“The Paradox of Choice”- I may have borrowed the title of this post from the 2004 book by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, where Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can reduce the anxieties of shoppers. To me, this seems so true. With the plethora of choices available today, isn’t it actually getting to be exhausting for us, the consumers?
Journey to the center of the paradox
My mobile device had been giving me considerable trouble, hence I decided that it indeed was time to scrap it and get myself a new one. So an entire Sunday afternoon was spent surfing the Internet, searching for that perfect deal and device. I was on the most popular merchant site that sold close to a thousand mobile phones. Nearly an hour later, after having gone through countless brands of phones and, having read contradictory reviews across the web, I was left indecisive. Despite the segregation of mobile phones across a broad category of price range and features, I was unable to settle down on any particular device. I sat pondering, over the far too many choices I had in front of me. There were devices for every Rs. 1000 with just the slightest of difference in features. At the end of it all, I felt grumpy, tired and simply gave up.
Heard of choice overload?
So here is modern technology, bringing in product and services right into our living rooms. The internet is the first place we head to, before buying anything, to do our bit of research and analysis. From price comparison sites to product reviews, we tend to rummage through all the options before we decide on one. The information overload, coupled with the availability of the plethora of choices, literally tests our decision making skills. Increasing number of options simply means more effort and time needed to arrive at the so-called “perfect” purchase. Or do we actually get to make that perfect purchase?
The purchase and the aftermath
I finally made a choice, keeping in mind my budget and the basic features I wanted. I completed my transaction online for a brand new mobile phone, shutting down the laptop with a sigh of relief. A fortnight after I had received my brand new mobile, the first page of the newspaper greeted me with a full page advertisement of another reputed brand offering a similar mobile phone for a few thousands lesser!!!!! How could I have missed this online? I was grumpy yet again? Ah! that miserable feeling after a buy, when you spot a similar product at a lesser cost.
Of course there were lessons learnt. I realized that our minds can only process a certain number of options. And when it is subject to multiple options, it can face serious exhaustion. One may end up making an impulsive buy then or, like me later develop a nagging feeling that probably I made a hurried purchase. Shopping indeed has become an ordeal. I wish we could go back to the days where choices were far lesser.
What do you do? Do you enjoy going through a plethora of options? Or do you stick to favorites, the tried and tested formulae?