'Sipping and Shopping' Can Lead to Interesting Online Purchases

Booze and browsing could bring you trouble -- and mystery items.

July 30, 2014, 2:31 AM
PHOTO: Online shopping while drinking can lead to unexpected purchases.
Online shopping while drinking can lead to unexpected purchases.
Getty Images

— -- Anyone who has browsed the Internet after a couple glasses of wine knows booze and shopping can potentially be a dangerous mix. And the more people drink, the more likely they are to click the "buy" button.

Some people don't even recall what they've purchased until a shipping confirmation pops up in their email inbox a few days later. Or, even worse, when a mysterious package is dropped off on their doorstep.

For many serial shoppers, it's a chronic problem.

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"I actually refer to it as SAS -- sipping and shopping," Courtney, a 29-year-old publicist in Boston who did not want her full name used, told ABC News. "I guess it's been a problem for a couple of years, but I didn't really notice it. My colleagues were the ones to notice it because I kept getting things delivered to the office. Or I'd get a shipping confirmation and they'd hear me screaming obscenities."

For Courtney, the forgotten purchases never amounted to more than a few hundred dollars at a time -- usually shoes or clothes, she said.

It often happened after a few drinks with friends, and many of the purchases were items she had already considered buying. She just needed an extra push: alcohol.

"You have a little more liquid courage, and you just pull the trigger," she said.

Marie, who owns a marketing company in Chicago, said her husband is a "repeat offender."

"It wasn't until packages started arriving that we realized that he gets a little paranoid when he is drunk," she said. "Night vision binoculars were the first to arrive, followed by security equipment for the house, a small telescoping club."

"And, because it was so practical, a sword," she joked.

They eventually canceled his Amazon account, Marie said.

It's not always unnecessary spending that causes trouble, though. Sometimes, it's the opposite.

PHOTO: A closet is seen in this undated stock photo.
A closet is seen in this undated stock photo.
Getty Images

In one case, Lynae of San Francisco was convinced she drunkenly bought a plane ticket home for a family reunion. In a champagne haze, she plugged the flight times into her iPhone's calendar and emailed the details to her father so he could pick her up from the airport.

"And the day of the flight I was packing and I was looking for the details in my email and I couldn't find anything. I started panicking," Lynae, 25, told ABC News.

She logged onto Expedia and found the flight itinerary in her drafts -- she had never completed the purchase.

Another time, on another drunken night, Lynae said she accidentally bought two sets of everything she needed for a new apartment.

"I had no idea until the packages kept coming in the mail," she said. "I knew I ordered some pillows, I didn't realize I ordered eight!"

PHOTO: A laptop on a kitchen table with a glass of red wine, in this stock photo taken on July 23, 2012.
A laptop on a kitchen table with a glass of red wine, in this stock photo taken on July 23, 2012.
Joseph Branston/What Laptop Magazine via Getty Images

Dr. David Sack, an addiction psychiatrist, said people who drink, and then forget they bought something are experiencing blackouts.

"You don't have to be an alcoholic to have a blackout," he said. "There's a change in mental status where a person appears to be awake but they're not going to have any memory of it. Blackouts can occur and frequently do in non-alcoholics. You see it in college students all the time."

He has also heard stories of "amnesia shopping" from patients with bipolar disorder.

"With bipolar disorder, people get very manic. Their thoughts race quickly and they tend to be compulsive spenders," Sack explained. "I've had manic patients who went online and bought thousands and thousands of dollars of stuff and had no memory of it."

Shopping binges you don't remember can also happen when people take drugs to treat insomnia, Sack warned. But with drunk shopping, the solution is just a matter of how much you drink -- and keeping the computer, and your credit cards, at a safe distance.

That's easier said than done for some of fashion stylist Ronit Abraham's clients.

"It's like drunk dialing," she said. "You don't remember what you did until the next day. The repercussions literally happen overnight if it's one-day shipping. And once they do, it's sort of scary for them."

Abraham cites one client who mixed alcohol and shopping to cope after a divorce.

"To console herself each night, she would drink a bottle of wine and max out her credit cards," she said. "It got to the point where she had to shut off her cards and now she took out a loan to pay back her debt. And she was stuck with a bunch of clothing in her 'aspirational' size."

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