Bargain Fever Book Summary - Bargain Fever Book explained in key points

Bargain Fever summary

Mark Ellwood

How to Shop in a Discounted World

15 mins

Brief summary

Bargain Fever by Mark Ellwood is a fascinating exploration of our obsession with finding the best deals and its impact on retailers and consumers alike. It explains how and why we're drawn to discounts and offers insights into the psychology of the shopping experience.

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    Bargain Fever
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    When you see a bargain, your brain releases the “feel good” hormone dopamine.

    At one time or another, most of us have bought a product we didn’t really want or need, simply because it was on sale.

    But why is it that we get so excited by the prospect of a discount?

    The answer lies in the human brain: the sudden possibility of receiving a discount activates a flow of dopamine, a chemical which is considered part of the brain’s reward system. The moment dopamine is released, we feel elated and excited.

    However, as we learn to expect a discount, that excitement begins to wane. This was demonstrated in the following experiment. A rat was dropped into a maze in which a small treat was hidden in the center, and its dopamine levels were monitored.

    The first time the rat located the treat, its brain released a massive surge of dopamine. However, after it had found a treat a few times, the amount of dopamine released was practically zero.

    Why? Because the rat expected to find the treat in the maze’s center. In short, the element of surprise had diminished.

    Our response to discounts works in a similar way: in order for discounts to prompt a dopamine-fueled rush of excitement, they have to surprise us and exceed our expectations. Say you’re visiting your favorite electronics store with the intention of purchasing a new TV, and expecting to pay full price. If you see a “50 percent OFF!” sign as you enter the store, a dopamine surge – and the excitement this produces – is all but guaranteed.

    Why, then, do we sometimes find it harder to resist purchasing discounted products than at other times?

    If there’s too much dopamine coursing through the brain, we’re less able to control our behavior. An overabundance of dopamine limits the functioning of the brain region responsible for weighing the pros and cons of any action – the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).

    This dopamine flood can be caused by stress; thus, when we’re anxious, we’re prone to respond unreasonably to discounts and special offers (e.g., “buy one, get one free”) and to make impulsive purchases – even of products we really don’t need or want.

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    What is Bargain Fever about?

    Bargain Fever explores the world of bargains, discounts and coupons, and explains why we’ll sometimes go to extreme lengths to find a good deal. Using many illustrative examples, the author presents an account of the history of bargains, explains how they influence our shopping behavior and speculates on what discounts will look like in the future.

    Bargain Fever Review

    Bargain Fever (2013) by Mark Ellwood offers an exploration of the psychology behind our addiction to finding deals. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a fascinating look into the world of bargain hunting, revealing the mechanisms that drive our behaviors and the emotions associated with finding great deals.
    • The book offers insightful anecdotes and interviews with experts, giving readers a deeper understanding of the impact of bargains on our society and our personal lives.
    • With its engaging narratives and thought-provoking questions, the book keeps readers engaged, ensuring that it is anything but boring.

    Best quote from Bargain Fever

    So our brains are primed hormonally to react to bargains, in thrall to every squirt of dopamine.

    —Mark Ellwood
    example alt text

    Who should read Bargain Fever?

    • Anyone who loves to go bargain hunting
    • Anyone interested in the history of bargains and discounts
    • Anyone who wants to know why a bargain is often hard to resist
    • Entrepreneurs who want to understand customer psychology

    About the Author

    Journalist Mark Ellwood was born in Great Britain but now lives in New York City. He has published articles in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, and also works as a TV presenter and producer.

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    Bargain Fever FAQs 

    What is the main message of Bargain Fever?

    The main message of Bargain Fever is the complex psychology behind why we love a good deal.

    How long does it take to read Bargain Fever?

    The reading time for Bargain Fever varies depending on the reader. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Bargain Fever a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Bargain Fever is worth reading as it sheds light on our obsession with deals. It provides a fascinating insight into consumer behavior.

    Who is the author of Bargain Fever?

    The author of Bargain Fever is Mark Ellwood.