06 Oct 2017 16:31 IST

How to be smart about shopping

A lot of buying behaviour is not rational at all

Do you break off the tips of ladies’ fingers to check if they are tender, asks Rajesh. Say Yes, and he asks why. Then follows a discussion on testing for the perfect watermelon (it should sound hollow when tapped “but do you know how hollow sounds?”), rice (“know the logic behind nibbling on a few grains?”), and other such practices. Few know why, except that it’s what they’ve seen others do. And this is why people shop the way they do.

“A lot of our buying behaviour is not rational at all. It’s what we’ve seen our parents do. Gender is a factor, so are age and cultural influences. Influences go back to only human behaviour and not SEC,” he says.

Retail and shopper behaviour expert, V Rajesh has spent years setting up and managing retail stores, so his challenging of these age-old tips has the ring of authority. He was part of the team that set up Food World, India’s first modern retail store chain, over 20 years ago. His latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Smart Shopping, discusses shopping behaviour, and how, with some strategy, they can be happy about their purchases.

As a veteran retailer, Rajesh is frequently asked to give tips on smart shopping. He defines smart shopping as “getting more than what you give, and being happier with your choices.” There are tips for men and women. For instance, men should shop with a list as that reduces the chance of their missing out on buying a few things. Then, if you’re shopping for something unconnected to children, don’t take them along, as their disinterest will curtail you. Are you an impulsive online shopper? Use the computer, not the app, and log in and log out each time you shop.

Much of shopping is driven by the sub-conscious, and much of it is due to trust and habit. “We don’t know how to buy, so we depend on a brand or the person selling to us,” says Rajesh. Getting good service is important for a good shopping experience. However, Indians fall woefully short in this regard, he says. “We don’t deserve good service because we don’t know how to treat sales staff well.” The tendency is to order them around, even if politely, rather than request. “Very few customers know how to solve a problem. They make it worse by venting their anger. Be clear about the information you want. Powerful communication is vital to share expectations and influence service.”

Now, eat a ripe banana before going on the next shopping expedition. You may find a feeling of calm arrives, curbing unnecessary buys. Of course, other tactics are in operation to reel you into the store, like the bright red signs that call out to you even from far, or the smell of baking wafting out of a café. But practice, and you can succeed. And here’s Rajesh’s tip to find the perfect bhendi: Roll it between your fingers. It should be soft but the spine should be firm. That’s a more accurate measure than snapping off the tip!

To read more about what Rajesh has to say, click on this link .

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)