View Full Version : Too much choice. (Products).

3-12-11, 10:28am
Am I out of touch with the times when I dream of and think of a market with "less" choice? Less choice as in available product options?

I tire of walking down isles and seeing boxes upon boxes of cereals, brands upon brands of toilet paper, and on and on it goes. I know "choice" isn't going away any time soon (probably never), but am I the only one who would like to see things go back to the way it used to be a generation or so ago?

3-12-11, 11:49am
One reason that I like Trader Joe's. Just one or two choices, all high quality. Smaller stores. Shorter ingredient labels.

3-12-11, 12:01pm
With all the choices, they never have the 1 I want

3-12-11, 12:10pm
There is a book on this: The Paradox of Choice, so you aren't alone.

Now personally I don't agree with the book very much. I mean of all things to complain about: too much choice in products, really? Now that many of the choices we have are really fake choices really just the same product from different companies, fair enough, but this can allow price competition, so it's not necessarily a bad thing. That sometimes even identical choices are sold by the same company but branded different, this is pretty ridiculous, and again is a fake choice. This is not a problem with choice so much as a problem with fake choices.

That despite all the choices we have we often still don't have any good ones, this I get (omg a whole department store worth of clothes and they are all ugly!). This is a case of having many choices but all of them bad ("water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink"). I sometimes also feel this way when there are many choices and all of them containing environmentally toxic ingredients. Oh how I wish in those cases there was one more choice: A GOOD ONE!!!

I also don't agree with the book because it's very easy for me to navigate choices in the supermarket, now even though I stress on the environmental impact, is the food healthy etc.. and attach some importance to it: really the world is not going to come to an end if I buy brand a over brand b. Now choosing a career or a husband or even a job or a boyfriend, fine that's worth some stress because it actually matters.

Lots of people will complain how much they hate having so many choices and then if they are Americans and you ask them how happy they are with the choice of the two presidential candidates: it's often: this choice stinks, I don't like either of them! Haha, yea they wish that had more choices there! So is the problem choice as such, or rather fake choices, and bad choices?

I think whether or not you feel overwhelmed by choices may be partly personality, I'm a Meyers Briggs P, I like keeping options open, I feel better when they are open than resolved. Plus I'm what the book describes as a "satisficer" on most things (if something is good enough I don't look for the ideal something that is better). Plus I have simple decision making techniques for managing choice: ie if I find a brand I like I am brand loyal, until I am really convinced I should switch.

3-12-11, 12:10pm
With all the choices, they never have the 1 I want


3-12-11, 2:19pm
I've seen that sentiment before--so you're certainly not alone--but I'm old enough to remember having many fewer choices, so I'm mostly delighted with the trend.

3-12-11, 2:51pm
I love my food coop... so many items sold in bulk, without confusing packaging!

3-12-11, 7:15pm
One reason that I like Trader Joe's. Just one or two choices, all high quality. Smaller stores. Shorter ingredient labels.

That's exactly how I feel.

I am so with you Mrs. M.

3-12-11, 9:20pm
I like Trader Joe's but the ones nearby are always intolerably crowded and noisy (small and cramped), so I only go if I really need something and then get in and out as quickly as possible. Never a pleasant experience. Maybe if I could figure out what their quiet times are...

3-12-11, 9:49pm
Awesome to hear from everyone! I know I'm such a fuddy-duddy when it comes to a lot of things, old-fashioned and traditional being at the top, but lately I long for simplicity, simplicity in all areas. (Always have mind you). But, maybe it's my way of attempting to embrace something that doesn't exist, yet in my mind it does or could and with a little work and effort, choices in the way of basic simplicity could be realized and brought to fruition, more so than we are already seeing in any marketplace venue or current consumer outlet.

One thing I find I struggle with lately is trying to fashion a perfect world. i.e. Less waste, more reusability, less choice, etc. In fact I find myself going on these mad-scientist sort of kicks that evolve into longstanding daydream and brainstorming sessions, with me trying to figure out and invent fresh new ways, fresh new ideas, and fresh new directions in the way of creative paths to betterment. I sometimes wish I had additional resources to work with because the visionary side of me (I believe) could come up with some real concrete and milestone advancements in the way we all live and consume.

I'm so glad to know I'm not alone. After introducing this thread I reread it and thought to myself- "members are going to thing I've fallen off my rocker"! So your support and input comforts me.

ApatheticNoMore. The book you mention- The Paradox Of Choice, has my attention. I'm going to inquire about it next time I'm at the library. Being such a poor reader I dread the thought of reading or even trying to get involved in reading, but lately there have been a few really interesting reads that members have brought up that have sparked my interest to try.

3-12-11, 10:17pm
You might like this interview with transcript rather than the book:

3-12-11, 11:09pm
Hi Razz. Awesome! I just finished listening to the entire podcast which I encourage everyone to do. It's 37 minutes and a few seconds long and really touches on so much. Very enjoyable. Thank you.

3-13-11, 4:13am
I'm right there with you Mrs-M. I get overwhelmed by too many choices somedays, and I long for simplicity in all things....

3-13-11, 4:31am
Ah, the benefits of having access to only one small family grocery store :-)

3-13-11, 7:07am
I still remember how disorienting it was to return to the US from China in the 1990s, and walk into a US supermarket for the first time. I had spent months buying my groceries from wet markets, state run department stores (the only place to get imports, with a limited and irregular range of goods) and the VERY rare small minimart type grocery store that were just starting to open up. There were no supermarkets. I almost had a panic attack the first time I went grocery shopping after coming home. The range of choices was overwhelming, and I found my head first spinning, then aching. NOw they have huge supermarkets in China, too. I try to avoid them, as they are chaotic and stressful. We buy a limited range of processed foods, and I get most of our stuff from the small stores and stalls around our apartment. They may not have exactly what I want/am used to, but I'm usually able to find a substitute.


iris lily
3-13-11, 10:29am
Mainly I hate having to choose among many versions of Colgate toothpaste.
I don't care which one it is and I find it annoying.

There are too many choices with deorderant. I need to develop a brand loyalty just to make the choice easier. I usually look for the store brand, unscented variety, if there is one.

I am brand loyal to shampoo, years ago because it was always the cheapest, and now because it's easy to find and choose.

So I guess that's the upside of product/brand loyalty, it makes shopping faster.

3-13-11, 11:10am
Most of the irritation and confusion of shopping for me lies in the actual graphics/packaging design of various things ~ you have to spend all this time deciphering a tremendous amount of visual clutter and tiny typography to try and figure why one is different than the other. I really love strong color-coding like the Ernie Ball brand of guitars strings ~ one type is a bright lime color, the other type a bright orange, etc. You can see from across the room which package to grab for a customer!
Ooooh, don't even get me started on the d*** clam-shell packaging!

iris lily
3-13-11, 12:14pm
,...Ooooh, don't even get me started on the d*** clam-shell packaging!

I am not a cryer, but honestly, the thing that makes me come the closest to crying is trying to remove clamshell packaging. When I am pounding it with a hammer, trying to avoid breaking the product inside, I feel like the stupidest person in the world, that there is some secret that everyone but me knows about getting it open. I beg DH to tell me the trick but he will not reveal it! He is a professional handyman, you would think he'd know the tricks!!!

3-13-11, 12:24pm
How I deal with this:
1) I find the cheapest acceptable product of any product type and stick with it. Occasionally, I check to see if anything else has become better in price.
2) I buy a minimum of products that have so many choices. For example, in the bathroom, for myself, I buy only about a half dozen items on a regular basis & a few others VERY infrequently. I keep a small, but regular supply of medicines on hand.
3) I buy multiples at one time, especially when items are on sale. This prevents having to think about these things on a regular basis. If you are already buying your preferred feminine hygiene product, deodorant, shampoo, etc. then save time & toss 3 months or 6 months worth in the buggy. Yes, these means you've spent that money ahead. It also saves the bother of thinking about this every month. I have space (easily) to store this. I know many people don't. This also saves on "emergency" trips to pay higher prices for these at CVS or the local grocery store.

3-13-11, 12:55pm
How I deal with clamshell packaging is take a knife (preferably with a sharp tip and a bit of a serrated edge), poke a hole in the package on the side of the product with the knife (so your not hitting the product itself). Cut a hole in the plastic big enough to remove the product.

Ridiculous to have to resort to this but .... I do. Btw these aren't expensive knives or anything. A scissor might sometimes work too, if used in a similar manner. There is a small risk of damaging the product this way, but it is the only way I know to get at the product period.

3-13-11, 1:37pm
What a pleasant welcome seeing all the new posts. Thanks you guys! In the podcast I listened to last night, Barry Schwartz mentioned that for a small percentage of people who know exactly what they want and are looking for, and when that percentage of consumers are presented with lots of choices, it's usually a good thing, but for most everyone else it's overwhelming and can actually curb consumers from making purchases.

Take for instance myself and the groundwork I've been doing lately Re: new washing machine and dryer. I know what I want (modern front-loading set), I know I don't want the steam feature in the dryer, and I know what colour I want, so having a wide selection of name brands available with an extensive line of options to choose from (I'm alright with), because I already know what I want and don't want, but for someone going in blindly and without any knowledge (whatsoever) regarding washing machines and dryers (and what they want), I believe the extensive list of features and the array of name brands available would make the selection process complicated and frustrating, which for me would take the fun out of looking and buying.

Just to touch on toothpaste for a moment seeing that Iris Lily brought it up. From everything I have read and heard Re: (toothpaste with whitener), none of it works, yet every single time I'm out shopping and get to the toothpaste isle I have to wade through what seems like hundreds of brands and choices before I happen upon what I'm after. (Colgate Total Clean Mint, or Colgate Total Winterfresh). Most of the available options are nothing more than gimmick related, so wasteful and needless.

3-13-11, 1:59pm
Re: Toothpaste...

Someone gave me one of those standup tubes of toothpaste. That definitely changed my toothpaste buying habits. Even if someone leaves the lid off, it does not make a mess. This is one of the very FEW products I will spend more on as a result. Now, I'm thinking of ways to reuse the packaging. ;)

3-13-11, 2:00pm
I'm with you on the toothpaste situation. I can't seem to find Plain Old Crest any more. It was worse when I lived in the States (I am in the maritime provinces, and we are a bit, um, backward) but even here it is hard. I have stopped using Crest at all but the rest of the family still wants the old fashioned paste version (not gel, no sparklies, no mint, no anti-aging, no pro-health, no sensitive teeth....just Crest paste with fluoride.

I just returned from the grocery store where I did get everything on my list and without too much angst. I do choose the smallest of our supermarkets for my own mental health!

3-13-11, 2:40pm
I've gotten pretty weary of all the junk in the major toothpaste brands (no I don't mean fluoride, I mean all the other stuff - saccharine, SLS, etc.), I now use a natural brand with fluoride. I guess I'm happy I have such choices (after reading 10 million toothpaste ingredients :P), hey I'm even happy those who worry about fluoride have toothpaste without it. Btw: yes I have tried baking soda and used it exclusively for a decent period of time. I got way too many cavities when I did and my teeth were more sensitive too. So that did not work for me.

iris lily
3-13-11, 3:25pm
How I deal with clamshell packaging is take a knife (preferably with a sharp tip and a bit of a serrated edge), poke a hole in the package on the side of the product with the knife (so your not hitting the product itself). Cut a hole in the plastic big enough to remove the product.

Ridiculous to have to resort to this but .... I do. Btw these aren't expensive knives or anything. A scissor might sometimes work too, if used in a similar manner. There is a small risk of damaging the product this way, but it is the only way I know to get at the product period.

Oh right, the hammer doesn't work so well. I've tried an ice pick and that can do the trick to start a hole and finished the hole with scissors.

I wonder who thought up clamshell packaging?

3-13-11, 4:35pm
Speaking of toothpaste, I'm in love with anise-flavored kinds. Not much of that around when I was young--let alone more than one brand.

pony mom
3-13-11, 5:32pm
A bit OT--

Clamshell-packaging was featured in a funny episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry's friends gave him a GPS and when he got lost, his friends asked him why he didn't use it. He said he couldn't open it (funny scene of him beating the crap out of the package). Friends suggested buying an Xacto knife, so he did and tossed the bag containing the knife into the back of his car.

Short time later, finds his friends in an auto accident and husband needed to be cut out of the seatbelt. Larry ran to get his knife from the back of his car.....only to find that it was encased in a clamshell package.

When I was very small I remember shopping in a very tiny Shop-Rite supermarket in our town. It had everything you needed. Being that young I especially remember the cereal aisle--maybe only about 10-15 feet long. When Shop-Rite closed that location and reopened a much larger supermarket further away, it was so overwhelming. Now their stores are like indoor cities and it's just so confusing. Where I live now we have a huge Shop-Rite and a smaller one and I enjoy the smaller one so much more--it's long but narrow and you get from one end to the other pretty quickly.

BTW, does anyone here use Trader Joe's toothpaste? I loved it until I started using the most recent ones I purchased--I think it tastes a bit different with a not-so-long-lasting clean taste. I HATE it when companies 'improve' or change something that had been perfectly fine.

3-13-11, 6:02pm
Oh right, the hammer doesn't work so well. I've tried an ice pick and that can do the trick to start a hole and finished the hole with scissors.

I just use my pocket knife. Apparently almost nobody carries one anymore though.

3-13-11, 7:28pm
I always carry my Swiss Army Knife! One time I forgot to bring utensils on a camping road trip out west and I made do for almost two weeks with the knife and a plastic fork and spoon someone gave to me at a campground! I love simplicity!!!!!

3-14-11, 2:33pm
Hi everybody!

Zzz. It's funny isn't it, how when one happens upon a certain product that strikes a chord, spending a nominal amount more to get it can be justified as a result of the contentment that arises over making such a purchase.

Leslieann. So true about simple and old-fashioned! All sorts of new this and new that can be steadily introduced, but for those like myself- the more plain and simple the better. Somehow plain and simple and even old-fashioned never goes out of style.

ApatheticNoMore. I suffered with sensitive teeth too when I used baking soda. One has to be careful with gum irritation also.

Iris Lily. I've come across a couple different types of package openers in my travels. One being a manual type cutter and the other a battery operated cutter. Christmas before last I swore I was going to invest in one but never got around to it. Now that it's back on the table of topics again I'm going to have an eye out for them next time I'm out shopping.

JaneV2.0. I've never heard of anise flavoured toothpaste before. Sure does sound refreshing though.

Pony mom. Great story. I so agree, supermarkets have gotten way too big. As far as toothpaste goes we jostle between Crest and Colgate.

Bae. Great point about pocket knives. My dad carries one all the time (always has), with him it's a tradition sort of thing. Seems the older more mature generation (men) tend to still carry one.

SiouzQ. I remember being at a family get-together a couple of years ago and the guys (husbands) got on the topic of Swiss Army Knives. They couldn't say enough good about them.

3-14-11, 5:42pm
The easiest of the anise flavored toothpastes to find in Canada is probably Tom's of Maine Natural Fennel Fluoride-free. It's really lovely if you like fennel/anise.

3-14-11, 7:25pm
Thanks Jane. I'm going to ask about it next time I'm at the health food store.

3-15-11, 3:35pm
Aldi's is another store with very little choice compared to gaint grocery stores. Easy to get in and out, even if you do have to bag your own.

3-16-11, 10:47am
Good morning Beckyliz. Aldi's sounds like a great place to shop. It must be fairly popular because members seem to mention it often on the board. Wish we had something comparable where we live.