Man shopping 28 Nov 12 10:47AM EST |
The way I take my revenge on the bewildering market for everyday goods is to grab the first thing I see in the lower price range. Companies spend countless hours and billions of dollars on packaging, promos and product placement; I spend three seconds making a decision. Take that, I say. Maybe you’ll think twice next time, unruly marketplace, about bombarding me with so many choices, which are mostly just empty promises.
Thirty-seven different kinds of deodorant, half of which seem to be on some kind of sale? Nineteen types of dishwashing liquid? Bargain basement, mid-range, or high end rubbish bags? For some hapless shoppers, these frightening scenarios continue to bring on the kind painful indecision that can lead to paralysis. I no longer let this happen, but I wasn’t always so liberated.
A trail of stressed-out, half-aborted shopping trips led to this lofty perch. I used to be afraid to shop, and not because it was boring, banal and exhausting, but because it was just too hard. I well remember the feeling – conflicted, confused and, yes, emasculated – that would come over me as I stared at the endless rows of labels and picked listlessly through the price tags, the unanswerable question always hanging in the air: How can I possible know if I’m making the right decision?
Now I understand that I can’t know, and I’m okay with that. Fear of shopping, I discovered, leads to what might be called man shopping - a deliberate disregard for our discretionary powers as consumers. I’m free now, but I’ve learned that I also need to be flexible. In some cases, I’ll spend as many as fifteen seconds making a decision, instead of the usual three. Why? Because sometimes you have to shop for other people.
Christmas really puts my shopping discipline to the test. It helps to have some ironclad rules. 1) Have a general idea of what your loved ones want before you go to the mall; 2) Write the ideas down; 3) Only make a beeline for the lower price range if it's for kids under five and they won’t know the difference; 4) Buy something high-quality and expensive for your significant other to show you’ve been paying attention; 5) In all cases, don’t linger over a decision for more than fifteen seconds.
Sure there’s a downside: sometimes, you buy the wrong thing. But spending between three and fifteen seconds to choose the wrong thing is a big improvement over spending 45 minutes to choose the wrong thing. Admittedly, my time discipline slips considerably when it comes to shopping for big-ticket items like washing machines or insurance, but those are life decisions, not shopping decisions.