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Retail Therapy

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Katara: I know something that's going to make you feel better!
Sokka: You do?
scene change
Sokka: Shopping!
Avatar: The Last Airbender, "Sokka's Master"

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.


Compare Distracted by the Luxury and Mid Life Crisis Car (its rough Spear Counterpart). 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 (as much as they deny it).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: Ahko can't resist buying anything cute she sees in a store, to the point that her bedroom is filled to the brim with junk she doesn't want to throw away.
  • Ergo Proxy: Re-l's robot assistant tries to take her shopping to keep her out of trouble early in the series.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: Tsubame is seen on the tail end of a shopping trip in chapter 160, trying to work off the stress of the whole fiasco with Ishigami after the Christmas party.
  • Peach Girl: Sae attempts a massive shopping spree to make herself feel better at seeing her friend Momo so happy with her boyfriend. It doesn't satisfy her at all as she's jealous as well as insecure and she comes to the conclusion that she has to have Momo's boyfriend to feel better about herself.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Supergirl: At the beginning of Adventure Comics #397, Linda Danvers -as well known as Kara Zor-El, alias Supergirl- is feeling gloomy and depressed, so she goes shopping to cheer herself up. After trying some new clothes she feels better right away.
    Linda: Poo! This is for the birds! I've gotta get over this feeling! And when a girl feels this way — some new clothes are in order!
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Lita Little loves shopping, and thinks going out on the town with her friends for a shopping spree is a great answer to most things.

    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.
  • Asuka takes Rei out clothes shopping in Doing It Right This Time, after finding out just how her fellow Pilot had been living thanks to Commander Ikari. A Justified Trope in this case as she didn't have any clothes except her school uniform beforehand.
  • Once More with Feeling: After arriving at Tokyo-3, Asuka often takes Rei and Hikari shopping to cheer herself and her friends up.
  • The Second Try: Invoked when Asuka angrily explains to Rei that the point of going shopping and buying clothes isn't sufficiency but making yourself feel better.
    Misato: Ah, hello Rei. What brings you here?
    Rei: I am in need of new socks.
    Asuka: Figures. The devil will probably visit the Arctic to spend a holiday in the warmth before you'd buy yourself some new outfit.
    Rei: The clothes that were supplied by the school are sufficient for me.
    Asuka: Sufficient, sufficient. This is not a matter of sufficiency. You should do it to feel more comfortable, to show the world that you have another life than school and duty. And most importantly to make you feel better!
  • Thousand Shinji: After finding out that NERV cheated her out of her combat pay, Asuka goes shopping together with her fellow pilots and friends to calm herself down.
  • In One More Time, One More Chance, one of the ways Satsuki goes about bonding with Ryuuko is by taking her shopping.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In Out-of-Dungeon Experiences, it's suggested as a way for Ami to relieve her stress:
    "It would do you a world of good to just relax for a bit and have some fun shopping, like a normal girl your age. All that worrying can't be good for you."
  • In Archie Comics story Maybe the Last Archie Story, Veronica suggests Betty go out together and hit the mall when both girls are feeling depressed.
  • You Are (Not) At Fault: After spending the night in an abandoned gas station, Asuka decides to go and get clothes. She wants to feel excited about a shopping trip, but not even the thought of new clothes can lift her gloomy mood.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A rare male example occurs in Anchorman when the news team decide to cheer themselves up by buying new suits. They never actually make it to the suit store, getting lost and caught up in a Big Badass Battle Sequence.
  • Cher from Clueless goes shopping whenever she's feeling down. This is actually used as a joke at one of the more serious parts of the movie, as she's mulling over how much of a mess she's unintentionally made of things while walking past a store.
    Cher's Inner Monologue: Oh, and this Josh-and-Tai thing was wiggin' me more than anything. I mean, what was my problem? Tai is my pal. I don't begrudge her a boyfriend, I really—ooh! I wonder if they have that in my size.
    (Cut to Cher walking home with a shopping bag, her monologue picking up as if nothing happened)
  • Going Shopping: A couple of the women being interviewed say they go shopping because it makes them feel good, especially after a tough week.
  • In Marie Antoinette (2006), Antoinette breaks into tears when her sister-in-law gives birth to an heir before her and the court gossips about her infertility. The scene cuts to the famous Shopping Montage where she buys extremely expensive (and flashy) clothing along with loads of shoes (designed by Manolo Blahnik no less).
  • The makeover variant happens in Legally Blonde whenever something bad happens to Elle.
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic, the character Rebecca has shopped herself into 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.
  • Animorphs - Rachel, unsurprisingly, believes in this.
    "There are few emotional problems that can’t be made better by shopping Old Navy and Express."
  • Takeshi Kovacs learned how to use shopping trips as a way to cope with resleeving alienation while scouting out the local culture as part of his Envoy training.

    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.
  • Lily Aldrin from How I Met Your Mother spends money and shops clothes and shoes to cheer herself up 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.
  • Friends:
    • Rachel indulges in shopping in the pilot (she's a runaway bride) and often after she gets a better-paying job. Whenever she's depressed, she shops for nice clothes or shoes. In particular, she goes on a huge spree after Ross leaves for London to marry Emily, declaring to Phoebe after she arrives home with multiple shopping bags, "New York doesn't have enough stores"
    • Jill, Rachel's sister, goes shopping after running away from home. She claims she doesn't want to be supported by her father anymore, but she has memorized all his credit card numbers. When Rachel finds out, she... keeps all the purchased items for herself. To teach Jill a lesson.
  • The Big Bang Theory, "The Leftover Thermalization", Penny decides to cheer up Leonard who's sad because Sheldon got all the credit for their theory and joint article. Leonard doesn't think it'll work because it's her thing, but she buys him a helicopter he can control with an iPad.
    Penny: My baby is sad, and I’m gonna make him happy again.
    Leonard: Look, I know shopping cheers you up, but it’s just not really my thing.
    Penny: Well, what about this helicopter you control with an iPad?
    Leonard: Does it have a camera in it?
    Penny: It does have a camera in it.
    Leonard: Baby’s listening.
  • Big Love's Nikki does this, not only because her isolated upbringing has left her genuinely clueless about how credit cards work—this isn't free money, you have to pay it back—it's also to console herself in her loveless marriage (she is fully aware that she's The Unfavorite of Bill's three wives).
  • Cheers: After her break-up with Robin Colcord, Rebecca decides to go on a shopping spree in San Diego... using Woody's credit card, having stolen it from him (along with his entire wardrobe) before leaving the bar.

  • The Barenaked Ladies song "Shopping" is about this. ("Everything will always be all right/when we go shopping!")
  • Queensrÿche's song "Retail Therapy" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, though it's about a male character who gets his jollies from buying electronic gadgets and downloading apps.
    "I've got 62 apps to keep me happy.... but what about tomorrow?"
  • Pink Floyd deconstructs this time and again, first with "Money" from The Dark Side of the Moon and also with "Empty Spaces / What Shall We Do Now?" from The Wall.
  • Is an actual musical piece written by Stewart Copeland, and performed at SummerFest in 2009.
  • In Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style," the woman in the song goes on an expensive shopping spree at Neiman-Marcus with two of her friends...and her soon-to-be-ex's credit card. This is because she found out that her husband/boyfriend/fiance cheated on her. The shopping spree makes her feel better not only in the usual way but because she's trying to clean the soon-to-be-ex out before leaving him as revenge for cheating.
  • Compulsive shopping is the titular bad habit in Imelda May's "Bad Habit" (on the album Life Love Flesh Blood).

    Puppet Shows 

    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...
  • Family Guy: In a variation in one episode, Lois ends up shoplifting from stores and winds up in prison. She reasons that she had a hole she needed to feel with expensive things. Quagmire gets turned on by all the supposed Double Entendre.
  • Teen Titans: Raven takes refuge in her room often as she sometimes prefers to be alone and Starfire will occasionally pop over to suggest going shopping with her or doing other female friend activities. It's implied to be because the other Titans feel she is troubled by her powers fueled by emotion and want to make her feel better.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Crapshots - The Retail Therapy

Crazy Louie's Retail Therapy Outlet promises to make you feel better about your life. At least temporarily.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / RetailTherapy

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