Danny Tyree: Consumers, do we really need all those choices?
Dear pandemic-battered readers,
As you try adapting to the New Normal, just hope no diehards are waiting to confuse you with a plethora of ADDITIONAL configurations.
It’s best just to suck it up and accept the NEW Normal rather than navigating a world of Classic Normal, Zero Calorie Normal, Satin Finish Normal, Fun-Size Normal, Gelcap Normal, Crunchy Normal, Non-Clumping Normal and Extra-Absorbent Normal with Wings.
Ever since getting assigned to inventory control at my day job, I’ve suffered in silence under the wretched excess of umpteen frivolous variations in consumer goods. I’m finally speaking up because the recent Wall Street Journal article “Betting That Less Is Now More” indicates that restaurants, factories and retailers are finding a silver lining in the efficiencies imposed upon them by COVID-19.
For the sake of simplifying training, minimizing assembly-line downtime and thwarting distribution bottlenecks, a not-insignificant percentage of the items dropped from restaurant menus and supermarket shelves because of COVID-19 may NEVER return.
Back in the days when moguls were moguls, Henry Ford allegedly said of the Model T, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” In more recent decades, however, companies have fallen all over themselves to pander to every consumer whim. Maybe it’s time for the jingle “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us – but the guy waiting behind you in the drive-through lane may follow you and run your indecisive butt off an embankment.”
Even before the pandemic, grocers such as Aldi were generating profits via stores that were well-stocked but with considerably fewer than a gazillion choices in each product category. And department stores were discovering they could sell MORE hair dryers or coffee pots by offering three choices instead of an overwhelming 14.
This change also leads to decreased injuries in the parking lots, with fewer stupefied shoppers staggering into traffic. (“Get me an ambulance… No! Not that one! A free-range ambulance with gender-fluid gurneys and hypoallergenic siren…”)
Yes, I know variety is the spice of life. But that doesn’t do you much good if the SPICE SHELVES COLLAPSE under the weight of nonstop choices, or if you starve to death while debating different SPF levels of turmeric. (“Guess I’ll have to flip a coin. But all I have is pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and halves. I am so BORED. ZZZZZ…”)
Somehow, our forefathers managed to survive with one pickle barrel and one flour barrel (and one dysentery medicine for when the pickles and flour didn’t sell out fast enough), but now we think we’re living in a Third World country if we can’t hand the clerk a list of rock-star demands. (“I’m causing a scene unless I get a bowl of M&Ms with kale DNA injected into every other molecule.”)
I don’t relish the thought of a nuclear war or cataclysmic natural disaster, but I’m sure I would find the bright side of mankind rebooting with basic necessities. I daresay we would eventually be able to have water, electricity, shelter and personal hygiene without the countless gauges, wattages, textures, concentrations and scents that we’ve come to lean on.
“Hi, mister zombie. Let me regale you with lectures on how we still need both 5/16-inch tools and 11/32-inch tools and…wait, you don’t want MY brain. You need one that’s single-use, semi-corrugated and…AIIIIEEEE!”
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”