good deal. Uh huh. It is only a good deal if the purchase is something you would make anyway or need to make anyway, not just because it is cheap. Ah, to be young and foolish again.

So my dumbest purchase was really my mindset about Bath and Body Works. I always walked in expecting to buy, and I always succumbed to their marketing strategies. I was their perfect customer. Until I realized I was seriously broke and quit cold turkey. I’m reformed now, and I know I am reformed because my mother-in-law gave me a $20 gift card this past Christmas to there, and I managed to go in, buy things I could really use, like bubble bath, and only spend $19.55 total. I really evaluated what I could use versus what would just sit on my shelf, sniffed twice and used once, and did not spend any money at all out of pocket.

It would be really easy to fall back into that spending trap again, though. I am a sucker for pretty smells. I used Victoria Secret’s “Passionate Kisses” today as my morning lotion as a symbolic protest against my Bath and Body Works addiction. Not that I was a better Victoria’s Secret shopper… but that is a story for another day. Too bad you can’t resell underwear…

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31 Responses to “My Dumbest Purchase Ever – It’s a Mindset”

  1. My 19 year old granddaughter is an employee of VS and she loves all the perks they get for their meager hourly wage…lots of free “stuff” plus underwear that she adores. She also falls into the Bath and Body trap and just adores that store as well. She’s really the ultimate customer for any fashion or body store! She’ll learn as she grows older and has more bills to pay!

  2. I so understand this! I got a gift certificate once, and bought a bunch of the little different scents. A few that I liked came in larger bottles so I bought a few of those too. While at the register the salesperson tried to get me to buy more of the larger ones because it would only be $2 more or something like that. I pointed out to her that I already had 6 different scents and there was no way that I would use them all up in 2 years as it was. She gave me a puzzled look and repeated that it was still “Only $2.” I repeated that I would never finish it and I was fine with what I had. She shook her head and mumbled something about saving money. I haven’t bothered to go back since. And I’m no where near finishing the ones I bought.

  3. PaidTwiceSpouse Says:

    March 6th, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Ah yes, the Bath and Body Works store, conveniently located across from the Wizards of the Coast store where we fed our other addiction at the time – Magic: The Gathering. :)

  4. I can completely relate about the bath & body works deals. I have maybe 10 full bottles of shower gel and I still find myself buying more.

    I’ve done pretty good to stay away from B&BW for a while and BANG, my (very nice) husband sends me an email that there’s a deal this month….


  5. Gotta love the BOGO sales. I can’t tell you how many times my friend and I walked into Express as teenagers and thought “Wow! The jewelry is on sale, buy two get one free AGAIN!” Right, because they are ALWAYS on sale and the products are really pretty crappy… and yet… we always got excited because we thought we caught the sales.

  6. I’m so glad the B&BW isn’t just me. I purposefully don’t buy there, but I’m always feeling the scarcity mentality—this smells good and I don’t know if it’s going to be here much longer! As though B&BW was the only place to buy yummy-smelling stuff or as though I even use it much. Now we’re focusing on using it all up, which is fun!

  7. Oh, au contraire– there’s a very large market for, uh-hem… used women’s underwear. I swear it. Post those babies as used panties on Ebay and see what happens. I don’t reccomend providing personal info to the buyers, but their cash is green like everyone elses’.

  8. You’re hilarious. My wife is a reformed Bath and Body Works addict herself. It’s been MANY years now and we’re still getting through all of the product. You’re right, everytime you go in they’re selling something new with a special buy one and get 17 little lotions with it. Who can resist? She’s worked hard on her habit and while there’s no insurance the habit won’t rear its ugly head again, I can be assured the family will be smelling better for it.


  9. I had to make a pledge to myself to just stay out of the mall. Too much temptation!! Once I cottoned on to the fact that buying stuff only made me feel good for 5 minutes, it has been easier to break the cycle of compulsive shopping. I just don’t need all this pointless stuff.

  10. Good work about kicking the habit! Except… Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works are owned by the same company.

    So watch out!

  11. LOVED your post!
    I have way too much stuff from BBW. I only shop their sales, to get the “bargains” but like you, I bet I have more than I can use in the next 10 years. So this year I only bought 1 thing for myself at the sale.
    I also shudder to think what I used to spend on underwear at VS at their “sales”. It was hundreds of dollars a year! Now I only go into VS for the free panty coupons they send me occasionally, and if I NEED a functional bra. So now I spend a max of $100/year in the store since I quit shopping the sales. It seems ironic, doesn’t it?!

  12. I’ve stopped going in there! But yes, I used to be addicted to BBW stuff as well. At one point I had so many bottles of body spray that I dumped some of it down the drain because I’d had them for way too many years! About a year and half ago, I went on a mission to use up all the body spray, lotion, and shower gel that I own before I buy any more. I think I’ve still got 3 more bottles of lotion…

  13. BBW = Great Mom Gift. Seriously, I think anything from here has always been loved by my mom!

  14. I’ve probably also been addicted to B&BW, but it’s been for gifts for my Mom and Sis. They are staples at Christmas.

  15. If any of you are looking for a way to get rid of some of your stash of lotions, etc from B&BW, you might consider donating them to your local hospice. The one where we used to live would even take bottles of partly used lotions, shampoos, etc.

    My husband travels alot and so he collected the hotel soaps, shampoos and lotions. Every time I took in a donation they were so grateful for them and that’s when I learned that they also took opened bottles. From then on, if there was something I bought, used once and didn’t like… it went into the bag for the next trip to the hospice.

  16. Ah, B&BW. I live within walking distance of one — I used to be a real addict. Not because of the sales, but because I lived in a musty, icky basement and got obsessed with all types of scents. When I realized I no longer liked half the scents I still had unopened, I gave them all to a 12-year-old on her birthday :) She’s almost 15 now and still using them….

  17. I like this body wash from Bath and Body Works that I haven’t found anywhere else. Lavendar Chamomile. Sure…there are others that say that, but only the Bath and Body Works kind actually smells good. I use it for my nightly baths. I never shopped there before. It’s the only thing I get and I’ve used up my 1st batch of 5 bottles haha. Time to get more!

  18. I think you underestimate the market for used womens underwear.

  19. Yes, bath and body products are my real weakness. In particular, I have a weakness for Black Phoenix Alchemy oil perfumes.

    They have similar marketing–they’ve got about 300 core scents, but there are always limited and special edition scents you can get. Back in the fall, when they released their autumn limited edition scents (fall was always my favorite season), it was a serious effort to not drop several hundred dollars on that. I managed to resist, largely by staying away from the fan forums.

    But if I think of the two “splurge” purchases I’ve made recently, one was products from Kiss My Face (they make organic B&B products); the second was the $60 I dropped on three bottles of BPAL scents just today. I justify that last one by saying that I haven’t bought any for over a year, but at the same time, I’m still using up my previous bottles…

    I dunno why this is so hard for me… there’s something so delightful about good smells, I guess.

  20. Thanks for the post bringing this to attention. (I dont want to burst your bubble on using that Passionate Kisses but ) VS and Bath and Body Works are owned by the same company, the Limited. The Limited also owns Express and The Limited, duh :P This is why you’ll usually find all these stores in close proximity to each other at the mall. And also why you’ll see they have all the same marketing strategies. VS also runs 6 for $30 “specials” on its lotions and splashes. That’s their biggest goal getter. When I worked there the manager could not stress enough how integral it was that we convince the customer that they needed this fabulous “deal”!

  21. @ Kim – yeah, VS and B&BW are owned by the same people, it was just a symbolic gesture. :) I actually got the VS ones as a gift, my vice in VS was underwear not lotion. I didn’t find most of them as pretty. lol

  22. I’m so glad I could never stand to get within 100 feet of a B&BW. I’m sure they have some wonderful scents but I have this weird sensitivity to synthetic fragrances. If it’s really high-quality, like what’s used in the better candles, I can get away with it. But a lot of what they use in bath stuff and perfumes makes my nose burn.

    If you get really fed up with your stash, another place you can get rid of it is through FreeCycle. I find there’s usually someone on the list who doesn’t care that half the stuff’s been opened. Although a hospice would be my first choice if I knew where there was one near here.


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