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Is Paypal Turning Us into Impulse Buyers?

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I’d like to start this article by pointing out that Paypal is a fabulous resource and I use it often. I feel safe buying items, especially items on eBay, with my Paypal account. But over the past few months I’ve noticed that more and more places accept Paypal and I began to wonder: is this going to create a generation of impulse buyers?

Paypal was founded in December of 1998. It was acquired by eBay in 2002 and quickly became a phenomenon. Now, with over 31 million accounts and growing, it’s a quick, easy way to pay for anything from cheap novelties to new cars.

But is it TOO easy?
“How can anything be too easy?” I hear you all yell at your computer screens. Well, this is something I started thinking about a few months ago. I was mulling around online and found a great little movie prop. However, the store only accepted credit cards and I just didn’t want it enough to drag myself away from my comfy computer chair and go downstairs to get my wallet. The following morning my initial impulse to buy had been overtaken by common sense. I didn’t need it; it was really a waste of $49.99.

A week passed and something else caught my eye; a very nice antique book on advertising. Once again, lethargy set in and I decided I didn’t want to run all the way downstairs and back again and fill out a bunch of forms. The next morning I discovered the same book on another site but at 1/3 of the price. I was relieved.

I started thinking, “hey, how many times have I bought something on impulse because I could just click and pay with Paypal?” I checked my account. Thankfully, not too many times, and 70% of what I had bought I would buy again in a heartbeat. But some items, well, I could really live without.

“Is Paypal my enemy?” I started pondering. “Is this wonderful resource actually turning us all into a league of impulse shoppers?”

I asked around at work, emailed friends, and started to get quite a surprising response. Most said that they had bought something on impulse due to the ease of Paypal and had regretted the purchase later. Well, we all have buyer’s remorse, but one fact that everyone had in common was that they said they didn’t even think about the money involved. When they saw the “pay with paypal” button they just clicked on it like Pavlov’s dog. It was only later when they saw their bank accounts did they realize their rash decision.

What am I saying here? Is Paypal the devil? Of course not, it’s a terrific tool and I’ll keep on using it. I’m not about to give up the safety and security of Paypal because I have no willpower (or very little of it, anyway). All I’m suggesting is this: before you buy anything that allows you to pay with Paypal, stop and think. Take a breath. Ask yourself, “Do I want it, do I need it, can I afford it, will I regret this in the morning?” If you are still convinced this is something you just HAVE to have, then go ahead. You probably would have gotten it using your credit card anyway. But if that moment of hesitation is enough to make you think twice, maybe you really don’t need it after all. Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned.

By Paul Michael of Wisebread


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