The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending

          February 2009 e-Newsletter

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Terrence Daryl Shulman

How did we get here? I mean, in this money mess? Individuals, families, companies, cities, states, countries--all in distress over debt and financial mismanagement. Yes, there's been greed. Yes, there's been fraud. Yes, there's been costly wars. Yes, there's been delusions that we could keep spending and borrowing like there's no tomorrow. But how did we really get to this point? And have we really even hit rock bottom yet? A national retailers' study recently estimated that 2009 will see a less than 1% drop in overall sales compared to 2008. Is this good news or bad news? Only time will tell.

Ahoy! We may have reached a watershed moment. It's a new year with a new president and a new course of action and, look out: after a several month delay, the motion picture "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is slated for release on February 13th--just prior to Valentine's Day!

Part silly romp, part cautionary tale, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" was a best-selling book first, published in 2001 and written by Sophie Kinsella. Ms. Kinsella has gone on to publish a series of books featuring her "shopaholic" protagonist Rebecca Bloomwood: "Shopaholic Takes Manhattan," "Shopaholic Ties The Knot," Shopaholic & Baby," and "Shopaholic & Sister," as well as other books with titles such as "Prada, Pumps and Babypuder." Babypuder? Shameless, I know. And while the "Shopaholic" stories take place in London, their themes are universal. Aren't they?

I have a confession of my own: I just finished reading "Confessions of a Shopaholic"--not because I wanted to. I'd been getting phone calls from various newspaper and magazine reporters over the last month, each wishing to tie in the movie's release to the growing awareness of the problem of compulsive shopping as well as to the larger economic woes of our nation and the globe. So, I needed to bone-up on the storyline. And I'm going to the movie the moment it comes out--again, not because I want to. Call it my "civic duty" of sorts. I work in the field of compulsive shopping education and treatment. You gotta keep up with pop culture.

Another confession: I expected to hate the book--I'd already pre-judged it as fluffy, nutritionless, "chick-lit." I was surprised. I saw the appeal. (Could a thousand positive reviews on Amazon be wrong?) Ms. Kinsella is a skilled writer. She's descriptive and knows how to blend humor with pathos, cajoling reader to feel disgust and sympathy (or empathy?) toward her heroine simultaneously. Thus, I found myself laughing out loud more than several times as I read page after page of our young British shopaholic's attempts to keep herself in denial about her shopping and spending while going to extraordinary lengths to weasel her way out of her mounting debt. 

Becky Bloomwood is as much of an icon as Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and The City" (I admit, I'm a fan of that show). She's clever and pitiful at once as she corresponds with her banks and credit card companies throughout the book, citing excuses for non-payment of her debt: "I broke my leg," "my dog died," I have glandular disease," etc. And it's not far-off fiction when she receives replies in the form of both legal threats and invitations to increase her credit limit and to take out bigger loans. These passages, especially, highlight the many mixed messages our culture gives us. Spend! But don't overspend! Finding that line between the two, apparently, is not so easy for hockey moms or corporate giants.

Mid-way through the book, it hit me: this is satire! I have no idea if this is what Ms. Kinsella intended but that's the only way I could finish the book: to read the hyperbole and drama--with a teaspoon of sugar--as a portrait of our individual and collective insanity of consumerism, affluenza, and conspicuous consumption. I haven't read any other of Ms. Kinsella's books and it is quite possible I'm in denial and her best-sellers are nothing more than a shameless exploitation of the hyper-consumerist fantasies that many harbor deep inside. Sure, there's more serious books and movies out there on the topic of overshopping and debt, but just as books and film often glamorize boozing, drugging, gambling, sex addiction, gluttony; it's our responsibility to read between the lines and recognize and heed the danger points.

I was disappointed "Confessions of a Shopaholic" glossed over any deeper exploration of the more personal origins of the Becky's shopping problem other than the few stereotypical references to her mother's propensity to engage in similar behavior. Further, Becky made no real attempt to seek help (therapy, support groups, meds, opening up to others); instead, she merely tries to "white knuckle it." There is a trite truism when she finds a more fulfilling job which temporarily halts her habit. But, assumedly, Becky's shopaholism is what defines her and endears her to the millions of readers who follow her story in the numerous sequels. One wonders: if Becky got well, then what? Would her life be as interesting, quirky? Think Carrie Bradshaw married with children!

The novel has a way of having us believe that Becky's the only shopaholic in London. We know by fact and instinct that isn't true. Is her "disease" her own problem or does society share some blame? There's currently a debate about whether to include compulsive shopping or compulsive buying in the soon-to-be updated DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)--the bible of psychological diagnoses. Some have argued for this and others have argued that compulsive shopping and spending are more cultural and social phenomena than individual or widespread dysfunctions. Some point to the relative absence of shopaholism in poor countries. Perhaps this is due to lack of access to money, credit and goods. There's no doubt that access to stores, casinos, food, alcohol, drugs, etc. increase the likelihood of abuse and addiction. Societal norms also play their part. But I've counseled shopaholics from Manhattan to Boise (from Chanel to Shabby-Chic) and all points in between.

For those still concerned that the book--and soon the movie--do a disservice to the seriousness of compulsive shopping and spending, I don't share that fear. If anything, in the time between the release of the book in 2001 and the release of the movie in 2009 I feel we have moved forward in our sensitivity and understanding of this problem through the likes of Suze Orman, Oprah, Dave Ramsey, and many others. We're also in the midst of the worst economic crisis in history and "greed and conspicuous consumption" are on their way out and, again, maybe the movie can be treated like a vestige of mindset past. Or not.

With the recent meltdown of our economy and economies around the word, many of us--whether we've been overspending or not--are looking anew at our relationships to money, credit and things and re-evaluating our budgets and priorities. I know my wife and I have already made some choices--some easier, some harder--to cut costs and save more. I've canceled my Sunday New York Times, my HBO, my Time magazine, and tried to reduce my business expenses; my wife has cancelled her ballet classes, cut-back on chiropractic care and massages, and some food favorites. Together, we've been watching our driving and our utility bills and put on hold a trip to Italy. It's no fun doing without but it's also brought us together and made us more appreciative of what we do have.

Meanwhile, we continue to see how old habits die hard in the headlines. Despite the record governmental bailouts of banks and investment firms after years (decades!) of living high on the hog, news leaks out of continued extravagances such as fancy retreats, executive bonuses, and eyes on big purchases like private jets. As country singer John Rich sings in one of his new songs: "Yeah, while they're living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town/Here in the real world, they're shuttin' Detroit down."

America, it's time to get our soul back. As President Obama declared in his August 2008 acceptance speech in Denver: "Enough is enough!"

I will be curious to see if the film version of the book will adopt the same light-hearted, cheeky tone of its forerunner or if, given the "movement" of the last 8 years, the serious side of excessive shopping and spending will be more emphasized. In either event, it's an auspicious time, indeed, for this movie to appear and, if nothing more, it will hopefully spark discussion in the media and in living rooms across America and the world. "Confessions of a Shopaholic" may just help us see more starkly where we've been and who we've been and taste the bitter and sobering medicine of it all. Or not.


FEBRUARY: CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH: We acknowledge the painful and triumphant history of the countless African-Americans who help make up our country. What a momentous and historic time we live in to see Barack Obama elected president. Whatever your political persuasion, let us recognize this as a sign of great progress in moving toward better race relations and as an inspiration to all that anything is possible with hard work and a vision of unity and brotherhood for all. May the promise of equality and peace be fulfilled.

FEBRUARY 14th--St. VALENTINE'S DAY: An affirmation: "I am my most important valentine. I continue to learn to love myself so I may also learn to love others more fully."


                                                WE APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT!



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Fall 2008 Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending took place Saturday September 27, 2008 in Detroit! If you missed it, it's available on 2 DVDs (6 hours total!) for only $100 (includes S/H)!  To order, click on to order or contact us directly at 248-358-8508. Limited time offer!

NOTE: Mr. Shulman is now providing expert counseling service via Skype telephone &  videoconferencing!

Mr. Shulman is offering professional life-coaching beginning in February 2009. If you need support to clarify and reach your goals for 2009? Please contact him ASAP if interested. You're worth it!


Mr. Shulman continued to assist on an American documentary about hoarding and compulsive shopping.

Mr. Shulman has begun assisting the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in a documentary about shoplifting and employee theft.

National Public Radio's "News and Notes" program highlighted the problem of compulsive  shopping & spending among African-Americans.


February 4th?--Mr. Shulman was interviewed for a segment on ABC News' "Nightline" program on organized retail theft.

February 5th--Mr. Shulman will be featured in a Chicago Tribune article about compulsive shopping & spending.

February 6th--Mr. Shulman will be featured in a People Magazine article on compulsive shopping & spending.

February (TBA)--Mr. Shulman will be featured in an L.A. Times article about compulsive shopping & spending.

February (TBA)--Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article in the Harrisburg, PA newspaper on compulsive shopping & spending.

February (TBA)--Mr. Shulman will be featured in a German magazine article about the increase in compulsive shopping & spending globally.

February 13, 2009: The major motion picture "Confessions of a Shopaholic"--based on the novel by Sophie Kinsella--is scheduled for release.

February 17th--Mr. Shulman will be featured in an article in The Washington Post Express on compulsive shopping & spending.

Mr. Shulman will be featured in a segment on shoplifting addiction in the MSNBC series "Theft in America" to air in early 2009.

Mr. Shulman will present on compulsive shopping & spending at the National Association of Social Workers--Michigan chapter annual conference April 15-16, 2009 in Lansing, MI.

Mr. Shulman will present on compulsive shopping & spending at the April 22-24, 2009 Foundations in Recovery Process Addictions conference in Las Vegas, NV.

Mr. Shulman continues to assist on two U.K. projects on shoplifting addiction--one with the BBC and another with Channel 4.

Mr. Shulman will featured in an article on compulsive shopping & spending in Elle--Canada magazine--article to be published this Spring.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article on compulsive shopping and spending in Glamour magazine--article to be published this Spring.

Mr. Shulman will be submitting a chapter on employee theft in a 2009 compilation book entitled "Risky Business."

Mr. Shulman continues to
assist the Kingman, Arizona court system with his court-ordered homestudy program for retail fraud offenders. The program is based on material in his book "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery" (2003).

Mr. Shulman is in the process of creating homestudy courses for continuing education credit for The American Psychotherapy Association based on his three books on shoplifting, employee theft, and compulsive shopping & spending.

Mr. Shulman is working with A & E TV's "Intervention" show on a shoplifting addiction segment.


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Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for free consulation!

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Products for Purchase--SALE!

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's two books "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction & Recovery" and "Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Employee Theft Epidemic... New Perspectives, New Solutions" are availabe for $25.00 each (includes shipping/handling) or both for $45.00 (includes shipping/handling).

Mr. Shulman's 90 minute DVD Power Point presentation for young people: "Theft and Dishonesty Awareness Program." $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 33 minute psycho-educational DVD: "The Disease of Something for Nothing: Shoplifting and Employee Theft." $50.00

First International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders 4 DVD set (13 Hours). Recorded 10/05. $125.00.

Second International Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending 2 DVD set (6 Hours). Recorded 9/08. $100.00.


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