Drunk Americans spend a total of $30B online each year — but what they drink impacts how crazy they get

The average American buys $447.57 worth of stuff while drunk — more than double what people said they spent on drunk purchases last year.
by Martha C. White /  / Updated 

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A new survey from rehab facility Archstone Recovery Center found that when people log on to Amazon while hitting the sauce, they can incur a financial hangover, as well.

The amount people spent tended to vary based on their preferred type of alcohol: Gin drinkers tended to splurge the most, spending an average of more than $82. Even whiskey drinkers, the most frugal group when classified by type of alcohol, wound up spending almost $40. (Beer drinkers were the only other group to spend less than $40, and people drinking red or white wine spent about $42 and $46, respectively.)

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that in an era with one-click shopping and credit card data stored right on our phones, drinking and online shopping is pervasive: According to a March survey from personal finance website Finder.com, nearly half of 2,000 Americans surveyed said they’d made a purchase while under the influence.

It’s also expensive: Finder.com said the average American buys $447.57 worth of stuff while drunk — an amount more than double what people said they spent on drunk purchases in 2017’s survey.

In 2016, shopping and style website Racked.com analyzed data from online clothing store Lyst and found that the site gets 48 percent more orders at 2 a.m. on Friday night (yes, that’s technically Saturday morning, and likely to be an evening when people have ended their night with a drink — or several) than at that hour on a Monday night.

What’s more, people spent 30 percent more when shopping after midnight on a Friday versus on a Monday; by 1 a.m., that jumps to 40 percent. People tend to buy fun or luxury items, and are willing to pay more for them: Friday-night purchases of lingerie average $308, or 140 percent higher than they are on Monday nights, and shoe purchases (which include a preponderance of party-ready heels, platforms and sandals, according to Racked) are a whopping 165 percent higher.

Friday-night purchases of lingerie average $308, or 140 percent higher than they are on Monday nights. Shoe purchases — especially heels, platforms and sandals — are a whopping 165 percent higher.

What’s up with all the buzzed buying?

“In general, alcohol is a disinhibitor and usually people are feeling kind of expansive and good. Alcohol is a depressant, but in its initial phases it decreases inhibitions,” said Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor emerita of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

People disengage from their willpower and lower their inhibitions, which can have financial implications.

“They’re suspending the reality of what’s actually in their bank account,” she told NBC News.

While some marketers have gotten savvy to this — it’s no coincidence that you get emails for flash sales that don’t kick off until 9 o’clock at night — beer-goggled buying isn’t as beneficial for e-retailers as you might think, said Brendan Witcher, vice president and principal analyst of digital business strategy at Forrester Research.

“The goal of most retailers is to provide the right product to the right customer at the right time,” he said.

Booze-fueled buying binges rarely lead to that outcome (unless, of course, you were in the market for an intergalactic-kitten shower curtain). It goes without saying that clicking “buy” after you’ve knocked back a few can lead to some purchases of questionable value, taste or both, and this can have real costs for retailers.

“Those who have sobered up may choose to return products, which often costs the retailer operational costs, and can even lead to returned items being unsellable if they are damaged in the shipping process,” Witcher said.

He added that morning-after regret can even be damaging to the perception the consumer has of the seller. “It can also create a detrimental emotional connection the to the brand, as consumers attach the negative experience of buying something they didn’t want to that retailer,” he said.

Want to avoid having surprise packages show up on your doorstep after a night of drinking? Turn off one-click shopping on your go-to retail sites or apps before you go for a night out — or leave the laptop out of reach if you’re lounging on the couch with a cocktail.

“We as consumers have to kind-of regulate our behaviors and alcohol makes that much harder,” Whitbourne said.

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