On October 16th at approximately 10:45AM I received an email from a former classmate (in high school and certainly not Harvard where she is currently undergraduate.) She wrote, “[a] vintage, black, perfect(ly ubiquitous) Chanel bag currently languishes in my Shopbop cart for a cool $2,240, on sale from $4,000. For the next 22 minutes, it is mine. Mine I tell you! But in about 23 minutes, I highly suggest you log on and grab it. I just want it to be loved.” It was brilliant. And the world needed to learn about Shopping Cart Syndrome, the majestic thirty minutes in which any woman, anywhere can own whatever she wants. Below, a 1,000 word analysis of the aforementioned scribed by the culprit herself.
One Tuesday afternoon, I bought a Chanel bag.
I had to do it. I have always harbored a poorly concealed crush on the 2.55’s boxy frame and softly glazed lambskin. Even when the chain-linked miracle prostituted itself on the arm of Snooki, my love for its classic appeal never wavered. I know that it’s been deemed suburban and ubiquitous and that all of the Real Housewives carry it, but there is something about its enduring charm that reminds me of my grandmother and pearls and Alexa Chung. So when I spotted it online and on sale—which happens once every never—and discounted by a healthy 30%, I did not hesitate. Now was not the time to ask myself such questions as, “Can you put a down payment on a bag?” or “Do people really sell their kidneys on the black market?” I had only one option: “Add to Cart.”
A brief interlude for sanity: I’m twenty years old and in college. I may not have the best handle on fiscal responsibility, but I’m not financially suicidal. Also, I’d prefer that my parents not disown me for retail dalliances that result in the purchase of inky-black leather goods. I could not buy the bag. But I could pretend. For the brief window it would sit in my shopping cart, it would be mine.
I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve succumbed to such behavior. Years ago, on the last day of a trip to London, I ambled into the Burberry flagship and tried on a trench coat. I slipped each arm through its meticulously pressed sleeves while the store manager bustled about and illustrated her expert tailoring suggestions with a smattering of pins. I was not in the market for this class of investment. But I let the woman in plaid go on, and when she was finished ministering to the garment, I appraised my reflection and asked her if I could put in on hold.
“Until the end of the day,” she said. “That would be wonderful,” I replied effortlessly. “Thank you so much.” By the time the store closed that day, I was halfway over the Atlantic.
I am in love with the idea of sequestering things I know I cannot have. It’s an indulgent practice. It’s childish. But fast-forward half a decade and save for a blissful half hour I once spent with my best friend eating raw cookie dough straight from the supermarket package, those 1,800 seconds of fabricated Chanel proprietorship were some of the most exhilarating of my life.
They were also the most agonizing. No sooner had I staked my claim in the storied House of Chanel than the cool, mathematical robots behind Shopbop.com’s glossy façade saw to its excruciating undoing. But I found my silver lining. Now was my chance, I reasoned. Why stop at Chanel when I could also fictitiously load up on Wang and Stella McCartney? When I could buy white satin loafers? Why settle for a $2,240 price tag when I could let my subtotal wander into quintuple digits with no repercussions? Who would care if I did? You don’t pay shipping fees on delusions.
As I bid a prolonged adieu to something I’d never had, my forever-unrealized future with the original cross-body flashed before my eyes. I imagined slipping it over my shoulder on the cusp of promising Saturday nights only to rescue it later from sticky tables and slimy boys. I envisioned wearing it with sequins and satin and seersucker. Years would go by, and its changing contents would reflect…what? Maturity? One day I would pass it on—its insides defaced with errant pen markings and lipstick stains—to a featureless daughter of mine. We’d had a good run, I’d think lovingly, as I bequeathed it to her. We’d been perfect together!
But, of course, we hadn’t been. We were separating before our first date. We loved each other, but we were irreconcilable. We were Courtney Cox and David Arquette, and although I rooted for us, I knew all along that our differences were insurmountable.
Predictably, one of us would rebound (ed note: ricochet) faster than the other. About seven seconds after my thirty-minute grace period had elapsed, I
Rip the Band-Aid! refreshed the web page and braced myself. The bag, Shopbop.com informed me, was already sold out.
To the woman who swooped in and snatched my shot at happiness: Please be kind. Respect it. Treasure it for more than thirty minutes. Give it the life I never could. Also, friend me on Facebook so that I can stalk you obsessively and inevitably discover that you are French and look sexy in overalls.
-Written by Mattie Kahn.
Has Shopping Cart Syndrome ever curbed your spending appetite? Are we on to something?