10 Things People Are Embarrassed to Buy

Businessman wearing paper bag on face

Embarrassed man | iStock.com

So, you’re walking up to the cash register with your items in hand. You feel a slightly nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach and wonder to yourself: “Are people going to know why I am buying this?” You hope you won’t end up seeing anyone you know as you cautiously approach the checkout counter.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever made a purchase that was so embarrassing you felt like the item wasn’t even worth it?

Wakefield Research found that people have some common reactions they display in the face of an embarrassing situation. Around one out of every three people say sorry immediately. So, as you place your maxi pads on the checkout counter, you may be inclined to tell the people behind you you’re sorry when you can’t find your debit card right away, or apologize to the cashier for taking a moment to enter in your pin.

Another 22% of people make jokes to cover up their embarrassment. So, you may find yourself laughing it up with the cashier to try and distract from your embarrassing items. Other people pretend nothing happened (21%), blush until it passes (18%), or leave the room (6%).

No matter how you respond to the embarrassment, it really doesn’t make it completely go away. If you had to return to the store and purchase that same item again the next day, you’d probably have that same feeling in the pit of your stomach. We created a list of items that are often difficult for people to buy. Each of these items often result in some degree of embarrassment for the purchaser.

1. Head lice shampoo

girl getting lice treatment

Lice treatment | iStock.com

Common in grade school and preschool classrooms alike, head lice gives people the heebie jeebies. Head lice is more common than you may think, though, and millions of people around the country have had to go in the store and purchase lice shampoo.

According to the CDC, “Reliable data on how many people get head lice each year in the United States are not available; however, an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age. Some studies suggest that girls get head lice more often than boys, probably due to more frequent head-to-head contact.”

2. Anything purchased in coins/change

Woman dropping coins in a jar

Woman dropping coins into a jar | iStock.com

Most people have — at one time or another — experienced being low on money. In 2013, Bankrate found that, amazingly, as many as 76% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck.

Have you ever had times when you needed groceries and gas, but you only had enough money on your card for groceries so you went searching for gas money around the house? If all you had available was change, did you use it or go without?

3. Rogaine and certain hair products

man washing hair in shower

Man washing his hair | iStock.com

While most people don’t mind buying hairspray, mousse, or even hair color, some hair products are a bit more embarrassing for the purchaser. Any hair color that provides “grey coverage,” dandruff shampoo, and hair growth products may make people a little nervous on their way up to the checkout counter.

What some people consider embarrassing things about their hair are really just a part of life, though. Research published on Pub Med found that, “Between 45 and 65 years of age, 74 percent of people were affected by grey hair with a mean intensity of 27 percent.” Other research indicates that by age 35, 40% of men have noticeable hair loss.

4. Anti-fungal medications and foot powders

feet in grass

Feet | iStock.com

According to the Denver Laser Institute, one in four adults have experienced (or will experience) nail fungus by the time they reach 40 years old. If you work in a moist environment — or if you work around chemicals — your chance of contracting toenail fungus is 300% higher than someone who does not work in such environments. As embarrassing as it may be, a lot of people are impacted by fungus and other conditions relating to the feet.

5. Large quantities of alcohol

alcohol bottles

Bottles of alcohol | iStock.com

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 17 million adults have an alcohol use disorder, as of 2014. With so many people having alcohol disorders, you may not feel all that comfortable buying four half-gallon bottles of vodka alone on a Monday afternoon. The clerk doesn’t know if you’re having a party or if you’re going to take 6 months to drink it. Do you tell them?

6. Viagra, condoms, and “personal” products

pill bottles of Viagra

Viagra | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

According to Drugs.com, Viagra is the 45th best-selling U.S. prescription drug. So, obviously in spite of any embarrassment, people are still willing to obtain a prescription from a doctor and pick up the medication at a pharmacy. The drug is still the subject of many comedy movie jokes and television spoofs.

Since sex is personal and private for most people, buying condoms, lubricants, or other products related to sex (or sex organs) often does create that nervous feeling, though. This, of course, depends on the person. A man who has been married for 30 years may not mind picking up tampons for his wife, and his wife may not mind picking up his medication.

7. Suppositories, laxatives, and anti-diarrhea medications

bathroom landscape

Modern bathroom | iStock.com

No one likes to announce these types of embarrassing stomach troubles, and some medications just scream, “I have diarrhea” or, “I am constipated.” Don’t fret about having to buy these meds, though, because the incidence rate of diarrhea is about 1 in 1. That is, 100 percent of the population has diarrhea each year, according to Health Grades.

8. Wart remover

bandage on female toe

Closeup of a foot | iStock.com

If you’re seeing a trend among common drugstore purchases on this list, it’s not a coincidence. You’re not going to buy a wart remover if you don’t have a wart on your hands or feet, so it’s a clear warning sign to the people around you. Warts are caused by an infection on the outer layers of skin, often stemming from the HPV virus. That’s why the stigma tends be a bigger deal when it comes to them — since it’s a virus, it can spread to other people. However, as WebMD explains, everyone comes into contact with the HPV virus frequently. You might use the drugstore’s self-checkout line, but don’t let anyone shame you for a virus they’ve likely fought, too.

9. Pregnancy test

female reading pregnancy test

Woman holding a pregnancy test | iStock.com

The circumstances around each pregnancy are unique. You (or your partner) might be over-the-moon excited about the possibility of adding another life to your family — or you’re really hoping to see a negative sign on the test. Either way, purchasing the test can be embarrassing, if only because of the, “Is she or isn’t she?” thoughts you can see running across the clerk’s face. After all, who wants the cashier to be the first person to know your private business?

10. Hemorrhoid cream

tube of generic ointment

Medical cream | iStock.com

Whether you’re buying creams for an elderly relative or an uncomfortable issue of your own, no one likes to get this up close and personal with the other people in the check-out line. According to one study of consumer behaviors, hemorrhoid cream is one of the items that young consumers would most dread buying. One solution, the study found, was that consumers tend to purchase other non-related items to draw attention away from the offending object.

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