The Myth of Choice / The American Consumer as Lab Rat

I have to say up front that on the “choice” curve (I’m sure someone somewhere has generated such a thing) I fall on the “less is more” end of “not enough choice – too many choices” preference. But I think this favorite topic of marketing behavior – which drives contemporary product design and marketing – misses the point.

The necessary question is, Does a product or service exist that works, or will at least be “good enough” to satisfy a current need or preference?

I was at the grocery store yesterday, standing in the OTC aisle, looking for a generic version of Benedryl: Why pay a high price for a brand name, when there is an identical product for much less, at least in theory, simply packaged in a less “zingy” cardboard and plastic package, at the end of the assembly line at the very same factory? It’s a go-to choice for me and millions of other shoppers…

Like other severe allergy sufferers (suffer is the correct word), relief is the goal, and the search becomes something of a seasonal religious pilgrimage from store to store, pharmacy to pharmacy, (I gave up on doctors long ago) aisle to aisle; a bewildering journey to find the holy object, concoction or magic pill, that brings even moderate relief. What one finds is a wall of pink and purple and yellow and orange and blue boxes tricked out with labels and messages; the ingredients in nano-type… how many times have I grabbed a product, thinking that it’s what I bought before, only to find when I get home, that it’s not…

What ought to be simple is not! The store has changed it’s product array; eliminated “my” standard choice, or rearranged the wall – moving key products, so that a “visual” location that was a good system for navigating the “too many choices” shelves is useless. Flagging down a clerk usually yields results like “the product is right in front of your face” look; or, the “corporate elves” moved everything again, according to some new marketing scheme, or we discontinued that item, or we’re out of stock, or more “excuse choices”.

One soon appreciates that old age is as much a “contrived” challenge as a steady decline in sensory acuity: confusion becomes a default experience in dealing with the world. Despite all the media attention about a rapidly aging population and the need to “address” the needs of the elderly, there is little “real world” response, except an increase in expensive, useless and faulty junk products marketed as “free” because insurance will “pay for” them.

Besides, someone my age isn’t supposed to use the words “old, elderly, impaired, slow, over-the-hill”, etc. but to defy Nature by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year jumping out of airplanes (don’t forget your parachute), communing with “natives” in the Amazon, and looking spry, well-preserved and young, while doing it, or gardening with one’s equally well-preserved spouse on a grand estate in “the islands” somewhere, purchased with vast resources that one managed to not spend over the previous forty+ years of “living”.

And yet the monomaniacal product machine grinds on: the effects are not negligible.

If the package didn’t “identify” this product, could you tell what it is by the “official” label?

 

Americans “waste” so much of what we buy, and time shopping, for food or household supplies, OTC “medications” and the rest. And reading “labels” is not much help when the ingredients in laundry detergent seem to “pop up” in juice drinks, sodas, “organic” baked goods and prepared and processed food: it’s ALL artificially produced at this point.

The fruits and vegetables and novelty “plant things” in the “green region” of our stores are just as artificial as the blue gummy stuff aimed at kids and sold as “vitamins” and “nutrition” supplements. The “money” spent to bring products to a store near you, or that are delivered to our homes from online sites, is allocated to overseas production, packaging, shipping, distribution, marketing, advertising, and endless conniving to make “junk” components, ingredients, materials, chemicals – and indeed dangerous or toxic fillers and additives, “appear to be” different products, but in reality, only the “decorative boxes” distinguish the same essentially worthless contents from each other.

I buy the same products over and over – based on price, past experience and “comfort” level. It’s one of those efficiencies in the face of absurdity that we Asperger’s are “slammed for” – dull, plodding, unimaginative, but on budget.

Choice is just another lie in the “culture” of consumerism. That is a hurdle that cannot be overcome by the consumer. So-called “education” merely confirms the distortions presented over decades of deception, manipulation, and indoctrination; of false labeling, intentional disregard of product safety or efficacy, and reduction of quality that is the pattern of “modern” corporate – government behavior.

Americans constitute a population of 300 million “lab rats” who are “blamed” as personally responsible for the “bad health outcomes” of experimentation on human subjects.

More and more often I find myself bewildered when shopping: Is there actually anything worth eating, or safe to eat, that can be purchased at the “grocery” store? But, being a “realistic” Asperger, whatever “damage” to my body from ingesting bizarre ingredients has occurred – no remedy for that. Time spent making “decisions” as to which “pretty package” to purchase is just that…a waste of time.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Myth of Choice / The American Consumer as Lab Rat

  1. I usually purchase the exact same products for about 80% of my shopping. Simply because I looked at the price per quantity once and that has not changed. I’d like to filter in quality at some point but right now I struggle with the budget and with not considering it worth the energy it takes. It always amazes me how much is spend on advertisment, and it scares me that this would not happen if it was not effective.

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  2. See Burroughs’ soliloquy re ‘junk’, especially the portion regarding ‘degrading and simplifying the client’.

    While I’ve never endured the life of a ***burroughs-type junky*** – opiates in general give me the horrors, such that I must be given Valium to ***endure*** them – I’ve had enough run-ins with the mental health(???) System to have a small idea about ***that*** form of #junk#.

    Yep, it don’t matter one bit about what kind of junk the drugs actually are – prescription or not, you get simplified and degraded on a dosage regimen.

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