First World Problems

Too much choice.

I hate making consumer choices at the best of times, because I have this uncomfortable suspicion that big companies are trying to gull me out of as much money as possible, using sophisticated techniques designed by people who are smarter than I am.

To be fair, that’s probably most people. Indeed, I suspect my cats are smarter. Just because you suffer choice paralysis, it doesn’t follow that the rest of us can’t work these simple things out. And, indeed, do. Nor is it some conspiracy conducted by providers to befuddle us. If you are befuddled, then it is because you are somewhat simple-minded. If I want a product or service, I’ll do a little research, make a decision and go for it. Really, it isn’t difficult. Unless you live in the rarefied atmosphere of Guardianland.


  1. “Psychology” “Tim Lott is a journalist and author; his latest book is Under the Same Stars”

    So, not actually a psychologist, then. Just some Guardianista with a knackered perspective.

    In a certain way, he’s right. Companies are trying to get more money out of you with sophisticated techniques. But it’s pretty marginal. More of a nudge than a shove. You might get someone who would normally spend £40 on a pair of sunglasses to spend £60 instead because of marketing.

    The great thing is that even if you don’t care for choice, everyone else does a good job of whittling things down for you. Pick from any of the top 3 biggest supermarkets, you’ll have a good supermarket. Top 3 biggest selling cars likewise.

    The thing the communists like this don’t want, for some baffling reasons, is the modern British Leyland, the Stalinist NHS, to end up like the last one. Me, I’m desperate for more choice. The risk of unemployment for NHS managers will be like a rocket up the arse – reform or get eaten by someone else.

  2. Or alternately you buy the cheapest one that looks OK on the basis that virtually all consumer items are made by virtually indistinguishable methods to virtually identical designs using similar parts often made in the same factory.

  3. I think a case can be made for standard products – we have had that for hundreds of years with units of measure, one can judge the price of a pint of beer on its taste/quality without being conned that one is being sold short measure.

    I have in mind standards for telecomms, insurance and energy services. Take travel insurance as an example. The insurer sees the ‘big picture’, they ‘know’ how many people get attacked by sharks, say. The customer on the other hand can’t evaluate these risks. There is no reason why companies can’t offer products that offer more or less than the standard too but I’m sure most of us would like to know that we are buying insurance that covers essential/reasonable risks.

  4. “designed by people who are smarter than I am.”

    Which may be a bigger list than the articles writer bargained for. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But I can confirm LR, that yes, your cats are much smarter than Mr Lott. The psychology of marketing only works on people who go shopping with their brain functions actively disengaged.

  5. “…I suspect my cats are smarter…”

    You go to work to earn money to buy food
    You have to go out whatever the weather
    You go shopping for the food
    You open the can/sachet & dish it up
    You do any washing up
    You have to deal with petty officials

    They do none of the above
    They eat then sleep as long as they want

    Yup, your cats (and my cats) are smarter than any of us…

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