Buy experience not products: Why you should make restaurant reservations well ahead

Photo by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Great pleasure lies in the anticipation! (Photo by Thomas Hawk, CC BY-NC 2.0)

A criticism of capitalism (and the consequence of it: wealth) is that prosperity does not make us happy. One reproach: Money is killing pleasant anticipation. Those who have money can buy whatever they want, usually immediately.

Of course anticipation has two sides of one coin. The pleasant one is that we are looking forward on something, the negative side is that people tend to be impatient.

As the psychologist Amit Kumar found out in an experiment plublished in a paper called “Waiting for Merlot – Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases” is that experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having).

Kumar writes:

Consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases.

Why is that so?

Maybe because when we’re anticipating buying a thing, to a certain extent we know what we’re getting, and that limits the nature of our thoughts about it. That is different from experiential purchases. Kumar:

These more abstract thoughts about experiences can make them seem more significant, and hence more gratifying.

Another explanation: The Keeping-Up-Effect, what means that material purchases are way more susceptible to anxiety-provoking comparisons than experiential ones, and this may extent to the period before the purchase or acquisition of stuff.

Kumar’s advice:

It might make sense for consumers to delay their consumption of some experiential purchases to take advantage of the relatively more exciting anticipatory period that comes with experiential consumption. That is, it might be a good idea to make that restaurant reservation well in advance, to buy the tickets to the show beforehand, to start planning that vacation ahead of time. This increases the amount of time one can spend savoring his or her future consumption. You get extra time to imagine all the different foods you might eat, the songs the band might include in the set list, the feeling of the sand between your toes, and so on.

Further reading:

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Published by Johannes Eber

Berlin-based economist, senior consultant at Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft (INSM) and co-founder of the media agency Solokarpfen.

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