Paralyzed by choice

I recently was in the market for a new bluetooth headset, so I hit all the usual places: Amazon, CNET, google searches, blog reviews, etc. I was having a really difficult time finding one that I liked. I went through dozens of links, but no matter how many products I reviewed, there never seemed to be a clear-cut winner. This one has better sound quality, but this one fits better. This one is cheaper, but this one lasts longer. This one has poor customer service, is lacking in volume, and doesn’t even support in-app purchases. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT IN-APP PURCHASES??

I would see entries with 5000 reviews, 600 of them negative. Of course I discounted the stupid reviews, but even excluding those, there were hundreds of people who had experienced problems with these products. I am not exactly going to be a “power user” of this device, but who wants to drop money on a bluetooth headset only to discover that it’s a piece of junk? Who wants to buy the wrong thing, when a quick stroll through the reviews could have saved them the trouble?

So I hemmed and hawed, and ended up buying nothing. Nothing seemed worth buying. There were just too many negative reviews.

Once upon a time, I used to walk in to Best Buy, see what they had, pick one, and was happy. Without consulting the reviews, the vast majority of my purchases were by and large positive ones. I was ignorant, but happy.

These days I’m just overwhelmed by information. I am a researcher by nature, and when there is information out there for me to find, I hate to not know it. But now there’s so much information out there, I literally can’t know it all. Instead I find myself spending more and more time researching, and less and less time actually enjoying the item.

Forget about impulse buys; I think I can find it cheaper online. Don’t just walk into any old restaurant; it doesn’t have good reviews on Yelp. We have 10 minutes to kill, let me see what the local attractions are.

The thing is, it feels like a good thing. We have more choices, and more information, and that’s better right? Power to the consumer! But increasingly I’m finding that it also comes along with more stress. It used to be, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” I was happy with my purchase because I *didn’t* know I could get it cheaper across town and anyway alpha_dude_777 thought the workmanship was sub-standard. I just had a thing, and it was fine. Now I have to constantly second guess every decision. “Well now, hold on, let’s not be too hasty: let’s just see which option gets more likes on Facebook.”

I have to find a way to shut my brain off. Let sleeping dogs lie. What you don’t know won’t hurt you.

Less information, less choice. Less stress. More happiness.

One thought on “Paralyzed by choice

  1. At my house we call this a “Danalysis”. It can be drawn over a few hours and sometimes can be a discussion item for a few years, much to the frustration of the other decision maker.

    The ridiculous notion of “choice architecture” is what you need. Then you only need to select a “red”, “yellow”, or “green” model. Your choices will all be equally horrible, but hey look colors!

    My favorite part of a Danalysis is finally pulling the trigger and letting that wonderful feeling of dread wash over me over the possibility that I could have gotten it for 3 cents less elsewhere. No, choices are good. Keep Danalyzing!


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