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congruous/['kɔŋɡruəs]/ a. 一致的, 适合的, 符合的...

购物冲动,一闪而过?

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I got bored with my big-screen TV -- before I even bought it.

We've never paid more than $250 for a television. I don't watch much TV. But I do enjoy movies. So a few years ago, I started fantasizing about buying a 32-inch flat-screen TV to replace our 25-inch set.

Back then, such a high-definition TV would set you back around $1,500. That seemed like a terrible extravagance. So I told myself when the price dropped to $500, I would buy one.

This Christmas, I spotted one for under $500 but felt no urge to buy it. So I didn't.

What happened?

I talked to Yaacov Trope, a New York University professor who has researched how people's reactions change as they get nearer to a situation. Dr. Trope believes the shift in my mind occurred when dropping prices suddenly made a big-screen TV a real possibility for me.

He likens the process to a trip to the mountains. When the trip is far off, we focus on the scenic view we expect to see. As the trip nears, we begin thinking about all the hassles of traveling there, the mosquitoes that will bite us and so on.

As I talked to him, I realized that was exactly what happened with me and my big-screen TV. I knew there was no way I'd shell out $1,500 for a set, but it was fun to think of viewing movies on one.

The big price drop changed everything. Now I began focusing more on mundane concerns. Where would the TV actually sit? Would it be a hassle setting it up?

There were other factors as well. During that time, we moved and bought a new house. The owners left their relatively new 27-inch Toshiba TV behind. It wasn't a high-definition, flat-screen TV. But it was a big improvement over our old set. So I had already gotten a better TV without buying anything.

I seem to talk myself out of buying things more and more as I get older. I briefly covet something, and then the urge passes.

It wasn't always this way. When I was four years old, I heard about a new hot cereal called Chocolate Malt-O-Meal. It sounded divine. So for my fifth birthday, I asked my parents for it. They bought me a box.

On my birthday, my mother made me a bowl as I sat at the table eagerly awaiting my just reward. I ate a couple of bites and quickly realized I hated the taste. I never had a second bowl.

I called up the Malt-O-Meal Co. recently. It still makes Chocolate Malt-O-Meal 47 years later, so the concoction has some loyal customers. A company spokeswoman offered to send me a free box. I don't take gifts in this job. But even if I did, eating it once was enough.

I've experienced the Chocolate Malt-O-Meal effect more than a few times over the years. It has made me gun-shy. But even when I buy something I like, I often find myself vaguely disappointed. The car that seems so magical in the dealer's lot is just a car a few weeks after you take it home.

In the end, few purchases give me true psychic joy. And those that do are usually embarrassingly prosaic. I bought a Mini Dozer ice scraper for 99 cents 19 years ago in a Michigan car wash. I still have it. It's basic but it has a tough blade that is particularly good at chiseling a sheet of ice off your windshield.

During that period, we've owned a series of more-expensive contraptions that combined an ice scraper with a snow brush or even a glove. They're not as sturdy as the Mini Dozer. If you apply a lot of pressure, the blades often snap.

What about the big-screen TV? I'm sure I will buy it at some point. Then I'll sit down in my sofa, flip on the set and see if it was worth it. All I ask is that a Chocolate Malt-O-Meal commercial isn't playing.

我开始厌烦大屏幕电视机了──即便我到现在还没把它买回家。

我们从没为买台电视机花费超过250美元。我不怎么看电视,却非常喜欢看电影。所以,早在几年前,我就开始梦想拥有一台32英寸的纯平电视机,换掉我们家25英寸的那台。

那时候,买这样一台高清晰度电视机要花上大概1,500美元。这听起来足够奢侈。所以,我对自己说,等到价格降到500美元,我就买一台。

就在这个圣诞节,我发现了一台价格在500美元以下的大屏幕电视机,但却没有了买下来的冲动,所以也就没出手。

这是怎么回事?

我去找纽约大学(New York University)教授雅科夫•特罗普(Yaacov Trope)谈了谈。他专门研究过当人们接近某一情境时,反应将会发生怎样的变化。特罗普认为,当价格骤降让拥有一台大屏幕电视突然成为切实的可能时,我的反应发生了变化。

他把这一过程比作一次登山旅行。当距离旅行日期尚远的时候,我们关注更多的是即将看到的风景。而当启程之期临近时,我们就会开始考虑旅行中的种种问题,比如蚊虫叮咬等等。

在交流之中,我意识到他所讲述的这种情况也刚好符合我买大屏幕电视的想法。我知道自己根本不会花1,500美元买台电视机,但每每想到我可以用它来看电影,就感觉自己乐在其中。

大减价改变了所有这一切。现在,我开始更多地关注到那些日常生活中会遇到的问题。比如,电视机到底应该摆放在哪里?安装会不会麻烦?

还有其他一些因素影响了我。那段时间,我们搬进了新买的房子。原来的房主把他家那台八成新的27英寸东芝(Toshiba)电视机留给了我们。那不是台高清晰度的纯平电视机,但比起我们原来那台旧的来说已经好很多了。所以,我没花钱就已经拥有了一台更好的电视机。

随着年龄的增长,我似乎越来越能说服自己不要买什么东西。我会短暂地想得到一样东西,然后这种购买欲就消失了。

而从前事情不总是这样的。在我四岁的时候,我听说了一种名为Chocolate Malt-O-Meal的新麦片。这听起来妙极了。所以,在我五岁生日的时候,我向父母提出了这个请求。他们给我买了一盒这种麦片。

生日那天,我在餐桌边急切地等待着这应得的奖赏──母亲给我冲了一碗这种麦片。我只吃了几口便很快发现我讨厌那种味道。我再也没吃过这种东西。

我最近给生产这种麦片的Malt-O-Meal公司打电话。47年过去了,Chocolate Malt-O-Meal麦片还在生产,看来这个产品拥有一批忠实的消费者。该公司的一位发言人表示要免费送我一盒。我在工作中不接受礼物,但即使接受,那东西吃一次也够了。

这些年来,类似Chocolate Malt-O-Meal的事情我遇到过很多次,这简直把我变成了惊弓之鸟。即使买了自己喜欢的东西,我也经常会有些许失望。在车行里看上去如此不可思议的靓车,在开回家几周以后也变得普普通通。

结果,购物很少能够带给我真正心灵上的喜悦。而那些的确带给我这种喜悦的东西却通常平凡得让人尴尬。19年前,我在密歇根州的一家洗车行里花99美分买了一个“袖珍推土机”(Mini Dozer)牌冰雪铲。我现在还在用它。它就是很基本的那种,但结实的铲刃在为挡风玻璃除冰时特别好用。

那时候,我们已经有一套更贵的除冰用具,包括带雪刷的冰雪铲,甚至还有一幅手套。但它们都不如“袖珍推土机”那么结实。如果用力过大,铲刃通常都会折断。

那大屏幕电视机怎么办?我知道自己在未来的什么时候肯定会买。然后,我会坐在沙发上,在频道间来回切换,看看我是不是买值了。我的要求只有一个:电视里千万不要播Chocolate Malt-O-Meal的广告。
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