Here’s the Staggering Amount of Money People Spend While ‘Drunk Shopping,’ According to Research

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Seriously, it’s like billions of dollars.

People sometimes do crazy things when they’ve been drinking.

I don’t mean terrible things. That’s another column. Instead, I’m thinking of things that fall more into the category of “laugh about it later, seemed like a better idea at the time.”

If a new survey holds water (or maybe something stronger), we can put some numbers on one such behavior: shopping.

The folks at say they commissioned a study of 2,179 representative adults earlier this year, and asked them whether they’d made a recent purchase while they were under the influence of alcohol — and if so, how much they spent.

Their findings included:

  • Roughly 17 percent of survey respondents acknowledged making at least one drunk purchase over the past year. (Broken down by generation, Gen-Z was 28 percent, Gen-Y was 33 percent, Gen-X was 8 percent, and Boomers were 2 percent.)
  • Average total spending while under the influence? That’s $309, which would work out to about $14 billion.
  • The number one category of drunk purchases by both men and women, according to the survey, was shoes, clothes, and accessories (46 percent of purchases reported by men, and 50 percent of those reported by women).

Rounding out the top categories: food, alcohol, gambling, and cigarettes.

And while it wasn’t at the top, it’s eye-catching that 16 percent of those who said they had engaged in drunk shopping said they’d actually bought a motor vehicle as a result.

So, what to make of this? Well, as a person who may or may not have been in a bar or two once or twice in his life, I’m going to profess very little surprise at the idea that people who have been drinking might be inclined to buy food, cigarettes, or more alcohol.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t take our time to commission a separate field study to figure that one out.

As for the top category of shoes, clothes, and accessories, although the survey didn’t break out online shopping versus in-person, I think we can all assume fairly safely that a lot of that drunk clothes shopping is done with a glass of their favorite beverage in one hand and a smartphone in the other.

We can also hope without knowing for sure that the overwhelming majority of respondents who talked about buying cars and trucks were also simply doing online research, as opposed to taking test drives while under the influence.

(Although, since Tesla sells all of its cars online, I’d love it if the company someday revealed its time-of-purchase data, and we could track how many Model Ss, 3s, Xs, and Ys were bought on weekend nights after last call.)

I have three takeaways:

  • First, it’s intriguing to note that this significant report of the total shopping-while-intoxicated economy comes after the National Retail Federation reported that Americans return roughly $816 billion a year in merchandise they bought but later didn’t want.
  • Next, while I’m not going to suggest business owners want to intentionally target inebriated customers, it’s certainly worth being aware that there might be certain times of day when consumers are a little looser with their wallets. Do with that as you see fit.
  • And, finally, after a long, hard day or week of building a great business, if you’re having a drink to unwind, maybe institute a hard-and-fast personal “wait 24 hours to decide to buy” policy.

Especially if you’re among the 16 percent who might want to buy a car. They’ll still have Teslas tomorrow.