Shopping Strategies Compared


Men’s and women’s shopping habits have long been grist for the humorist’s mill.

  • Men shop until they have what they came for; women shop until they’re tired.
  • Men would rather rake their eyeballs out with a cat brush than go shopping; women shop for entertainment.
  • Men shop for what they need; women shop to find out what they want.

But the best humor is rooted immovably in truth, and people often find funny what they resonate with:

A woman was in town on a shopping trip. She began her day finding the most perfect shoes in the first shop and a beautiful dress in the sale in the second. In the third everything had just been reduced by 50 percent when her mobile phone rang. It was a female doctor notifying her that her husband had just been in a terrible car accident and was in a critical condition and in the ICU. The woman told the doctor to inform her husband where she was and that she’d be there as soon as possible. As she hung up, she realized she was leaving, what was shaping up to be, her best day ever in the boutiques. She decided to get in a couple of more shops before heading to the hospital.

She ended up shopping the rest of the morning, Finishing her trip with a cup of coffee and a beautiful chocolate cake, compliments of the last shop. She was jubilant.

Then she remembered her husband. Feeling guilty, she dashed to the hospital. She saw the doctor in the corridor and asked her about her husband’s condition. The lady doctor glared at her and shouted, ‘You went ahead and finished your shopping trip didn’t you! I hope you’re proud of yourself! While you were out for the past four hours enjoying yourself in town, your husband has been languishing in the Intensive Care Unit!

It’s just as well you went ahead and finished, because it will more than likely be the last shopping trip you’ll ever have! He will require round the clock care for the rest of his life and he will now be your full time career!’

The woman was feeling so guilty she broke down and sobbed.

The lady doctor then chuckled and said, ‘I’m just pulling your leg, he’s dead. Show me what you bought.’

Heartless! But why would jokes like this even surface if there were not a grain of truth to them?

A friend of mine, Mark Stanley, author and illustrator of the webcomic Freefall, came up with what seems like a very cogent explanation for the difference in shopping patterns, at least from an energy-conservation standpoint. In this scene, Florence Ambrose, a gengineered wolf (and an engineer in her own right) is shopping for clothes, when this interaction takes place:





This makes a lot of sense; there’s even science behind it. Of course, it doesn’t touch the psychological differences between men and women, or how they tend to think; have a look at these two representations of the shopping decision process (click them for larger versions):

men_women_buy_1   men_women_buy_2

These are funny, but again there’s truth here. Men evolved with a basic biological thought process:

  • Kill food
  • Reproduce

Women, on the other hand, have always had a list of responsibilities that this blog entry wouldn’t hold:

  • cook
  • clean
  • nurture
  • teach
  • drive
  • heal
  • support
  • manage
  • counsel
  • etc., ad infinitum

This mindset may be represented by the following device:


Like it or not, as genders we think differently. Even our visual cortices process input differently, as illustrated by how men and women perceive the shopping environment:


As long as people insist on living as couples, shopping together may always be an area of divisiveness. Remembering that expectations are essentially pre-planned resentments, it might be helpful to keep the following things in mind:

Talk to each other. Find out what your partner likes and enjoys. This prepares a playing field for good communication.
If you love to shop and your partner doesn’t, for the love of Mogg’s holy grandfather, don’t insist that they follow you around to every store under the starry vault.


Some husbands/boyfriends/partners may enjoy shopping with you simply because they know you enjoy it; others would rather be stung by a thousand bees. Either way, roll with what’s there. If you really enjoy shopping with someone, find a like-minded friend and go with them.

Split up for the shopping trip if necessary. If you’re out for necessities, divide and conquer. Just remember that even guys have some hangups when it comes to certain kinds of shopping, and plan your route accordingly.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear Home Depot calling me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

10 responses to “Shopping Strategies Compared

  1. So true. The wife and I have over the years made an agreement. I don’t go shopping with her except once a year right around our anniversary. For one day, I grin and bear it and try to be the perfect shopping companion to her. Then for the other 364 days, I never have to go shopping with her.

    We both love this system.

    • No, you also have to know what Lowe’s, OSH, specialty sellers and the local “Wholesale houses” (there’s an oxymoron….) have in their arsenal too. No sense Special Ordering and waiting when the other shop has it in stock, and at a better price.

      The enlightened Man knows when to use a modified ‘Gatherer’ mode, because you need to know who has what and for how much. Every supplier has their price anomalies, and you need to jump on them when you find them in your favor.

      Like the first example – I’m not going anywhere near the Gap for my pants, I head straight to Costco. For the same $33 I can get two pair of Kirkland Signature Jeans (and Lunch with the change to boot) and they’ll last just as long.

  2. Pingback: Shopping Strategies Compared | Playing in the World Game | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!

  3. I gotcha, Chris. I’ve learned that two designers make pants that fit me. So (as you may have observed when you and TA and I went to the thrift shop) I have learned to look for the correct size by those two makers. And sometimes I buy gift cards on eBay (for no more than 80% of face value) and shop the website of one of the designers. Only during sales, of course.

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  5. Pingback: Freefall: Jerry Pournelle’s Review. | Playing in the World Game

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