Cheapskate Wisdom … About Gift-Giving

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“Culturally, gift-giving is not rational … In fact, much of consumer behavior, including gift-buying rituals and holidays, is completely irrational.”

The insight comes from Cele Otnes, a University of Illinois professor of business administration. Otnes was prompted to discuss the rationality (of lack thereof) of consumers behavior—specifically when it comes to buying infomercial products like the ShamWow or the Snuggie. How does Otnes explain the popularity of these products? Why do people buy them? Otnes doesn’t really have an answer, other than pointing out that consumers often make decisions that are neither logical nor sensible:

“All of these products that you see on infomercials are all items I would file under the heading, ‘Items we buy but don’t know why we buy them,’ ” Otnes said.

Yet they still sell like crazy, which is perplexing given the continued financial struggles of consumers in the Great Recession. But whoever said consumers were rational?

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