The Tyranny Of Choices
By Matthew Chattaway
Heinz, your 57 varieties are 55 too many. Coca-Cola stick with full fat and diet (and a little Zero, Vanilla, Lime…). Samsung just have a big and little version of the Galaxy smartphone (not the billions of variations). The world is complicated enough without the constant increase in choice we are offered as consumers. The insidious idea that companies should cater to every customer whim means that there are a million different options in the hope that it matches 100% of our picky consumer requirements. Instead we, the public, decide that even if a product meets 95% of our demands we get all uppity and want to know why we can’t have something more.
We have all become Verruca Salts, the character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wanted everything and wanted it now. While we are at it, Wonka why do you need bubblegum that contains a three course meal? What is wrong with mint or fruit flavours? Most of the time soup, soft drinks or mobiles will meet our needs (not that having a smartphone is on Maslov’s hierarchy) so why do we have to be given the choice to have something that is ever so slightly different?
If I am having tomato soup then I don’t want to decide between Tomato & Basil, Plum Tomato Basil Soup with CremeFraiche, Tomato and Butterbean, Tomato with Fiery Mexican Spices, Tomato with a Kick of Chilli or Organic Cream of Tomato. These are all varieties offered by Heinz but all I want is the simple ‘classic’ red gloop to which I can then add Worcestershire sauce. What I don’t understand is why companies have to mess with the classics to be a bit more ‘on trend’ (looking at you sweet chilli) or become healthier by hiding extra vegetables in their recipes.
As I sit at my desk I can see a tub of chocolates that hold eight mini versions of the most popular confectionary snacks. Of this I can guarantee that the toffees will be gone in seconds, while the coconut based horrors will take a while to disappear. All that will be left are the nougat as nobody really likes these. So from the 750g of chocolates there are 93.75 g of wasted options.
Stop making my life more complicated, make it simpler. I know I could just ignore the other options but I don’t want to have to work to be ignorant of the multitude of products on offer. I didn’t make the problem and I have no control over offering a solution, I have tried not buying the “sundried tomatoes with organic basil and a splash of cream” but it still appears on the shelves of my local store. Life is full of decisions so all I want is less flavour.
Henry Ford got it right when he said that “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” I just wish I could have had my Model T in Midnight Charcoal Black.