When there are too many choices (December 26, 2002)

Eight years ago, I met an English teacher, who is from New York, at a small remote beach in Thailand. We had a good chat, and spent time at the beach about a week. As I had very little chance to talk to foreigners, I was eager to talk about our country, our people, and our struggling for democracy. So I talked a lot with him.

When I explained that there are only 3 possible choices to become rich quickly in Burma: playing three digits lottery (illegal in Burma), doing jade business, and doing drug business. To my surprise, the New York guy replied, “That’s good, you have only 3 choices. Just choose one of three. That’s simple.” I didn’t understand.

After living in US for about six years, I think may be he was right. There are too many choices in the USA. At the beginning, I felt great to see many different, new, and very cool things at everywhere: at the malls, at shopping centers, at theaters, etc. It is good to have variety of choices, so consumers can choose anything they like. That was my observation at the beginning.

Later on, I am getting tired of too many choices for anything. Imaging just shopping a shampoo at Walgreen store, how hard it is or how much time it takes to make a choice. There are too many brands. Each brand has different kinds. There are new formula, enhanced formula, and advanced formula. There are two in one, three in one, and all in one shampoo. All brands are saying they are the best quality. So it is enough to makes consumer’s head spinning. God help me! Which one to pick!
It also takes time to read the description on each bottle. For me, it takes about 20-30 minutes to make a choice. Still I am not sure whether my choice is the right one.

So, how about other choices?

For a student, choosing a major or a university is hard enough to make he or she get headache. Hundreds of majors, and thousands of good schools: what am I going to choose? Let’s say a student has already chosen a major and a school. How about choosing classes? There are many classes for the same subject: daytime or evening time, weekdays or weekends. Let’s say the student finds a class time.

How about choosing a teacher? Students are usually busy with “teacher review” website to look for a better teacher, who got good review from previous students. Ok, finally, everything is set. A good class time with a good or easy teacher, but students cannot rest yet. How about textbooks? Buying at school or online? So they have to do some research again. First, they have to find out ISBN number or the title of a book. Then, usually, they go to amazon.com, half.com, bigwords.com, and addall.com to compare prices. See, what will happen when there are too many choices?

Hi friends, have you shopped lately? Think about how you made the choice for something: camera, dress, pants, cell phone, instant noodle, snacks, foods, gifts, postcards, car, etc. Do you think your choice is the best?
Share your story with me next time.

Have a better choice.