It can be good, bad, or irrelevant.

Choice is good when it gives me entirely new options I don’t have at home, or when it gives me variations that matter to me:

  • Things left out, like fragrance in detergent or lactose in milk
  • Things left in, like real chocolate in candies or caffeine in tea
  • Different sizes, like large ones for bulk savings or small ones for portability

Choice is bad when it overwhelms me with options at the end of a lengthy initial provisioning trip and I have to decipher new categories to find what must be here (Mustn’t it?): regular, original, plain Kleenex, dagnab it. Neither ultra soft nor anti-viral; nor yet a tissue infused with greasy (sorry, soothing) lotion. As the residual option, “trusted care” might be what I’m looking for, but the graphic suggests it’s either a heart-healthy option or something to give your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, soon upon us, so who knows?

Choice is irrelevant when it offers me options that don’t appeal to me and that can’t possibly appeal to anyone: flavours of peach, ale, and habanero. And not just singly: combined in one tray of defenceless bratwurst.

And yet. Someone is buying anti-viral Kleenex and peach-ale habanero brats. Maybe together. Just imagine.

Thank goodness no one gave me the job of selecting a reasonable range for choices. Thank goodness no one person has that job.


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12 Responses to Choice

  1. barbara carlson says:

    My old Hungarian neighbour, 45 years ago, invited her sister to visit Canada. Took her to a Loblaw’s — not the behemothic size they are today — and her sister burst into tears at the quantity, quality and variety. What would she think of today’s shelves?
    For myself they are irritating and I must concentrate to buy the right one.
    That said (as they say), in many areas of shopping, the choice is limited — if it doesn’t sell some algorithmically-set quantity, its manufacturer is discontinued. Or will claim to be 100% cotton then turn out to the 57% cotton and 38% polyester and 5% Other… or chocola-ty (not real chocolate). Constant (exhausting) vigilance, people!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – IKR? I’ve read articles by returning Peace Corps volunteers who go into NA grocery stores and feel like everything is plastic. They had their “variety and packaging” expectations reset by a few years in a developing country.

      • barbara carlson says:

        Yes, I was just going to add this: My neighbour’s sister if she came now would probably still weep, but with laughter, at the absurdity of it all.
        “everything is plastic” — but try to get a “single-use” (not in our house) bag to carry it home in.

  2. Alison Uhrbach says:

    We’re on the quest for healthy eating these days, and I’m back to reading labels closely. The aisle that has me flummoxed is the Yogurt aisle! and it’s even more confusing in the USA, if I remember correctly. The combinations are never ending it seems. Wish me luck!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Alison – Well, I do wish you buena suerte, even though yogurt is one of those things I never choose so the varieties are doubly wasted on me!

    • barbara carlson says:

      I just noticed the absurd amount of sugar in one of those tiny cups of flavoured yoghurt that taste SO good.

  3. Judith Umbach says:

    Ah, too often, I want “plain old”, but that might be because I too am “plain old”. Can be quite relaxing.

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – I wonder what the clerks in that store were thinking as you took all those pictures. “Just another Canadian!” maybe.

    I don’t know about in the US, but a younger relative recently informed me that in Canada, “Lactose Free” milk isn’t really lactose free. Instead, the dairies add Lactase to counter-act the lactose. And all these years I wondered how they separated the lactose from the rest of the milk. Having grown up on a farm, I was very familiar with how the cream is separated from whole milk.

    BTW, the list of ingredients on my current container of “Lactose Free” milk reads as follows: Partly skimmed milk; Lactase; Vitamin A palmitate; Vitamin D3

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – I make some effort to be subtle when taking photos on commercial premises (which stretches me, as you might imagine). What I’d live to photograph is all the beers they have here, but that’s not on. Oh, well. As for the milk, I did not know that, but it helps explain my mother’s reaction to lactose-free milk: She didn’t like it, finding it sweeter than regular milk.

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