Why people love to buy Tide Pods and Clorox

Tide Pods are not made to be eaten by bored teenagers for clicks on YouTube GOOG, -0.10% But research suggests they may fulfill another more comforting purpose.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping for toilet paper, bleach, cleaning products and disinfectant wipes. The media portrays impulse or “emotional” shoppers one way: bored men and women who run up credit card bills in designer stores and buy shoes online. But a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that people get a kick out spending money on the hoof, but they typically end up buying necessities like Tide PG, -0.76% and CLX, -0.70% instead of luxury products.

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