Gordon Smith

Science holds receipt for Boxing Day blues

Approx Reading Time-10Looking to beat the Boxing Day blues? Well, science has got your back! Here are some top tips to reduce buyer’s remorse over the Christmas break.


The countdown is on. Just a few more sleeps and it will be Christmas time again.

You’ve been shopping and searching for that perfect gift, trawling the depths of the Internet and the busiest, most sweat-scented stores. And finally, you’ve found it – a gift that will prove just how much you care about someone, at exactly the right financial cost such affection requires. After all, you don’t love someone unless you can put yourself heavily enough in debt to prove it.

But then the feeling sets in. Maybe it’s the very next day, or maybe it’s the spark of disappointment you see in the corner your recipient’s eyes. Maybe you can hold off and still ride the gift giving wave until Boxing Day?

Invariably, the feeling of buyer’s remorse hits you, and you think of how much better things could have been.

Don’t worry, science has got your back, and has explained those post-transactional blues. Scientists studying the concept of “choice closure” (the idea that by physically “closing off” other options, buyers will feel emotional closure post-purchase) have found that people experience abstract concepts through concrete physical experiences.

Heavy objects can signal related conceptual knowledge about touch and weight, and because weight and seriousness are connected, metaphorically speaking, an object that is heavier is, therefore, more “serious”.

The same job application is perceived as more serious if it is clipped to a heavier board than it would be without, despite there being no change in content.

In the same vein, removing the “physicality” of choices leaves consumers feeling more confident in their purchase.

This is why restaurants often use bound menus, which can be closed before being collected. The removal of alternatives means no regretting your triple chocolate thick shake for breakfast.

As always, the middle ground is key to win the battle of buyer’s remorse: offer choices, but look out for subtle acts of closure.

That’s all well and good, but it’s highly doubtful that your Christmas tree is adorned with neatly wrapped take away meals from the local café. How can you achieve that mystical feeling of satisfaction in a retail setting, or indeed online?

When it comes to online purchases, it may help to consciously click through and discard items which have been recently viewed, therein reducing other options and taking away any purchasing hesitations. Abandoned shopping carts are, apparently, the “scourge of e-commerce sites” – the problem of abandoned trolleys seemingly able to transcend suburban car parks into the online realm – so this could help greatly in reducing the issue.

Meanwhile, in ye olde real world stores, physically removing alternative items from a shopper’s view after they have been eliminated like an RPG boss may also bring a feeling of closure.

Hang on, don’t we want choices? Well, as it turns out, humans are slaves to a “paradox of choice”, which says that while consumers like the feeling of having a large number of choices, that same wide array of options also causes our satisfaction to diminish.

As always, the middle ground is key to win the battle of buyer’s remorse: offer choices, but look out for subtle acts of closure, which will help your consumers to feel reassured that they have made the right decision.

Do this, and you can make the queue of people returning items come Boxing Day morning that little bit less painful.




Jewish House Crisis Centre and The Big Smoke are asking the community in Sydney’s CBD to let us know when you see anyone who may appear to be homeless or in need of assistance.

We will also be providing packs this Christmas Eve to Sydney’s homeless which will include an inflatable bed.

By helping us know this information, you are making a gesture to Sydney’s homeless that you see them and you care about them.


Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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