Having more choices in paper towels is not a good thing. What were the marketers thinking?
I stop briefly in the grocery store aisle. We’re out of paper towels and I’m looking to buy. What could be simpler? I have, after all, reached an accommodation with paper towels.
The youthful foolishness that saw me experimenting with cheap paper towels is long done: now I pay for quality, reasonably. The mid-life restlessness that saw me sampling all the name brands is also gone: now I buy one brand, faithfully. Even the more-recent indecisiveness that saw me alternating between full-size and half-size towels has passed: now I buy the half-size ones, exclusively.
My reasonable, faithful, and exclusive paper-towel-buying rut is also comfortable, effective, and efficient. Like any good habit, it keeps me doing the little things that need doing, while saving me from the tedium of thinking about them. Think flossing, taking calcium supplements, making the bed.
Or better yet, don’t think about them. I don’t. I just do them by rote, saving brain power urgently needed for things that matter, or at least that matter to me. Things like what the next trip should be. Or what bird that was that flitted through the yard. Or how to use my new camera.
And so it is that I have relegated the buying of paper towels to the realm of habit. Having analyzed my options and made my selection, I need think no more about it. My analysis may not meet the standards for settled science, but it passes my test for settled shopping.
Or it did. But as I scan the shelf looking for my standard choice, I see that the marketers for my brand have crafted a new option for me. A glorious option, apparently, judging by the excited label. I can now buy paper towels that are
3 times as strong!
I shrug. That sounds OK: I mean, who can argue against strength in a paper towel? But as I reach for the package, another label from the same brand catches my eye. I could, instead, buy paper towels that are
2 times as absorbent!
Oh, dear. I hesitate and am lost. My unaccustomed delay in this aisle lengthens as I spot a third option under the same brand name. If I don’t want more strength or absorbency, I could instead just buy more, indeed
Presumably that’s 25% more of the ‘one-third as strong and one-half as absorbent’ originals for the same price as last week, although I note that the label doesn’t say that in so many words.
Now I’m really stuck. I was happy with the paper towels I bought last week, but now that I could have stronger or more absorbent ones, I’m not entirely secure in that happiness. If I stick with the old ones, am I settling? Am I being irrationally resistant to change? And if I do embrace change, which is better for my needs: 3 times (!) more strength or 2 times (!) more absorbency? How would I even decide something like that?
You know, it’s got me thinking.
Thanks a bunch, guys.