Retail Therapy

Katara: I know something that's going to make you feel better!
Sokka: You do?
(scene change)
Sokka: Shopping!

A character, who is almost Always Female, is depressed or unhappy and goes shopping to make herself feel better. A variation involves the character getting a makeover for the same reason. Shopping may even be a part of said makeover.

Retail Therapy often accompanies a Shopping Montage, although to demonstrate that a character is truly depressed and in a really bad spot, she may be grimly and desperately shopping alone. Alternatively a group of friends may decide that a particular friend is being too mopey and take her shopping in an attempt to cheer her up. Depending on the character, this can be met with mixed success.

Usually this occurs after experiencing rejection or turbulence in a romantic relationship, but Retail Therapy can be a response to all sorts of trauma, ranging from things like having a bad day to losing a job. A sympathetic character generally won't use Retail Therapy to cope with the death of pets and/or other characters, as this implies the character attaches a monetary value to lives. Male characters who use exhibit this trope often carry connotations of being effeminate or extremely materialistic.

Can overlap with Credit Card Plot if the character in question incurs massive credit card debts because of the excessive purchases made during Retail Therapy. The character is often (but not always) Ms. Red Ink.

This is Truth in Television for a very large number of people. Even men (even if they deny it).


Anime and Manga
  • Re-Al's robot assistant tries to take her shopping to keep her out of trouble early in Ergo Proxy.

  • In an issue of The Avengers, Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) follows Janet van Dyne's (Wasp) advice and tries to shop herself into a better mood. She collects an impressive heap of packages, but doesn't feel any better. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) who followed her to help carry said packages, suggests what he does for therapy: find someone and fight them! Wanda declines.

Fan Works
  • Mean Time To Breakdown: Iwanako's mother uses this to try and cheer her daughter up, and succeeds at first. Unfortunately, when she tries applying it again after her daughter lands back in the hospital after another brush with death, it's considerably less effective.

  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, Miss Piggy is given a cheer-up makeover by Joan Rivers.
  • Cher from Clueless goes shopping whenever she's feeling down. When she doesn't get her driver's license, for example, she has to walk home, all the while mulling her problem. On the way, however, she's distracted by a pretty dress on a shop; she goes in, buys the dress, and then continues mulling her problem.
  • The makeover variant happens in Legally Blonde whenever something bad happens to Elle.
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic the character Rebecca has shopped herself to debt, through her constant spending.

  • Becky Brandon of the Shopaholic series, who has issues with overspending during her Retail Therapy.
  • Jody from Bloodsucking Fiends when she's upset about Tommy having friends over during the day.
  • The first Undead And... book has Betsy getting a pedicure to feel better about the whole "now a vampire" business. Sadly, vampiric bodies revert to the way they were at death the next time the vampire sleeps. Seeing the pedicure undone reduces Betsy to tears.
  • At the start of Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday, Emma is upset to learn her husband of ten years has kept his real name and title from her, and after Lori tells her that Bill has secretly been her noble father-in-law's attorney for three months, Emma says, "I'm tired of boys' games. Let's go shopping." Lori notes, "We spent the next week buying clothes." It seems to work; after getting a newly becoming haircut at a salon, Emma stops scolding Lori for addressing her as Viscountess.

Live-Action TV
  • Victor, from the Canadian TV series Student Bodies. He was rich and he usually dealt with negative emotions by going out and buying something expensive.
  • Sex and the City is a classic example.
  • Lily Aldrin from How I Met Your Mother does this on a regular basis. It gets her into trouble after she maxes out a huge stack of credit cards doing it; she then goes on another shopping spree because she's depressed about her huge credit card bill.
  • Rachel indulged in this in the first episode of Friends and often after she got a better paying job. Jill, Rachel's sister, did something similar after getting cut off by their father (having memorized all his credit card numbers). When Rachel find out she... keeps all the purchased items for herself. To teach Jill a lesson.


Web Comics

Western Animation
  • Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender loves to go shopping, and on occasion when he's feeling down, his friends will be more than happy to oblige him. It's more for stuff like weapons, though.
  • On The Simpsons, Mr. Burns says this is the only way he knows how to cope with defeat.
  • On Beverly Hills Teens Bianca Dupree in one episode says this always cheers her up, since she didn't get a leading role in her high school's soap opera— yet right after she said it and bought tons of things, she still feels "as miserable as ever".
  • Lampshaded in Metalocalypse when the band gets rid of their insane therapist who got them hooked on banana stickers by simply buying a bunch of stickers themselves.
    We won't be needing your banana stickers! We have found out that you can just, you know, buy psychological validation, so...

Real Life