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There’s a popular quiz show on TV involving contestants trying to answer questions correctly on their way to the ultimate win – a check for a million dollars. It’s not a brain buster, like Jeopardy. What makes it an easier game is the fact that the answers are multiple choices and the questions far less difficult.
Multiple choice exams, of any kind, are vastly preferable because the odds are definitely in favor of the person taking the test. After all, you may not know the answer, but you might make a lucky guess.
There are areas in consumerism, where multiple choices have become completely out of hand. These include purchases of just about everything possible to buy.
We could start with cars. Light years have passed since Henry Ford’s Model A’s and T’s, in one color, basic black. The choice then was between the car and a horse. The horse just had to be able to pull a carriage, a wagon, or even a trolley and be a practical color that didn’t show dirt.
Today, the sight of the average car lot boggles the mind. One auto manufacturer offers dozens of models with an increasing number of options. Price is the primary consideration, but once the buyer is in the right range, there are so many features you could forget some of the most important considerations like how many miles to the gallon, and how badly does it pollute?
As in just about every market, pressure from the kids in the family is definitely a sought after consideration. Now that Mom and Dad can eat, shave, put on makeup, and talk on the phone while driving, the market is after the younger generation. How about television sets, CD players, and DVD players? Distracting annoyances from the back seats have gone from, “Are we there yet?” to loud squabbling over who sees or hears what.
The grocery store is a perfect example of over selecting, and over pricing. The last time I bought toothpaste it took me forever to decide what to buy. In the first place, there are more companies than ever in the toothpaste business. Not too many years ago, you could count them on the fingers of one hand. These days you’d need both hands and both feet to tally them.
Toothpaste was once a sticky substance that squeezed out of a tube. It generally was one or possible two flavors. Its purpose was to clean unwanted bits of food from between your teeth, hopefully getting rid of some tar and plaque if you brushed correctly.
Today the very substance of the stuff has changed. You can still get the traditional pasty white cleaner, or you choose a get of different colors. Each tube offers multiple choices of functions depending upon which dental problem you’re hoping to solve.
The latest gimmick is something you place over your teeth to produce the whitest possible smile. Naturally, there are several companies producing the product, each one claiming to out-white the others.
The entire cosmetic industry has gone berserk. If you want to buy a lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, or blush, put aside a couple of hours as you walk the aisles in the makeup department. There are hundreds of colors of everything. Jane Pauley and guests were discussing this dilemma last week and she wanted to know why, after testing the lipstick on the back of your hand, it never is the same shade when you got home and put it on your lips?
Now, let’s talk about soup – good, old fashioned, staple of the diet, sold in a can, soup. I remember, as a kid, three primary products available, and only two producing the most popular – tomato. There weren’t that many varieties. If you wanted something besides tomato, chicken noodle, and vegetable, you made it yourself.
Last weekend while soup shopping, I really looked hard at the hundreds of different varieties and product labels offering every type of soup made on the planet, and every kind of packaging. There are more soup mixes in bags than every before. Just take it home, add water, heat, and feel like a gourmet soup cook. All I wanted was regular tomato.
I have to give credit to anyone doing modern bulk purchases, no matter what the product. How do you know when to stop stocking shelves or car lots and what do you do when some new variation on the same theme is lauded on TV the week after your last purchase?
I’m so bad at multiple choice buying I read a 32 flavor list while buying an ice cream cone and end up with vanilla, or look over hundreds of soups and go home with original tomato.
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