Alcohol Where You Least Expect It: Online Shopping and OJ

by on December 28, 2011

Drunk shopping. Clearly a thing.

The news that people spend more when at home and shopping under the influence is not news to me. Nothing else  explains my late-night 1998 purchase of a Gateway desktop system but drunkenness, and I wasn’t even online yet.

I don’t begrudge my earlier inebriated self for the Gateway purchase–it ran Win98 for me until 2004–just for the boozy assurance with which I loaded it up with peripherals that added another 30 percent to the total. So much for saving money via Gateway’s à la carte scheme.

TechFlash points to a New York Times story suggesting that online retailers are shifting their efforts to take advantage of happy hour disinhibition. Reports Stephanie Clifford:

On eBay, the busiest time of day is from 6:30 to 10:30 in each time zone. Asked if drinking might be a factor, Steve Yankovich, vice president for mobile for eBay, said, “Absolutely.” He added: “I mean, if you think about what most people do when they get home from work in the evening, it’s decompression time. The consumer’s in a good mood.”

The famously intoxicated British are, like drink-stunned lab rats, leading the way for researchers. The Times again: “One comparison-shopping site, Kelkoo, said almost half the people it surveyed in Britain, where it is based, had shopped online after drinking.” TechFlash points to the Kelkoo survey results that indicate 43 percent of Brits have shopped online after having a few, and by “few,” we mean that only 53 percent remembered making their purchase. More impressively:

Almost one in ten (8%) shoppers were so drunk that they had to abandon their transaction as it was too expensive and their credit card was declined, 9% fell asleep and 13% couldn’t focus on the screen or use the keyboard properly.

(Photo: United States Department of Agriculture)

It’s not due to their orange juice intake, though you might be surprised to learn, as I was, that regular OJ contains trace amounts of alcohol. Wine economist Mike Veseth mentions this in an aside in his post on no-alcohol wine: “De-alcoholized wine actually contains a tiny bit of alcohol, but can be sold as a non-alcoholic beverage so long as it contains less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. Amazingly, this is about the same amount of alcohol you will find in orange juice. Really!”

For the truly curious, Paul Davis, of the USDA Market Quality Research Division, has determined which OJ “vintages” pack the most fruit punch:

Fruit picked towards the end of the harvest season was highest in ethanol (because the yeasts have had longer to convert sugar to alcohol). The exception was the Valencia Orange, which had a fairly constant alcohol content throughout the season.

Most people can metabolize this small amount of alcohol from swallow to swallow, so you never get drunk from orange juice benders. Online shopping just after breakfast, then, remains a prudent option.

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