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Should You Buy This Late Night Ad? It's probably too good to be true, experts say


It’s the month for New Year’s resolutions – lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more – but perhaps one unsung aspiration should be this: stifling after-hours shopping on social networks.

Instagram, Facebook, and other sites are siren-like seducers to scrolling people, not only disrupting sleep patterns, but luring consumers in for products that are sometimes a total waste of money. What’s the appeal of shopping from bed at 2 a.m.?

According to Shawn Grain Carter of the Fashion Institute of Technology, an associate professor of fashion business management, there are many reasons for this. First, she says, “it’s retail therapy, it makes you feel good and happy,” adding that other causes are insomnia, stress, convenience and loneliness. “The lifestyle, spawned especially during the pandemic, makes shopping on your phone more appealing. There are no longer any boundaries between professional life and leisure. It’s a seamless experience,” she adds.

And it’s not like marketers aren’t aware of the trend. “They see when someone logs in, how they pay, when and what they put in their cart. Credit and debit card analytics show more consumers are starting to shop after midnight “, she explains.

How do they attract you? The ads, says Carter, “imply that you’re deficient in some way; that this product will make you whole.” This notion can be amplified in the late hours.

Bad buys aside, Dr. Michael Breus, a board-certified sleep specialist who runs the sleep health-focused website, says the midnight shopping spree doesn’t help you catch those all-important “Zzzs”. “The process of falling asleep does not involve starting a new cognitive activity. It’s the contrary. It slows things down and reduces stimuli. Being on your phone is neither. It’s engaging, not soothing.

Commercial chess

Lured by clever advertisements and incredibly low prices, more than a few night owls found their purchases disappointing. Fern Mallis, 74, from Southampton, New York Fashion Week designer and host of the Fashion Icon series, is a fashion connoisseur but was drawn to the dresses that popped up on her Instagram stories bar.

“I couldn’t remember how beautiful they were,” she says of the $22 clothes. “When they arrived they were the worst possible fabrics and the sizes were completely messed up. There was no way back so I just gave them away. This is the last time I buy from an unknown source.

Mallis usually takes one last look at Instagram before falling asleep and says, “I get addicted and once you get there it totally sucks you in. I inevitably end up with a kitchen gadget. I bought a dress that I love and a lot of silly stuff in the evening and when that happens I’m like, ‘What is this? Why did I buy this?’ but I’ve learned that when it’s so cheap and sounds too good to be true, it is.

Some are buying more than expected when they shop at night, like teacher Debbie Reynolds, 52, of Oyster Bay, who promotes reading for children on her Instagram account @boredwithmissreynolds. “I got up and saw leggings that were two for $10 and they looked really good.” She wore them once, and didn’t like the fit or the feel, plus missed the fine print and ended up being charged for a few months of activewear subscription. Since then, no more shopping in the evening.

Left: It's a rule against shopping at night for...

Left: It’s no longer a rule to go shopping at night for Debbie Reynolds, 52, a teacher at Oyster Bay. Middle: Ashley Diamond, 33, of Port Washington, admits she has a bit of a problem shopping late at night. Right: Eric Forman, advertising executive and gadget lover, 59, of Port Washington, admits he’s a late-night shopper.

Buying in the early morning is a recurring theme for fashion sales manager Ashley Diamond, 33. “I used to be so good at not sleeping next to my phone,” she says. “Now I check my emails and go down the shopping rabbit hole. You look at things you would never see in a store.

Recently, she clicked on three different sized sweatshirts for her dog, Pickles, none of which fit her. “I didn’t take the 10 minutes to get out of bed and measure it,” she says of the non-returnable purchase. She did, however, have a few hits, including a favorite $25 Ascot & Hart trucker hat she saw Jared Leto wearing too.

Although more than 60% of bedtime shoppers are women, Carter notes, citing national data and studies, men also fall prey. Eric Forman, 59, a Port Washington publicist is one of them. “I like to think I’m not a sucker, but it’s late at night and you’re scrolling and all of a sudden you hit Apple Pay. You’re in your own little bubble and no one is judging you.

It had some real hiccups, as in the case of what looked like a pretty good replica of a $90 Adidas tracksuit for $19. ” I threw it. I don’t think it would fit an 8 year old or an elf,” he says. Likewise for Lululemon’s counterfeit shorts which he dubbed “awful”. On the other hand, there is the anti-snoring device that works for him and a neck massager that actually relieves his pain.

“I wish I could get eight hours of sleep and I know it’s not a good idea to sleep with the phone by your side, but there’s always something cool and new on the internet,” he says. “I love gadgets and advertising.

How to fix it

Truth be told, you’ve heard it before, but listen to someone who knows. Lauren Hale, professor of family, population, and preventive medicine at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine (she’s an expert in social patterns of sleep), says, “The best advice is to charge your phone in a central location away from your home, usually your kitchen, away from where you sleep… Ideally, you use the extra time to connect with friends/family in person, relax without relying on digital media, and fall asleep earlier and easier .

Dr. Michael Breus of says that if you’re not going to comply with moving your device, at least time your trip. “Set a timer for 20 minutes if you’re going to be scrolling, reduce the brightness on your phone, and wear blue light blocking glasses.”

Finally, if you’re incorrigible (and, admit it, many of us are), here’s advice from Lisa Zampolin, 50, of Massapequa, owner of jewelry brand Love Lisa.

‘I would have a house full of junk if I didn’t learn a lesson,’ she says of her purchase of ill-fitting holiday socks for her children, made from ‘appalling materials’. 60 days after she ordered them. “When I see something I like, I always do research to make sure it’s from a legitimate business and verify the source,” she explains, adding that she buys from brands she knows and trusts. And, she prefers products made by local manufacturers and shops. Although she hasn’t had a disaster since the socks, she admits, “I still shop at night, even though I know it’s not the best idea.”




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