When you go on holiday, most of what makes it memorable is not necessarily the things you bought, but the ‘who’ you met and the ‘what’ you did with them. You will most likely remember a conversation you had with a stranger as opposed to a shoe you bought. If this stranger gave you a souvenir, you will remember this souvenir not because of the commodity it is, but because of the whole experience that led to you receiving that souvenir. If you look at your life and the things you have spent your money on, the experiences you have had with people have most likely been more satisfying than the material possessions that you have bought. So do experiences make us happier than material possessions? If so, what makes experiences so memorable and sating?
The disappointment in buying possessions is well linked to the likelihood of a buyer’s remorse or regret. You will buy that new phone, and it will excite you for a few days. This excitement almost never lasts; people get bored. Even girls begin to hate their most loved and priced shoes at some point. No matter how long it takes, possessions are bound to bore you, or lead you to questioning the purchase. However, experiences happen, and the moment they stop, what you are left with are memories, whether good or bad. The good ones remain in our minds, the bad ones fade, and in this case, fading is good. You forget.
The comparative nature of material purchases is also another thing that makes them less sating. You find yourself comparing prices and makes of a phone soon after you have bought. I have a friend who has a really good phone, but when we are walking in Nairobi city, he is always checking out prices of the same phone in shops. Of course he does not want to buy another phone similar to the one he has. He wants to know if he was conned or if they are cheaper at that moment. This is very inconsequential in the end, but he does it anyway.
Another good example given in this article is a case where you buy a car, and instead of enjoying the new purchase, you spend your time wondering about what you didn’t get in the car you just bought. If you went to dinner with friends, comparing prices or the experiences will be the last thing on your mind. Once in a while it might occur to you, but once an experience happens, there is no chance to revisit. Probably the opportunity material purchases give for re-evaluation and re-purchase is the weevil here.
However, most purchases border experience and materials-where an item carries with it an experience. The example given at the beginning of this article explains it better, in which, a souvenir becomes more than just an item. It is more satisfying because of the experience. Social psychologists encourage us to think of our purchases in an experiential way rather than just mere commodities. When you buy music, the experience of listening to the music is far more pleasurable than the music itself as a commodity.
With the consumer culture being as unsatisfying as it is, thinking of commodities through the experiences they bring us might be all we have left. Perhaps, it might afford us the least bit of gratification in this sea of items we have bought that have failed to satisfy us?