If you took home a big haul at the mall on Black Friday, would you upload a video to YouTube showing off your purchases? What about unboxing your Cyber Monday purchases on camera?
Thousands of young women do just that on YouTube, and they call their videos “hauls.”
Hauling videos, the act of showcasing items you purchase on a shopping spree, have been around on YouTube since at least 2009. There are currently more than 400,000 videos tagged “haul,” with some of them having millions of views.
The majority of YouTubers who do hauls are fashion gurus or makeup stylists, and it is serious business—or, as NPR described it last year, “the showiest show and tell; it’s PG girl porn.”
“Just 24 hours after posting a review of a watch they bought, it sold out in every color, and the company’s website crashed from the boost in traffic” reported the morning-news TV show.
Both Fowler sisters regularly receive merchandise to review. The Fowlers’ parents homeschool Blair, the younger sister, “so she can concentrate on making more videos,” according to GMA. (Both sisters receive an unspecified payment from YouTube’s parent company Google for their work, through the YouTube partnership program, which pays video creators a cut of advertising displayed on their channels.)
Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, also compared the hauling videos to pornography in the GMA segment—visually stimulating videos that overwhelm the senses.
Consumer porn? Perhaps, but many of these young women are more excited about the deal they got or how an item they’ve just purchased goes with the rest of their wardrobe, rather than touting the product itself.
Rob Walker, a consumer culture writer for the New York Times magazine, called haul videos a “little mini version of the kind of style TV that you might see in the mainstream media” in a segment on the radio show “Marketplace.”
Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School and author of The Art of Choosing, also weighed in on the “Marketplace” segment.
“I think what people are looking for in these haul videos, it’s not just about finding what to buy and what’s the right thing to buy, it’s about finding what kind of things does my kind of person buy?” said Iyengar. “So they look at her and they look at the way she dresses and they look at the way she’s talking and they look at her name, and they think, ‘To the extent that I think that she’s cool and I’m also 17, then I want to join her club. I also want to buy the kinds of things that she has’.”
Given the sales all last week during the holiday, I couldn’t help but get into the hauling spirit myself.
I am no longer a hauling virgin, and you know what? I actually enjoyed the experience.
While we didn’t hear back from other haulers on YouTube, we want to know what it’s like to haul, whether you’re an experienced hauler or a first-timer like me.
So if you’re grabbing great deals online for Cyber Monday, save your stash and open it up in front of a camera.