Do You Have To Poop Every Time You Shop? It Turns Out This Is A Real Phenomenon

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Urge to poop while shopping
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For me, it’s every time I go to CVS. I’m there browsing shampoos, leafing through greeting cards, and there it is: the unmistakable urge to drop a deuce. The clerks at my local CVS must think I have a problem, asking for the bathroom key every single time I’m there.

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I swear, I also thought something was a wee bit wrong with me until about a week or so ago when a friend of mine confessed to needing to poop every time she went to Target. When she asked her other friends to chime in, many of them had the same experience.

What is going on here?

My next stop was Google, where I suddenly found that there was a whole online tribe of us who poop every time we set foot in a store. Target seems to be the most popular shit stop, but it appears that shopping, across the board, has a pretty profound effect on one’s digestive system.

I am not a scientist by any means, but I spent some time the other day trying to get to the bottom of this (see what I did there?). I conducted some super-scientific research, in the form of Facebook comment-interviews among my friends. Incredibly, many of them professed to having a Pavlovian-type of relationship to certain stores — where as soon as they set foot in them, doodie calls.

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First, let’s talk about the kinds of stores that do it. It seems like the bigger chain stores unleash the turd monster for a lot of folks. Besides Target and my own beloved CVS, HomeGoods, Michael’s, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and Costco topped the list of places to reliably make people feel the urge to “drop some kids off at the pool.”

Bookstores like Barnes & Noble were also a popular spot, with one friend confessing that the books section of Goodwill always does it for her. Another friend says she needs to lay a loaf every time she sets foot in her local library. This almost makes sense, because so many of us like to read on the can, so I could see how being close to a room full of books could rev up our dump machines.

Some of my friends confess to actually relying on their trusted poop stores to get things moving if they are backed up. One goes out of her way to browse at Marshalls just to get the crap factory rolling. She swears it works.

Another friend shared that she was extremely disappointed that the bookstore Borders had closed because that had been her go-to poop date.

As for why this phenomenon happens, theories abound (again, none of them scientific). Some say it’s the smell of the store that gets their digestive juices flowing (maybe the way that just smelling food could do that to some people?). Others say it’s definitely the fluorescent lights, which isn’t so far-fetched as far as I’m concerned because fluorescent lights have triggered nausea and migraines for me, so why not number two as well?

A shit-ton of my friends think shopping in general overwhelms them in an excited kind of way, and that this helps release the chocolate hostage. They may very well be on to something there because there is definitely a lot of science out there about the brain-gut connection

According to HEALTHbeat, a Harvard Medical School publication, our emotions can actually have pretty profound effects on our poo-ing. “The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion,” HEALTHbeat says. “Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.”

But what’s funny is that among my friends, the emotions they feel as they enter their favorite poop store actually vary quite a bit. Excitement tops the list, but others say certain stores relax them, bore them, bring them comfort, or totally stress them out. So it’s definitely hard to say what exactly it is about the brain-gut connection that is sending them all to the public crapper.

Whatever it is, it is definitely a thing. And one of my friends echoed a sentiment that I started to feel as soon as I learned that this was a real and common phenomenon: “I’m just excited to find out this is a thing. I really thought it was just me,” my friend said.

Right?! I mean, I didn’t exactly think I had a serious disorder because I had to release the Kraken every time I wandered the Kleenex aisle at CVS, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone, and probably not a total freak of nature. Probably.

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