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pinkytoe
2-11-12, 1:38pm
Today, we traveled downtown to the Whole Foods headquarter store to score a few things. As always, I am more than amazed by the vast array of foodstuffs. I wanted to buy some dried beans but there were so many choices I couldn't decide. Ditto with every other category. I thought about how hard it is to get to know one thing well when bombarded with so many choices. I mean it is a blessing to have such abundance but it almost seems a shame because it becomes sensory overload and anxiety provoking (at least for me). Make sense?

mtnlaurel
2-11-12, 2:01pm
TOTALLY makes sense.

I haven't read this yet, but a friend had an article posted about 'Decision Fatigue' in NYTimes
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?_r=2&ref=johntierney


I'm too fatigued from a trip to the grocery to read the article! ;P

CathyA
2-11-12, 3:42pm
Way to many choices everywhere. Wish there were less. But that is unpatriotic, right? :(

fidgiegirl
2-11-12, 6:52pm
I am reading the wonderful book "Switch" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath and they talk about this very issue! Because people suffer from "decision paralysis" (or some such term) they advocate "scripting the critical moves" when implementing a big change. One of the huge examples is health - some researchers wanted to help people become more healthy, so they decided that they would focus on ONE behavior that would pack a punch, and promote the heck out of it (and appeal to the emotional side of people, that's another part of the book). That behavior was to drink 1% instead of whole milk. People did it, and became healthier!

Not quite if that's what you were writing about, but I think I get it. I am getting decision-ed out on our house. I no longer care if walls are hot pink or the toilet is green, as long as I don't have to agonize over one more choice. My poor DH. My anxiety level is reaching levels I have never known before :D

lhamo
2-11-12, 8:18pm
I used to have anxiety attacks when going into a US grocery store after spending long periods in China -- that was back in the day before supermarkets had started to develop here. Being confronted with so many choices all at once was simply overwhelming. Now I have anxiety going into large Chinese markets, too, if I don't have a focused list. Lists are what make shopping managable for me. I have mostly stopped going to large stores here in China -- too many people, too many choices, too long lines. I have a little shopping routine I do every week, and I work from a stocked pantry approach. Sometimes I will find a new recipe that I want to try, and that means going somewhere else to shop if I don't have it at our small local shops. But if/when that happens I make a note of where I can get that ingredient and then try to stock up once every few months. Ikea is now one of my stock-up spots -- for smoked salmon, salmon fillets, coffee beans, pasta sauce, dark chocolate, and crisp bread. There is an indian grocery where I get various beans and lentils. Almost everything else I can get in the local shops. We are lucky that we have a good import store that is in easy walking distance, and a couple of smaller Chinese grocery stores + a veggie stand + a fruit stand where I get everything else.

The pantry approach is key, though. At least for us.

lhamo

Rosemary
2-11-12, 8:18pm
And just think: Whole Foods and most natural foods stores have fewer choices than the average supermarket!
All in the name of corporate profits... it's really insane if you think about the acreage nationwide that must be consumed by variations of sugar water (soda), flour-and-sugar made into flakes (cold cereal), flour made into crackers, flour and sugar made into cookies, flour and numerous chemicals made into bread, etc.
Far better to reduce most food choices to whole food ingredients, and only buy those. Of course, that's where this thread began, with dried beans. But I don't feel bad about keeping an assortment of dried beans in the house - we use them daily!

But I hear you on the decision fatigue. Fidgiegirl, I felt exactly the same way when we re-did our bathroom a few years ago. "Not another decision!!!"

And on the health note, removing the decision is one thing that seems to work for me. Instead of deciding every time I'm around (tempting item), I simply decide there is no decision and I am not going to eat (tempting item)

ApatheticNoMore
2-12-12, 12:23am
Not really bothered by too much choice. I self limit it naturally, don't shop for recreation much. The choice at Whole Foods I actually love but I have to admit it does drive some excess spending, as I get a bit disoriented. I'll be all lost in the produce section, trying to catch my thoughts ok what should I eat in the next few days again? (and this even when I went in with some idea). Ooh mangoes look good (one goes in the cart, joining the apples and bananas - wait a second I do eat fruit, but really do I ever end up eating that much?). I'm all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily ... well maybe happy enough but a little disoriented with an overfilled basket.

I could deal with less choice if the choices were good. Less types of fruits, but all delicious, healthy and organic. Fine. Less brands of goods, but none of them pieces of junk. Ok. But when so many of the choices are bad (more and more merchandise is cheaply made these days, I mean in all categories of non-edibles quality is going down! It's a real trend) I'll take more choice any day of the week. So at least I have a chance of getting something decent. Hey maybe that is why the choice at Whole Foods is pleasurable for me, lots of choices and all of them good ones! Too much ends up in the basket.

mira
2-12-12, 3:41am
I do think it is redundant to have so much choice, but then again I do like hunting down the best value food products and being able to choose whether I want products laden with chemicals or not. It's when there is an entire aisle dedicated to toilet paper and paper towels that really baffles me.

There is a great book called 'Enough: breaking free from the world of more' by John Naish that touches on this subject. It's also very insightful in other areas.

Jemima
2-12-12, 6:22am
I remember standing in Giant, a big supermarket chain here, absolutely dazed by the gazillion different kinds of chopped tomatoes when all I wanted was a store brand with no added spices. Aldi's is a much more peaceful shopping experience as they only have one brand of everything.

Float On
2-12-12, 6:29am
Back in the 80's I helped with a group of Russians who came as part of an entertainment group. I was given the task of taking them to wal-mart about 2 weeks into their stay. Several of the girls were so overwhelmed with the number of options for deodorant or shampoo that they just stood there and cried.

JaneV2.0
2-12-12, 8:09am
I'm old enough to remember when there were fewer choices for everything. I'm a maximalist I guess, because even when I'm slightly overwhelmed, I'm happy with today's variety of goods.

pinkytoe
2-12-12, 8:19am
I am also happy with the abundance of choices but clearly haven't figured out how to process it all. My plan was to buy my usual pintos but I ended up with a small bag of Christmas lima beans just so I could try something new. This particular store is kind of like a foodie's Disneyland. It is more about the experience than the purveying of food. The other thing is we walked out with one cloth bag full of items for $40 - twice what I would have paid elsewhere for the same amount of food. But is it cold and dreary outside so I will be in the kitchen cooking the day away.

CathyA
2-12-12, 8:21am
I was just thinking about all the resources and space it takes to have all these choices.........the transportation, the heating and air conditioning, the manual labor involved in moving them around. Its crazy. But its the capitalism, free enterprise, etc. that the U.S. is famous for, right? ..........pleasing every one with every thing......no consumer left behind. Anything else would be socialism, right?? :0!
And to top it all off, the stores feel like every so often, they have to rearrange where everything is, to keep us consumers searching..........Because we might just find a different brand that we love more than the last one.
It makes me crazy.

JaneV2.0
2-12-12, 8:28am
Come the apocalypse, I guess I'll learn to live with little choice again, but in the meantime...

And I'm trying to figure out what magic lies in one percent milk. Unless the experimenters substituted it for Everclear--or maybe gallons of high-fructose juice-like swill--I don't buy it. I call placebo effect.

loosechickens
2-12-12, 11:22am
I've told this story before, but like Lhamo, after living somewhere with very limited choices, the array of stuff in an American store is not only overwhelming, but........

When we lived in a small fishing village on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, if you wanted stationery type things, school supplies, etc., you went to a young woman who had a little "store" in the main room of her house, which consisted of a glass fronted counter of stuff. If you wanted a notebook, you could choose a little one or a big one. If you wanted paper clips, you could buy a box, or do as most others did, have so many counted out for you for a very small amount of money. I never had trouble filling my needs there.

Then, I flew home to Florida where my mother was living at the time, to visit her, and since our tourist visas ran out every six months, we had to leave the country for 24 hours, then renew them. Mostly, since we were close to Guatemala, we just went to there, stayed overnight, and re-entered Mexico with a new six month visa the next day. But, we could also use the visa requirement as a reason to go and visit family in the U.S.

So, I flew to FL, and on the way back from the airport, realized that I didn't have my little notebook where I kept track of expenditures (we've tracked every cent in and out since 1992), so I asked my mom to stop somewhere so I could buy a notebook.

She pulled into a place, maybe Walgreen's, I don't remember, but one of the big chain drugstores, and I went in. My gosh, I was like those Russian girls another poster described. Notebooks.....big ones, little ones, medium sized ones, spirals on the top, spirals on the side, bound, thin lines, thick lines, colored paper, white paper, various numbers of pages, the list went on and on. I was PARALYZED. I just could NOT make a decision. I just wanted to be back in our little village pointing at either the little one or the big one. I had culture shock.

When we came back to the States after some years in Mexico and Central America, we had major culture shock, (not to mention tourista, as our insides got used to American bacteria again), and to this day, I don't think we have gotten over the bewilderment at the number of choices, which often seem more to gain shelf space (for example, laundry detergent, which is more or less similar, and from only a few manufacturers, but each one puts out a massive number of sizes, perfumes, etc., to increase their shelf space), than to supply any real choice.

Obviously, the American consumer wants to feel they have lots of choices, but I wonder sometimes if they realize how limited their choices really are.....especially when you go into an ordinary supermarket and try to find really healthy, organic, sustainably grown foods, and are met with an infinite variety of ways to manipulate industrial "foods", but very little in the way of real food that you'd really want to eat........

Mrs-M
2-12-12, 11:30am
One important thing to remember related to options, is once you find a brand that you like, stick with it, and forget the rest. And, even though we are faced with a dizzying array of options when it comes to consumer choices nowadays, a good number of "like" products/options, are so very similar to one another, one wouldn't know the difference anyway.

I myself stick to what I know, as for the rest/all else, I give none of it the time of day. Nary a glance many days...

ApatheticNoMore
2-12-12, 12:18pm
Obviously, the American consumer wants to feel they have lots of choices, but I wonder sometimes if they realize how limited their choices really are.....

Actually all the time. So I'll go to buy some clothes, wait are ANY of these clothes cut to fit a real woman? I don't even mean a particularly large woman (i'm size 6-8), but I mean taking any account into how women are shaped at all? Then there's fashions like the glittery stuff sewed on to shirts and stuff. Wait isn't that just going to come off in the wash? I have yet to find a brand of tomato sauce without citric acid (often not even made from citruses these days but from refining corn). I learned to substitute tomato paste (not the same thing, but in the few recipes I had it worked). Hard to find ergonimically shaped computer mice that aren't cordless anymore. I don't like cordless technology. I walk out and decide to keep using a mouse where the right click died, until a few months later I finally find a nice mouse with a cord. Wait first aid kits don't even come with the burn bandaid thing anymore? That burn thing was awesome, worked for the pain of a kitchen burn worse than usual but not needing real medical care. Shopping is sometimes going in with the 100% intention to spend money for something - THE IDEAL CONSUMER, in theory, right? And walking out empty handed because why pay for something that isn't really what you want? Well ... at least there is always shopping on the net :).


especially when you go into an ordinary supermarket and try to find really healthy, organic, sustainably grown foods, and are met with an infinite variety of ways to manipulate industrial "foods", but very little in the way of real food that you'd really want to eat........

Yea so we can all go back to a time with less choice when organic foods were almost not available at all? No thanks. I mean organic is big money now, but it's still a niche market comparatively speaking. I mean if someone wants to go all the way back to a time when all foods were organic - well I'm fine with that :) But except for the locavore movement and so on, the quality of most stuff is going down not up. We have choices but they get poorer in quality every year. The new normal.

jennipurrr
2-12-12, 12:22pm
I am often overwhelmed by all the choices in shopping. I specifically shop at a grocery store that is about 1/3 the size of others here because it has just enough choice to offer a variety, but rarely, if ever do I find that it doesn't have something I need. It also has little shopping carts instead of mammoth ones, which I am sure goes against research on how to get people to buy more, but I love breezing through the aisles in my small cart. DH and I figured that since this store is smack dab in the middle of a college campus, most of its sales are probably beer related anyway, so the actual grocery selection is probably just mostly for show anyway.

Mighty Frugal
2-12-12, 4:54pm
One trip we always do when we cross border shop is to go into an American Grocery store. Un-freaking-believable the selection. It is so much fun to look at alllll the varieties you have for virtually everything!! So surprised our grocery stores are so different-or at least the ones I shop in and I live in the biggest city in Canada so I doubt I am missing much as far as Canadian grocery stores go-

Fun to go into once in a while but I think my head would pop if I had to shop there weekly.

crunchycon
2-12-12, 5:14pm
We lived in the UK for a few years in the sixties, returning to our tiny Midwestern town with a two-lane supermarket. My mother recalls, after just a few years away, being totally stymied by the selections in the cereal aisle. While I wouldn't want any external factors to limit our selections (I'm -gasp- too much of a free-market capitalist for that), I do self-limit my own selections by shopping at places like Aldi. Having said that, though, I do like the option of being able to find just about anything I might need at any time and actually feel very blessed that I can do so.

mira
2-13-12, 2:06am
It's the fact that the number of choices just keeps expanding as well, adding to each product some unique but completely redundant selling point... new shampoos to fix 'new' problems, tissues with air pumped into them (??), frozen pre-cooked baked potatoes, creams to alleviate the 'seven signs of aging', scented toilet paper with aloe vera... sometimes I have a slight out-of-body experience and I'm looking down on myself watching such advertisements and feel like I've stepped into a chapter of Brave New World or 1984.

jlroussin
2-13-12, 7:44pm
Jemima I go to Aldi's too. It reminds me of the simple grocery stores from when I was a kid. When I go to the big store, I take a store list with me, and that keeps me focused.

I can remember being in a huge grocery store looking for my husband's specific toothpaste request. I almost pulled my hair out. Not only were there like 10 different brands, but Colgate alone made like 30 different types and flavors of toothpaste!! It is just too much. Oftentimes less is more.

CathyA
2-14-12, 4:40am
What's funny is I'll bet alot of the different brands are the same thing, made in the same factory, with just different packaging.

creaker
2-14-12, 5:35am
Whole Foods (the big box ones) are a bit overwhelming for me because of all the choices. I think that would change, though, if I shopped there more often. My regular store is much easier because I know what's there and I already know what I want. Whole Foods presents a kazillion possibilities I haven't tried or even considered yet.

There are some smaller Whole Foods in my area and those are much easier to navigate.

pinkytoe
2-14-12, 7:10am
DH is in the wholesale grocery business so I sometimes peruse the trade magazines to see what is new out there. After a while, one wonders how many more hot sauces and jellies can be offered up to the public. Yet, year after year, there are more new ones. DH has people calling on him all week bringing samples of their latest creations - mostly clones of something that already exists.

Lainey
2-14-12, 7:39pm
I think JaneV touched on this, how people are either "satisfisers" (sp?) or "maximizers." I'm happy to look at a menu long enough to find something I want, and then order it. I don't agonize over this stuff, ever.
A friend is the opposite: it's as if she's being asked to order her last meal, and she has to memorize the menu and ask questions and then things are still never 100% right. She's getting worse now that she's over 50. It's making dining out less enjoyable because I know it's going to take forever to get our order in, and there will still be "issues" - soda had to be returned because it was "not fizzy enough" was the last one....sheesh.

Yes, there's lots of options, but it's just a meal, or a tube of toothpaste, or a type of lotion - just pick one and then live the rest of your life ..!

mira
2-22-12, 1:14pm
What's funny is I'll bet alot of the different brands are the same thing, made in the same factory, with just different packaging.
Oh, definitely. Have you ever seen the film Food Inc.? I think they mention this in it - something like 40% of all products in a grocery store are manufactured in only a handful of places. It's just bizarre.

Mrs-M
2-22-12, 1:18pm
One of the reasons (I believe) I'm sooo old-fashioned and traditional in my ways and love all things vintage and retro, is because everything in those days was so simple and easy and uncomplicated.

jp1
2-22-12, 7:27pm
Personally I must be a satisfier. I can look at a menu with 100 options and if number 3 sounds great i close the menu and I'm ready to order. Unless the waiter takes another 10 minutes to come back to the table. Then I get bored waiting and I may start looking again and that can throw off my decision.

In the grocery store I only buy a few prepackaged things and they are things I've bought for years and like. Everything else is just basic staple type stuff. So I can run in, go around the periphery to the 'real' food like veggies, meat, cheese, and then be done without thinking twice about any of my purchases. I hate shopping so my general goal is to get what I need and get out. I prefer to shop at the same store repeatedly so that I don't have to 'look' for the stuff I want. I know where it all is because I buy the same things over and over.

My biggest shopping frustration is toothpaste. I don't want fancy whitening or tartar control or blahblahblahblahblah. I just want basic mint flavored toothpaste. I don't need it in a fancy pump container or anything else. Just a plain tube of toothpaste. When did toothpaste get so complicated? My dentist always says that my home hygiene is great. Regardless of what toothpaste I use. So I don't think that it really matters what I use. And frankly, I don't even know what I use. I always buy whatever is plainest looking and cheapest.

treehugger
2-23-12, 8:27am
Personally I must be a satisfier. I can look at a menu with 100 options and if number 3 sounds great i close the menu and I'm ready to order.

This is me, too. This has been an interesting discussion to read because I am baffled by complaints about "too much choice." Personally, I like choices and I am also a decisive person, so it never occurred to me to be bothered this sort of thing. That said, it's always good to read others' perspectives and to realize that people's brains work in different ways. I understand the opposite view a little better now. Thanks!

Kara

Sissy
2-23-12, 8:56am
Well, around here I have found the opposite to be true. We have one decent grocery store and a Walmart. Of, course we always end up at Walmart because the other store doesn't carry some of the items we need. Apparently Walmart is reducing it's stock, because we have been having a terrible time with items being out of stock, or not available. This includes their own brands. We have heard a lot of people complaining about this. Now that is when I really get overwhelmed (I get that either way). Then it is a fruitless hunt for SOMETHING that will work. When we do find what we want and go back for more, it has become unavailable. GRRRRRRRR.

Do you get the idea that i hate to shop?

pinkytoe
2-23-12, 10:22am
That being said, I am so glad I have other choices besides Walmart for food shopping. I went into our neighborhood WM recently to check out the food section. The produce was sad and I didn't find the prices to be any better than the local chain grocery.

Bronxboy
2-23-12, 1:05pm
It's the fact that the number of choices just keeps expanding as well, adding to each product some unique but completely redundant selling point... new shampoos to fix 'new' problems, tissues with air pumped into them (??), frozen pre-cooked baked potatoes, creams to alleviate the 'seven signs of aging', scented toilet paper with aloe vera...
Worth mentioning that a good many of those choices, such as the infinite variety of kinds of Tide detergent, don't really exist for your benefit.

They are there to take up supermarket shelf space, paid for by the manufacturer, to keep competitors from getting a foothold.

http://tomfishburne.com/2012/01/product-proliferation.html

Most useful information is in the comments.

Bronxboy
2-23-12, 1:09pm
That being said, I am so glad I have other choices besides Walmart for food shopping. I went into our neighborhood WM recently to check out the food section.
I've attempted to shop for groceries at Walmart while living alone on an extended business trip. Everything is so big that it is hard to buy for an individual, sort of like trying to do your weekly shopping at Costco.

Gregg
2-23-12, 1:32pm
Personally I must be a satisfier. I can look at a menu with 100 options and if number 3 sounds great i close the menu and I'm ready to order.

That's pretty much me as well, but I do find the pantry approach helps immensely when it comes to groceries. I'm pretty good at not getting distracted when I'm in the store. The list is made based on the weeks menu and what is on sale and/or in season. The sale part is important because that automatically brings your choices of those items down to one (not to mention saving money). From there it doesn't make any difference if there are two other choices or two hundred. I do my best to write the quantities of what I want on the list, too, otherwise I'm one of those people that could end up with a ten year supply of creamed corn.