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Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  8,438 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
Is there a method to our madness when it comes to shopping? Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "a Sherlock Holmes for retailers," author and research company CEO Paco Underhill answers with a definitive "yes" in this witty, eye-opening report on our ever-evolving consumer culture. Why We Buy is based on hard data gleaned from thousands of hours of field research–in s ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 2nd 2000 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 1999)
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Aug 06, 2007 Wayne rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Beginning retailers
Rather disappointing -- it reads like a book length sales brochure for Envirosell, the company the author founded. Every page follows the same formula: A foolish retailer was doing this. I told him to do this. He did, and he is now more virile, has a better looking wife, has more money than he could imagine, and he thanks me daily.

This gets old. A few fun tricks of retailing are buried here and there, but the book should be subtitled: How to Get Rich Using Common Sense.
Mar 17, 2009 Danielle rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2009
Horrendous, for several reasons.
First, it is outdated, which is my own fault -- he has a newer book and I happened to pick up the wrong one at the library. There are references to dial-up modems and portable cassette players, among other things.
Second, it reads like a sales pitch. The guy is arrogant and self-serving, pitching his company (Envirosell) throughout. That's just plain annoying.
Third, and probably most offensive, it is sexist, making broad generalizations about female vs. male shop
Oct 13, 2014 Santhosh rated it liked it
Firstly, Why We Buy should have been How They Buy, because 1) the book is about insights on shopping (and not shoppers), based on extensive observations of shoppers when they're shopping and, 2) it's addressed from the retailer's point of view, about what they can do to make people buy more things.

The structure of the book goes something like this:
* Opening scene: the retailers were basically village simpletons who happened to have stores that were being visited by cattle masquerading as custome
Jessie Young
Aug 29, 2011 Jessie Young rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me after I became absolutely obsessed with grocery shopping in Santiago, Chile. I think it was the hunt, or maybe just that I had a ton of time, but I went grocery shopping pretty much every day while I lived in Santiago. I found the assortment of foods fascinating and the way they were packaged (mayo in a bag!?) even more-so. I'm also, in general, a very tactile shopper so I was interested in what he'd have to say about that.

My expectation was that this book would b
Nov 30, 2007 Jen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
As a consumer, this book frightens me; every display, every sign, every detail in a store is designed to part me from my money. I'm pretty aware of that, but the details in this book will frighten you.

For librarians, this book has a vital message: marketing (and thinking about marketing) is everything. We have something to sell, even if we don't make a profit. The author, from a science-sales point of view, thinks that books should have age ranges; that's scary to me, but understandable from a s
Nov 29, 2010 Ryan rated it did not like it
Don Draper would scoff and say "what?"

I could barely finish this, and I'd say he ripped off Don Draper were it not for the fact that Mad Men was written after this book was. Is advertising really all about love? Hmph.

This book is written by Paco Underhill, who presents himself as an arrogant, simple-minded know-it-all who left (cue schlocky singsong playground bully voice) "academia" to go out in the Real World to actually apply all these "scientific" thi
Jun 13, 2009 Andrea rated it it was ok
Shelves: nerd-stuff
Here is a literary example of "good idea, bad execution." Underhill has lots of interesting little anecdotes, yet presents them in a disorganized, sometimes arrogant, sometimes wistful, and occasionally creepy style.
Some points I found interesting and profoundly true:
-You need to be slowed down when entering a store from a parking lot (caught myself speeding past the section I needed in Target just the other day).
-Despite my mom's vigilant hand-slapping when I was young, the adult consumer in
K.M. Weiland
May 27, 2015 K.M. Weiland rated it really liked it
I bought this out of interest in the psychology that prompts people to buy things—primarily online. On that score, the book was pretty disappointing. As other reviewers have pointed out, it’s more about the science of selling—and not even that so much as just shedding light on shoddy merchandise presentation. And the (single) chapter on e-selling is pretty much a blow-off.

That said, what *is* here is fascinating, humorous, and highly entertaining. Underhill shares anecdotes from a lifetime of s
Feb 14, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
I will never be able to go into a business, especially a retail store, without an eye on traffic flow, product placement, the employee and purchaser environmental factors, along with signage, without thinking what I learned about the aforementioned topics. An enlightening read on "why we buy", and also an aid on possibly controlling why we buy. Great book.
Sep 11, 2009 Eh?Eh! rated it it was ok
Shelves: babble-added
I guess his point is good, that we miss the obvious...but repeatedly stated in such a 'tada!' manner that makes you want to dislike him very much.
Jan 28, 2014 Tripleguess rated it it was ok
This was an interesting book for the first couple chapters. I was fascinated by the premise: stores nowadays function as their own advertisement and can affect whether and how much shoppers buy through the judicious placement of signage, merchandise, and staff; however, it's hard to determine what ought to be moved without thorough study of current "traffic patterns" and even then adjustments don't always have their intended effect because "the obvious is not always apparent." Take the "butt-bru ...more
Oct 18, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Megan by: Caris
I learned about this book from a coworker at the library and am really glad I sat down to read it. This isn't a very long book, and it doesn't necessarily have to be read all the way through to glean the important points. Nevertheless, I really wish we could make every one of my coworkers read this book!

The author uses actual research he's done over years and years to glean new insights into the world of shopping and the people who shop. He researches everything from seat placement to aisle widt
Rebecca Radnor
Apr 14, 2016 Rebecca Radnor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: consumer-culture
Quick easy read that I would suggest to every adult who holds a job. Underhill is an anthropologist who studies what does and does not work in terms of increasing sales to your customers who have already walked into the store, but its stuff that could be applicable in classrooms to public spaces. He looks at what does or does not make people comfortable, where you should or should not put a sign to ensure it gets read, understanding who buys what and making it easier for them to buy it, etc. Its ...more
Amy Sherman
Aug 27, 2015 Amy Sherman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a thing for anything involving sociology, so I expected to like this book. With the introduction of "the science of shopping" that includes sociology and psychology, it did not disappoint. Some of the obvious things the author points out are downright amusing. This was written more than a decade ago now, but even the author's views on online shopping and successful websites still make sense. Some of the things he suggests have been implemented and duplicated by now, but he still shares so ...more
Apr 19, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Paco Underhill (with a name like that, how could you go wrong?) takes the tools that he learned as an anthropologist and in the 70's started applying them to the largest tribe in America: consumers and shoppers. It turns out that retailers are willing to pay a lot of money to find out how many towels shoppers will handle before they purchase a set, how many feet from the entrance of a store a display should be placed for maximum exposure, etc. Is Underhill a sell-out? Possibly, but the scales ar ...more
I guess it is a worthy book for a shop owner or a store manager, but it was not what i was looking for. I was hoping this book gives me an insight on what makes a product appealing to potential buyers and things like that.
Also it made me feel that the author is trying to sell his business to the readers!
There are a few great points and ideas in this book, and if you are 100% new to merchandising it's eye opening. Though, as others have mentioned it does read a bit like a sales pitch.

On the other hand, if, like me, you have a basic familiarity with the concepts then this book will be a little too basic. I was really hoping for something more in-depth.
Mar 15, 2013 Kimberlie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
A friend listened to the audio version and thought of me, so he bought me the book. (Hmmm... me and shopping? I don't see the connection.) I loved it! The author has a subtle sense of humor (doesn't try too hard) and the otherwise dull material was really quite interesting. I'll read it again sometime. Very interesting!
Christopher Stroud
Mar 11, 2016 Christopher Stroud rated it liked it
Outdated in some parts and unnecessarily autobiographical in many parts. This is easy to read and there are many good anecdotes and pointers but it doesn't get meaty and the author has an agenda to sell his company all the way through.
Andrea Eckelman
Jul 04, 2014 Andrea Eckelman rated it liked it
A fascinating look at how we shop. I listened to the audio book, and found myself really considering how I move through a retail space. He's spot on about the things that will make me quickly leave and the things that will make me buy more than I came for!
Sep 04, 2011 Susana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: en-casa
Lectura obligada para todos aquellos que quieran conocer las nuevas tendencias en estudios de mercado, la aplicación de técnicas de la antropología al entendimiento de los motivadores detrás de la compra. EXCELENTE.
Rebecca McNutt
Apr 14, 2015 Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it
Really interesting (and at times eye-opening, even shocking) book, detailed and well-written and invaluable for anyone who ever questions their products.
This is an interesting glimpse into how and why we make the decisions we do when shopping. Can be read as a sort of self-help books for people working in the retail industry or marketers in general.
Sep 12, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
A must-read for anyone in a selling profession. And, really, isn't that all of us?
Dmitry Kuriakov
Mar 30, 2016 Dmitry Kuriakov rated it it was amazing
Одна из лучших книг последнего месяца – «Почему мы покупаем, или как заставить покупать». Книга действительно чрезвычайно интересная и чем-то походит на книгу «Парадокс выбора». Обе книги исследуют человеческое поведение в момент покупки. Правда, тут нужно понимать, что книга о покупках без участия продавца. Тут главным образом участвует мерчендайзинг, нежели продавец. Можно даже сказать, что продавец как таковой тут отсутствует. Поэтому фраза «основы науки продаж» может ввести в заблуждение отн ...more
Jan 03, 2016 TheFrugalNexus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: retail
This book should be called "How we buy, how I observed people shopping". As I got to the end and the pages remaining on the right side of the book were thinning out, I realized, Underhill didn't answer why we buy.

But that's okay, this book was 'alright', like a lukewarm glass of water. It didn't break any ground, didn't revolution retail, was a little sketchy on the 'science' side of things. But I couldn't shake the fact that I was reading a book that was just a big advertisement.

This book featu
Paras Kapadia
Dec 04, 2016 Paras Kapadia rated it did not like it
This book is an advertisement for the author's company. Mr. Paco Underhill may be a learned man about retailing with years of observation and experience behind him. However, he either does not have the intellect or writing acumen to distill his knowledge into clear frameworks and general principles or is shrewd enough to keep them away from this book to make sure his company is still in business.

Instead, this book is a repetitive rambling of company x did y wrong, I told them about it and now t
Mick Bordet
Nov 06, 2016 Mick Bordet rated it did not like it
The good: the book offers some insights into shopping behaviour and even more into the mistakes many retailers make by not treating human beings as people and rather as consumers. It's generally an easy read if you can get past the ongoing advert for his own consulting company.

The bad: for an author to spend so much time in telling us all the things people do wrong in trying to sell stuff, you might expect him not to completely miss-sell his own book. This explains how people buy, where and when
Dec 29, 2016 Elliedakota rated it it was ok
The author's tone was a major turn-off. The main focus of the book was self promotion. A whole chapter patting himself on the back for hiring women branch heads? Seriously? Plus, even the revised edition is outdated. Trumpeting the success of Radio Shack and Blackberry rings holllow in 2016. I was hoping for some solid information on consumer psychology. I didn't find it in this book.
Jan 03, 2017 Saxie5 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. It was informative as well as entertaining. However, I would like to see a newer edition published with the chapter about Internet shopping updated since this version was written in 2009.
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Underhill has spent more than 25 years conducting research on the different aspects of shopping behavior, earning his status as a leading expert and pioneer in the field. Paco helps companies understand what motivates the behaviors of today’s consumer. His research shows how today’s retail world is ruled by factors such as gender, “trial and touch” and human anatomy. He is an insightful and captiv ...more
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