Posts Tagged 'random'

impulse buys

I miss the days of pre-Amazon, pre-smart phone shopping. Before we were saturated with information. Before we scanned every product with our phone. When we could pick something up just because it looked cool, rather than buying it because we’d scoured reviews, weighed all options and finally purchased from the most reasonably priced quality seller we could find.

I get anxious when making a purchase decision now. Is this the best price? Is it a high quality product? Could I do better? The opportunity cost of each purchase grows proportionally to the depth of data at our fingertips. For me, it means I often delay buying – sometimes to my detriment.

It’s not just products either. Services are the same. Yelp has created a plethora of service data – which, while informative, are all subjective and dependent upon the mood of the customer and the provider on a given day. Take my search for a lasik doctor, for example. Pre yelp days, I would have asked around, gotten a few personal recommendations, met with a few doctors, then jumped in. Now, though? It’s a different story. I gathered opinions from friends (which still holds the heaviest weight in my mind). I read about Billy Bob’s negative experience, and I file that in my head. Then I read Sally’s glowing review, and I file that away, too. Repeat. Soon, the good and the bad start the blend, and the individual reviews get a bit blurry. Here I am, a month in to the process and I haven’t been able to decide on who I should see. There are just too many options, and all have pros and cons.

For me, delaying decisions often leads to paying more in the end – and the hit stings financially and emotionally. Knowing that if I had just decided sooner, I could have saved some money just kills me. Most recently, I delayed pulling the trigger on a hotel for a trip this fall. I created a spreadsheet, compared options, weighed objective and subjective data, but just couldn’t come up with a decision. I was a click away from booking one hotel, but when I found several negative reviews I hadn’t seen before, and it stopped me in my tracks. In the end, I booked that same hotel a few weeks later, but paid $30 more per night because of the delay.

Here’s my dilemma – it’s expected that you’ll research things before making a purchase, choosing a doctor or booking a hotel. It’s a world of buyer beware, where the it’s on you to check things out before you commit. There’s no (or very few) times when you can shrug and say, “There’s no way I could have known.” That responsibility weighs on me when making these decisions. It’s taken something as simple as buying toilet paper, and turned it in to a statistical analysis – giving weight to all factors and trying to find the best option. It’s making life more complex than it used to be.

The number of options we have today is also wonderfully problematic. I watched a TED talk on choices a few months ago. It discussed how having more options can actually diminish our purchase satisfaction. So, while it’s great to have a few options, once it goes past 5 or 6, we start to feel less satisfied with our decision. I think it’s due in part to the opportunity cost that comes from the items we didn’t choose – and in part because making that decision took so much dang time. It’s just doesn’t feel worth it. The small cost savings or incremental quality increase isn’t worth the time and energy we put in to the decision itself. Multiply that process time by a whole shopping list,  and you leave the grocery store feeling rather depressed.

There’s a surprising genius behind grocery stores like Trader Joe’s. They have one or two options for most of their fresh and frozen products – organic or not. The dried goods isle gives you a bit more variety, with five or six types of sauces and various types of pasta. The dairy case has a wide range of options, but still keeps the options slimmed down to around four options for each type of item. The number of options feel manageable – easy, even. Either you like what they’re selling, or you don’t. They don’t offer 18 different options for chocolate ice cream – there’s one, maybe two. (The wine section blows away my point, but it still doesn’t feel as intimidating as the larger grocery stores.) I leave Trader Joe’s feeling satisfied with my purchases.

As with so much else in life, once again, less is more.

pave paradise, put up a parking lot

image Every time I see spots on my apples, I think of the song “Big Yellow Taxi”. Not the original version, but the Counting Crows cover. You see spots more often with organic varieties, especially when purchased in bulk from Costco where careful inspection of each fruit doesn’t happen.

I know what happens when an apple starts to go bad. There’s logic behind the saying, “don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch“. The bad apple releases gas at an accelerated rate, spreading a contagious spottiness from one apple to the next. The gas released accelerates ripening, so the apples reach their prime well before their expected “best by” date. That’s the basic idea, no? At least that’s what I remember from… oh, let’s say high school biology. Really, it’s just one of those random facts that’s stuck in my head for no apparent reason. But it stays… a permanent fixture in my mind, staking it’s ground and refusing to budge when other useful information tries to take it’s place. “Go somewhere else!”, it says, “No room here.”

There was a point to this. Other than giving my thoughts their own overly controlling personalities, that is. I often wonder about the nutritional value of fresh produce purchased from a grocery store. How old is it already by the time we bring it home? My experience has been that organic produce meets it’s demise far sooner than it’s non organic counterparts, so how much benefit are we losing? When shopping at a large supermarket, would we be better off purchasing frozen varieties? Organic aside, let’s look at conventional produce. How long did it take to get to the store? How long will it sit in your kitchen before it’s used? Would we get more nutrients from the stuff that was picked and flash frozen the same day?

The journey over the past week has convinced me of one thing – I don’t get enough raw veggies. Most of the veggies I eat are cooked in some fashion, save the occasional salad with dinner. One of the documentaries I watched said that when veggies are cooked, nutrients are lost and your body can’t assimilate them as well. In some cases, your body may actually try fight against the food, recognizing it as an invader instead of the healthful meal you’re trying to deliver. Crazy, right? Then, I found this article that counters this argument. Some vegetables are actually more nutritious when cooked. What to believe? My thought? More produce in general is good – lots of raw, some cooked. Sounds like a plan, right?

Am I a sucker for the propaganda? Maybe. I’d like to think I’m a logical person, weighing out arguments; able to dispel truth from sensationalism. But I’m sure I don’t always get it right. I try to make informed decisions and get my facts straight before recirculating info back to the general public. But, I’m sure there are times that erroneous things make it past my filter.

I’m not talking about differences of opinion here. We could go back and forth on so many subjective issues that it’s not even worth stating examples. I’m talking about issues where seemingly legitimate people present a valid argument, supported by facts and data. I guess I could say that I’m a sucker for facts and data. Where it seems somewhat black and white. It’s unfortunate that statistics can be so easily skewed, but again, that’s something I try to keep in mind when new facts are presented to me.

So when a question like this comes up, regarding which produce is really best, it’s hard for me to come to an answer that settles well. There are too many variables for my brain examine. The logical answer seems be to to buy local and organic. Farmers markets and the like. I’m sure some study out there will discredit that approach as well. Besides, the reality of that happening consistently for me is slim, though, and it’s not really answering my question. Perhaps the answer is already out there on the internet and I just haven’t scoured long enough to find it. This article and this one do a decent job of touching the edges of the question, but it’s not thorough enough for my satisfaction.

Planning to sign up for our CSA box delivery again. At least that way we’ll have some fresh, organic produce coming to us that way, and I don’t even have to head to the farmers market to get it.

This one got a little wordy today. Apologies.



Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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