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Men Buy, Women Shop – The ConsumHERist

Posted on | December 10, 2008 | No Comments

by Delia Passi, with Greg Smalter

The following entry consists of the first three of seven contributions written by myself and my husband for Readers Digest website, appearing last week.  We’ve left out some tips which can be found at their site.

Mark and Maria (not their real names – their real names are Bud and Mary) are a typical American couple, time starved working family with 2.3 kids. They face the same holiday shopping responsibility as everyone else.

Okay, holiday shopping isn’t so much a responsibility as an act of generosity, pleasure and reward. At least that is how Maria and so many other women see it. Mark, on the other hand, is like so many other men. He sees it as a chore, and because it is the holidays, as an obligation. Hey, Mark likes seeing his wife, parents, siblings, friends and his kids especially, enjoy the gifts they receive. He just doesn’t like shopping. Too bad. It’s 2008 and things have changed for Mark and Maria, just like so many other American families.


“Yes, my sweet.”

“We have to talk.”

“Didn’t we talk last week?”

“We have to talk about shopping. The holidays are only weeks away and we, no, I haven’t even started. I need your help.”

“Uh, dear Maria, you know I’m allergic to shopping. I break out in a sweat just walking through the food court, my favorite part. I can’t help you.”

“You have to, Mark. My boss is all over my case to deliver our departmental sales quota before year end and I am going to have to work day and night. I simply won’t have time to shop. With the bad real estate market, your business is practically shut down. You can do it. I know you can. You just have to adapt. You have to learn how to shop like a pro, like a woman.”

“My business is in a temporary slump, I’ll have you know. Sooner or later the demand for SOLD signs will pick up. Besides, dear sweet and loveable one, I prefer to shop like the man I am. Hit and run. Shopping like a woman is foreign to me. For one thing, you have to enjoy it.”

“I’m going to coach you. You’ll see that it is not only non-lethal; it can be rewarding.”

“You’re scaring me.”

Mark and Maria are typical of men and women everywhere in their approaches to shopping. A study done by WomenCertified® in partnership with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, entitled Men Buy, Women Shop, described their differences as unique. Their shopping styles are based at least in part on the primitive instincts that have been passed down to them by their ancestors. Men exhibit behavior common to the hunter. Women shop like the gatherers of primitive societies. Things haven’t changed all that much in 10,000 years.

But things need to change for Mark and Maria. We’ll follow their progress each day in the coming week.

Welcome to Men Buy, Women Shop. I’m Delia Passi, Founder of WomenCertified®, the seal of approval you should look for before choosing who to buy from and author of Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide to Selling to Women.  Helping me with this story is Greg Smalter, my CFO who doubles as my husband. I’m the gender expert and he’s the comic who will make you chuckle. Stay with us as we take this topic head on.

We rejoin Mark and Maria as they begin the process of converting Mark from his male-ish hunter-buyer behavior to a more efficient and effective but womanish shopper-gatherer approach.

“Okay, Mark, you need a bit of strategy if you’re going to get through this with your sanity, and a few more coins in our pockets.”

“No problem, Maria, my love. I start at the sporting goods store, right? If I can’t find something for everyone there, then I move on to the Super Bull Mart store.”

“Not even close. For one, not everyone on our list wants a football jersey. For another, the best starting place is the den, not the store. You’ve got to get on the computer and do some digging. I actually read that women go “cropping” before they go shopping.

“What, now you’re a farmer?”

“Well, women were probably the first farmers. They stopped gathering berries when they realized they could plant them instead. Think of it as the first step towards modern catalog and online shopping – stay in one place and have stuff come to you.

“I see. Now we gather berries electronically.”

“Never mind. I should know better than to get you off on a tangent. Let’s stay focused. First you should get some idea of what makes a good gift for each person. Do you know what you’re giving everyone?”

“I guess basketball shorts are out.”

“Look, honey, you can visit the equivalent of dozens of stores in just one morning that way, saving gas, time and your blood pressure. And you’ll get some great ideas, even better ones than basketball shorts and exotic beers.

Then, Mark, you have to see if you can save even more by buying some of the gifts online. There are pluses and minuses to buying online. For one, it’s convenient. No waiting in line. No hunting for a knowledgeable salesperson to find something in the back room. No paying tax most of the time. But you have to wait for your order to show up and you have to pay for shipping, which isn’t always trivial, although often it’s free. The biggest disadvantage is you can’t touch it before you buy it.”

“Okay, but where do I start?”

“Go with your gut. Just do a search for whatever phrase comes to mind. For little Diana you could search on gift ideas for girls, simple as that. That way you’re bound to find many good ideas you’d never come up with otherwise.”

“So if you did a search for exotic beer gifts, you could find the perfect gift for me, saving lots of time and trouble.”

“Precisely, although I might also search for husband improvement programs, for our anniversary.”

“I love you, honey.”

“I love you, too. But don’t get too relaxed, bub. You’re not going to find everything you want, or even the best deals, online. Even if you can find a lot of stuff online, and I think you can make a big dent in our shopping there, I still want you to look for a few ideas I have that you can’t easily buy online – like clothes for my mother.”

“Oh, joy. Couldn’t I just hire someone to buy for her?”

“Not with our budget. You’ll do fine.”

Yesterday, Maria prepped Mark to begin his holiday shopping mission on the web, the world wide web. That world wide thing should pretty much assure that he would find whatever he wanted, provided it was available somewhere on the globe. If you can buy one in a store, you can get it on the web, right? Sometimes. Kinda, sorta, in a way.

“Mark? I’m home.”

“Hey, darling. How was work? Getting to that quota yet?”

“We made some progress. How’s the shopping coming?”

“I made some progress, too. I’m still learning but I’m still sane. I was talking to myself out loud by the end of the day, but I’m muttering things you would understand. The cat, on the other hand, left me around three when I yelled at the printer.”

“Why did you yell at the printer?”

“Because it ran out of ink when I needed to print out my order confirmation.”

“So you did buy something. Why don’t you take me through your day? Maybe I can give you some advice, other than to check your ink supply.”

“Okay. First I made a pot of coffee, ate a bagel and checked the sports section, and the help wanted, in the paper. Then I got comfy in my chair with the laptop so I could attack this shopping thing. I got a couple ideas from watching the morning shows, so I had my goals set for the morning. ‘Course it took me until a half hour ago to score my goals, so you have to give some credit to the defense. They put up a good fight.”

“Let me get my pompons, champ. What were your goals?”

“On the TV, they talked about that game Matt said he wanted so badly. It looked pretty fun, so I made a note of the name. It turns out that was about the toughest part for that one. And I got an idea for your Dad. I decided to get him a really nice golf shirt with the University of Miami emblem on it. That’s what made me scare the cat.”

“Yeah, clothes are always a tough one to get right on the Internet. Tell me about the game.”

“Oh, yeah. That was no big deal. I just entered the name of the game into the search engine and that was about it. Heck, it even told me how to spell the name correctly. How was I supposed to know they would spell it with two I’s and not two E’s? Anyway, I got a little intimidated when it said there were 3 million matches.”

“I trust you got it without going to all of them.”

“Oh, yeah. First I read a couple of reviews. Not everyone likes that game, you know. Then I found a place on AOL that gives you about a million different sites where you can buy it and what their best price is, even if there is tax or shipping charges. It’s amazing how the low price site jumps up the list when shipping charges apply. The top dozen were no more than five dollars apart so I went to a couple with five star ratings and picked the one that appeared to be the most polished.”

“And that was it?”


“I didn’t think so. What was it? The interrogation?”

“Yeah, that and the fact that I ended up in another site altogether when I went to close the deal.”

“That happens sometimes, but it isn’t necessarily a sign that things are screwy. Some sites are just gateways to others. As long as you feel some confidence in the store you ultimately buy from, that they are reputable, you can go ahead.”

“Well, once I gave up my life story to buy a simple game, I wasn’t going to easily give up. Why do they need to know how much schooling I’ve had?”

“I think they’re profiling you. Did you check the box that says they can’t send you their email newsletters?”

“Yeah, I caught that. Did you know that I have a Ph.D.?”

“No. When did you finish it?”

“This morning, I guess. You can call me Doc from now on.”

“Sure, Doc. What did you get your degree in?”

“Applied Internet Shopping. Want to hear my adventure in clothes shopping? It makes Internet game buying seem like child’s play.”

attachment-1.jpegDelia Passi, Founder of WomenCertified® and author of Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide to Selling to Women is a regular columnist on ReachingWomenDaily.


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