Monday, August 15, 2011
We Apologize for the Convenience- The variety dilemma.
Choices are bad. Variety is almost never a good thing for humans and yet America thrives on it. Our entire economy is centered around the idea of variety as a means to individuality.
"Oh, you bought a Ford Escort too? Well, mine is Mint Green is your's Mint Green? No? Well then that makes mine different because I'm an individual." *
*This conversation has just made the owner of a new blue Ford Escort tickled by a tiny feeling of regret for not selecting a more individualistic shade at the dealership.
People now spend hours every day making choices that weren't even an option twenty years ago. When you finally do decide on something there is always this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you have made the wrong choice and will soon regret it. Variety does nothing but breed malcontent and competition. Which in a capitalist country serves us just fine because it turns out there are enough idiots around to fall for it every time.
At work we used to carry two toasters: one that did two slices and one that did four. They were both stainless steel, the same brand, and did the one thing toasters are meant to do: Toast things. I had this conversation about five times a day:
Me: "Hi what can I help you find?"
Customer: "A toaster please."
Me: "Here are the toasters, do you need a two slice or a four slice?"
Customer: "Oh a two slice will do nicely thanks!"
Me: "No problem, have a nice day!"
End of conversation, everyone is happy. Occasionally there is some hum-hawing over the two/four slice issue, but they are always comforted by the assurance they can exchange it for the other one if they change their mind.
Yesterday I had an entirely different experience. I was stocking coffee and heard someone shuffling around in Kitchen Appliances. She sighed dramatically about four times before I finally discovered her standing in front of our Wall-O'-Toasters with a discontent expression on her face.
I could tell she was going to have a problem with anything I said, (sometimes they just have that look) so I took a few seconds to give myself a tiny silent pep-talk that usually goes something like this: You can totally handle this without stabbing someone in the eye. It doesn't matter what happens next, you are younger, smarter and have a moderate internet following. She cannot take your soul if you don't make eye-contact for too long....
Me: "Hi! What can I help you find today?"
Customer: "I'm looking for a toaster."
Me: "All of our toasters are on display right behind you. Are you looking for a two slice or a four slice? Black, white, silver, red, pink, green, self-timer, auto shut-off, bagel settings, french bread settings, defrost settings, or safety settings.?"
Customer: *sigh* "Is this all you have?"
Me: *twitch* "Of course not! We have a much larger selection online that I would be happy to pull up! You can pick something out and we can ship it directly to your house. Are you looking for something in a cute pattern? Maybe one that looks like an animal? Would you like it to toast a design onto your bread? The Yankees logo perhaps? Or our very own Colorado Rockies logo?" "
Customer: "Well I don't want to wait for it to get here,(they never do) I need a toaster NOW you see...."
Me: " Hahaha I totally understand, I mean, you have to have your toast in the morning right? Well would any of the ones you see here work? Look this one comes with toast tongs!"
Customer: "It's just *sigh* I don't really like any of these. They aren't really my style you know?"
Me: "Well Mam, I think it's going to come down to whether you want a toaster that really screams "you", or if you want toast in the morning." *Nervous giggle as I hope she thinks I'm funny. She does not.*
She left disappointed, off to yet another retailer in hopes they would have a toaster that was more her style, available for purchase that very moment.
Sure it would be cool to own this toaster, but not at the expense of my sanity. Also it doesn't have all the right settings.