Women Are Right: Men Are Clueless Holiday Shoppers, Says Retail Expert
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to the holidays, says a University of Florida retail expert, men’s shopping and gift-buying habits can be summed up in one simple word: clueless.
This year’s holiday shopping season is nearing its peak this week, and the differences between Venus and Mars are once again making themselves known in ways that frequently are humorous and sometimes are downright distressing, said Erik Gordon, director of research for UF’s Center for Retail Education and Research.
In the course of conducting consumer surveys over the past three years, Gordon has picked up some fairly consistent themes in what men and women generally like and dislike about the yuletide retail rush. It’s widely understood, for instance, that men typically wait till the last minute to get cracking — no time like Christmas Eve to head for the mall. But they make some of their biggest mistakes by not picking up on subtle hints.
Heck, forget subtle.
“If a man mentions in July that a friend has a cool all-in-one remote control, a woman will remember and buy one in October,” Gordon said. “Men hear nothing. If a woman mentions six times how good her friend looks in her new cashmere sweater, cuts out pictures of cashmere sweaters and leaves them on the kitchen table, asks her husband which color sweaters he prefers, the husband will have no idea that she would like a sweater.”
Part of the problem stems from men’s distaste for shopping in general.
“Women like shopping. It gives them pleasure to find just the right thing for everybody on their list,” Gordon said. “Men hate shopping. They manage to have no idea what to get anyone — not even a sweater — and buy the cut-glass wine decanter for a wife who doesn’t like wine, simply because the department store had them on display.”
When women hit the stores, he said, they go at it in methodical fashion.
“They have lists and cross off items as they buy them,” said Gordon.
Because they don’t want to be there to begin with and don’t know what they’re looking for anyway, men tend to handle shopping like a they’re suffering from a disease.
“They just wander around lost. If they shop twice, they buy two of the same thing because they forgot that they already bought one,” he said.
What’s more, he said, men’s approach to the retail experience naturally leaves women stuck with the bulk of the duty.
“Women buy the gifts for the whole family: their husband, the kids, her parents, his parents, her brother, his brother and two sisters,” he said. “Men buy one present — for their wife — and it’s something she has to give an Academy Award-winning performance pretending to like — for instance, a wine decanter.”
The final difference becomes evident when the gifts are finally in the house. One glance under the tree is all it takes to find out who bought what.
“Women wrap their presents beautifully,” Gordon said. “Men either wrap their presents with eight to 10 pounds of Scotch tape, or they buy whatever the department stores have pre-wrapped — wine decanters, for instance.”
Gordon admits he’s not immune to the male gift deficiency disorder. Take the Iron Incident. Prepare to cringe.
“My wife had mentioned she needed a new iron. Of course, I went right out and bought this extremely expensive steam-and-dry iron and I wrapped it all myself,” he said. “Well, when she opened it, her comment was, ‘Gee, I thought you weren’t listening’ — and every word was dripping ice.
“Even when we listen we don’t listen,”
So do men do anything right on the gift-getting front?
“We let our wives do all the shopping,” Gordon said. “That way only one person bears the brunt of the damage from our incompetence. Unfortunately, that person is our wives.”
- Steve Orlando
- Erik Gordon, email@example.com, (352) 392-7992, ext. 1259