Have you ever heard of the Lipstick Effect?

It is one of those weird little theories that states consumers will continue to buy little luxuries during times of economic stress such as recessions or downturns. Things like lipstick that doesn’t cost a lot but makes us feel good.

But for nearly the last two years, we have been living in a world where masks are a normal part of life and lipstick is not. I have not bought a new lipstick in all of that time although I have purchased chapstick. No one is going to see that.

Every week, it seems that something is the new ‘must-buy’ item at the store. Ice cream, cake mixes, flour, sugar. one time I went for coffee creamer and the shelf was nearly completely empty.

Once my workplace opened back up, I noticed something interesting. The Dunkin Donuts I passed by had a line, a long line. And it happened nearly every day. And at nearly every Dunkin or Starbucks I passed during my various travels.

I have been back in my office for a year and a half. And those lines are still long. I thought people would have moved on, found a different thing to focus on. But week after week, the lines don’t stop. One time I pulled in for an afternoon treat when there was not a line. Within minutes, there were three cars behind me.

And why not?

It’s not pink frosted or a Boston Cream but it will do.

For $5.00 it is possible to get a flavored coffee with cream, sugar, and whipped cream with a lovely sweet treat that involves flour, sugar, and hot oil. It’s a little bit of heaven during a rough period that no one would have ever believed would have lasted this long. Not only that, we can do it from our cars. Drive up, make an order, pay, and move on.

Do I have any scientific evidence to back this up? Not a bit. My theory comes from constant observation as I drive around my community.

But with the Lipstick Effect as my guide, I believe that instead of rewarding or treating ourselves to lipstick, we are now getting a coffee and donut to go. Does it last as long as that tube of lipstick?

We all know the answer to that.

But for those few minutes of caffiene and sugar, it feels worth it.

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