Friday, November 4, 2011

Still Life With Robin: The Over-Buying Gene

by Peggy Robin

We gave out three large bagfuls of Halloween candy on Monday, which is exactly the number I bought. And yet we had three more unopened bags to give to Treats 4 Our Troops. How is this possible? It’s because someone else in my household never believes me when I say three bags will be plenty. Not even when I prove it by showing him (yes, it’s a him, and he doesn’t mind being outed as my husband Bill) the detailed notes I made about the number of bags given out last year. Here's what popped up as a  reminder in my computer calendar about a week before Halloween: “Candy buying notes for 2011. No more than 3 bags!That’s how much we gave out in 2010, and we managed to give away that amount only by telling the kids who came toward the end to grab large fistfuls. This year do NOT overbuy! We had extra 6 bags to give away last year!"

Fat lot of good that did me. Well, maybe a little good: This year we had just three to give away, not six. I guess that's progress. But why are my notes so ineffective? Perhaps I should have him sign and date the note as a pledge that in 2012 he will not go out and buy more bags, once I've already done my Halloween shopping.

Or maybe I should adopt a completely different strategy. Next year I won't do any candy-buying myself. Let him go out and buy the number we need. Frankly, I don't think that would make a difference. When someone has the Over-Buying Gene --which is what I think is at work here-- what will happen is that he will just go out and buy double whatever number we actually need. It's programmed in the DNA.

I really should be more understanding, because I have the Overbuying Gene, too – except that mine is not connected to a single event like Halloween; it’s a year-round impulse. I over buy stamps. Here’s how it happens: I’m at the post office to mail a package and the clerk says (as I believe they are required by postal regulations to repeat to all customers): “Would you like any stamps today?” My Over-Buying Gene activates some deep inner part of my brain to make me say yes without thinking, and I go home with a roll of 100 “forever” stamps. Actually, I suspect that the OBG works by disabling the part of my memory that stores the information about all those unused rolls of 100 stamps gathering dust in the back of my desk drawer. Some of them are not even “forever” stamps but are rolls of 42 cent stamps and even some sheets of 39 cent ones.

What makes it all so aggravating is that I have practically no need for stamps of any denomination these days: I pay almost all bills electronically. I use snail-mail at such a sluggish pace that I estimate it could take a decade or more for me to generate enough mail to go through stamps I already have on hand. And yet I am still prone to buy more. How can I stop myself? Unlike the case of Halloween over buying, I can’t send myself a calendar reminder that will pop up the next time I find myself in line at the post office.

But here’s an idea: Next Halloween we buy NO candy at all. And we give out stamps to the trick-or-treaters. They’ll think they’re quaint, pretty stickers, and they’ll be happy. The parents will realize they’re useful, and don’t cause cavities, and they’ll be happy, too. And we’ll solve our two over-buying problems with one creative solution!

No comments:

Post a Comment