Critical Thinking Media Competence

Overchoice—Group 5

Overchoice, have you ever thought about this concept? How often do you say: “I have no idea what alternative should I choose”? There is a simple situation. You are in a supermarket and you want to buy a fruit tea. If there were only green and black teas you would make your decision promptly and go out the door. But there exist hundreds of sorts of fruit tea: apple tea, berry tea, lemon tea, ginger tea, mint tea, mellow tea, vanilla tea… Stop! If you are indifferent you will take the first one and go. If you are not indifferent and you want to buy the tea which taste you will enjoy thinking for example about your life, you will be confronted with a big amount of different alternatives. So you need to make a decision. There are also some criteria which help you to reduce your hesitation: quality, price, colorful packaging or sales manager’s recommendations. If you start to analyze advantages and disadvantages of products you will never decide and probably just give up and go home with empty hands. This problem – what decision should a customer make having such a big amount of alternatives - appears by reason of a satiety of consumer demand in the market. This concept is called overchoice.

The concept of overchoice was scrutinized by Alvin Toffler. He described the situations and relationships between a lot of choice options and making a decision. In a free market economy the distribution of goods and services depends on consumer choices. But for effective decision making consumers need an adequate and limited amount of alternatives. Some profit-maximizing entrepreneurs think that if there are a lot of alternatives for customer choice then the probability of satisfaction of customer needs will increase. Does the satisfaction of consumer needs grow with an increasing number of alternatives? Let us consider the following situation: There are an infinite number of TV-sets in an electronic equipment shop. After long thoughts a consumer buys the TV-set he or she needs but overchoice does not end here. Moreover, it follows consumer at home in form of thousands TV-channels. One hour or may be more you will spend clicking and searching for an interesting and entertaining telecast. Is this satisfaction of needs? We can assume that such a gigantic number of alternatives is more appropriate for people who have no well-defined preferences. As a consequence of this they should at first indicate their needs with the help of overchoice. But if we look on a consumer who has certain necessities and looks for a way to fulfill them, could excessive abundance present here a solution?

We will take another example: a gym. Today gyms work 24 hours per week. People who are indifferent when should they go to the sport club, will never make their decision. There is always an opportunity to go to the sport club and this opportunity will never be used. If sport clubs were open only from Monday till Friday and 12 hours per day many “sportsmen” will rapidly make their decision, because they would know that this possibility is limited. Hence, we can suppose that in this situation where customers make their preferences clear, a consumer demand grows with a decreasing amount of options.

It is paradoxically! The more choice there exists, the more difficult and complicated it gets for a consumer to make a rational decision. More choice does not mean full satisfaction of customer needs and vice versa it brings bewildering and frustration. But why do not companies stop to produce numerous amounts of goods? Do not they want to satisfy their clients? Do not they say that one of the important directions of company’s strategies is consumer satisfaction? I think consumer satisfaction plays the last role for company development. The first goal of the firm is profit maximization, the second one is strong and stable market position and the third one is leadership among competitors. The existence of overchoice in the market might represent the companies’ interests which are related with costs of searching and analyzing the optimal number of alternatives for the customer in different categories of goods and services. From the company’s point of view, dissatisfaction of customers has some advantages, because dissatisfaction motivates a consumer to go and buy again. Companies want us to spend as much of our money as possible buying their goods and services, spend as much of our time as possible visiting their online-shops, pay as much of our attention as possible making decisions about things which are irrelevant for our life. From the customer’s point of view, having no choice could be boring for their life. Buy the same products and use the same services. But does overchoice solve problems or does it generate them? People, who understand that they live in a world of overchoice, try to maneuver the way they satisfy their needs and safe their opportunity costs.

Today the paradox of overchoice which was inconceivable some years ago drives our life. We spend a lot of time thinking about the alternative which was chosen, is it right, perfect and suitable or may be we should test other options which could be better than this one. Yes, we recognize that we are slaves of overchoice and it has a power over us. But if consumer’s demand induces companies’ supply then there is always a chance to change this circumstance. Less is sometimes more. As modern humans we mistakenly think that real freedom is a choice between products A and B, whereas true freedom is having a choice between to buy or not to buy and deciding for the latter. In this way we would leave the treadmill that calls itself modern consumerist society.