The embarrassment of choices

When I was a young man, life was harder but it was much simpler. It was less stressful because we had fewer choices. When we needed some shoe polish or some mustard, we would walk to the local store and purchase it. It was an easy decision since there was only a single brand of polish or mustard available. No casse-tête.

Today, whenever we go shopping, there are ten different brands of the same product on the shelves, all vying for your attention. We have an embarrassment of choices and it becomes much harder to make a sensible decision.

My purchasing philosophy is defined by the following principle: I am too poor to buy cheap stuff. So when I buy anything I want a quality product that is going to last. I am willing initially to pay more for something if, in the long run, it proves to be more durable and thus less costly than a similar cheaper item.

Like any good nerd, I always turn to the Internet for advice. I want to know what the “experts” are saying about what that I intend to buy. The problem is that the pundits cannot agree on anything. You can check 10 different websites and come up with 10 different opinions.

It a product is clearly superior, for God’s sake at least half of the experts ought to concur that it is so… but they don’t. They all promote a different product. How could that be?
Could some palms have been greased to promote certain products? Nooooooo…

The Internet is very handy and I am a big fan of it, but it is not always practical. Some products have to be seen or touched to be properly evaluated. You cannot, for example buy a mattress without lounging on it for at least 10 minutes. And even then…

I want to know what the experts (and previous customers) are saying about it. I want a clear consensus before committing myself because unlike a door handle it is not easy to return a mattress.

And when you finally find a brand that gathers some applauds, you discover that no local outfit caries that product. The damn mattress becomes like a mail-order bride. When she arrives from the Ukraine or Thailand, if she proves too firm or too soft, or if she begins to sag within a few months, it is difficult to return.

Experts, advisers or whatever you call them, like doctors or senators (?) ought to be certified. They ought to pass some exams before being allowed to pontificate on television or the Internet.

Personally, I am not certified in any way, so do not take as Gospel whatever I am saying. Take everything with a grain of salt, but honestly, who would you rather trust? Me, or a quack or a senator?

I rest my case.

Alain

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