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Shopping Personalities

After decades of shopper watching, the Oily Rag Research Department has come up with a thesis of shopping personalities.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

After decades of shopper watching, the Oily Rag Research Department has come up with a thesis of shopping personalities. Fresh from an exposé interview with Oprah (okay, that’s not true) and scores of cover stories in women’s magazines (okay, that’s not true either) we can now share our findings with our multitudes of oil rag readers.

The first personality types are “shopaholics”. These are those who suffer an incessant retail cravings, which Oilyragowikipedia describes as follows, “Retail craving is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer's mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit but can develop into shopaholism in chronic cases.”

In 2001, the European Union (who have studied everything about everything) found 33 per cent of shoppers had “high level of addiction to rash or unnecessary consumption”. This was causing debt problems for many, particularly young Scottish people!

Our own oily rag researchers have found Shopaholics are easily recognisable because they usually shop with a sense of over-exuberance (and are even known to smile during the checkout process!) and justify their recidivist shopping experiences on grounds that they are buying essential items.

The second personality types recognised are the “hunters”. You can identify these shoppers because they are usually armed with a calculator, torch, and notepad and can be seen scouring the very highest and lowest shelves. They often work in pairs as this enables hunters to readily compare prices.  Nowadays, the more technically proficient hunters use text messaging and social media to alert other hunters to their discoveries. A text message about toilet paper may read something like this:  “ABC 3ply-10%, isle2; min by 6 rolls. Go4it”.

And then there are the “grazers”. These people graze the aisles in a bovine daisy-the-cow like manner. They can be seen ruminating about purchases before making them. Another form of grazer is the window shopper, who ambles their way through retail precincts, occasionally pressing their nose against the display glass. Grazers don’t usually have a specific purchase in mind. They just want to be around retail excitement, eating ice-cream and french fries, and watching other people shop and struggle under the weight of heavy shopping bags.

The fourth type of shopping personality is the “bargain bin buyer”. Typically this person shops alone – or if they have a spouse they are usually seen sitting patiently on a bench nearby or reading the newspaper in the car.   The bargain bin buyer is always in search of sales, and is drawn to “SALE” signs like a month to a light. They are often seen in discount variety stores, or checking out the bargain bins in big box retailer stores. We are told they sometimes fall into the bins and need to be retrieved feet first by panic stricken staff who fear a visit from OSH!  They are often heard saying, “Now that’s a bargain” and their cupboards at home are usually stuffed full of bargain buys that will come in handy one day.

The “power shopper” is a shopper with a purpose. They shop alone, don’t shop often, know what they want, and usually know where to find it. No mucking around. In, buy, out. If you want it, buy it. No saying, “Have a nice day” and other annoying pleasantries like talking about the weather, or “had a busy day?”

The last personality type is the “shopping grump”. They hate shopping. When forced into dens of iniquitous spending they drag their feet grumbling that everything is too expensive, not needed, too big or too small, too this, too that. When they do buy something it is for small ticket items like feeding the parking meter or buying an ice cream (one scoop).  Fortunately they are not seen all that often in shops because they are generally left at home in the garden or having a good laugh watching Grumpy Old Men on the tellie.

There you have it. Keep these shopping types in mind next time you go venturing out into the isles. You will be amazed how many you see. We find it more entertaining and cheaper than going to the movies!

The book Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have a favourite living off the smell of an oily rag tips, share it with others by visiting the oily rag website or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at