Freedom of Choice?

OK, so I was supposed to type this yesterday (Saturday) and did not get around to it. I opted to take a few hours and enjoy the sensible temps of Central Indiana and go for a VERY long bike ride. I loved every minute of it – and then I proceeded to take the kids to a car show that I saw signage for while out. A lot of fun was had yesterday and very little of it had to do with the computer.  Needless to say, I didn’t set down and write for 15 minutes I said I would. So I’m getting it out of my head today (Sunday).
I’ve been noticing something going on at many of the stores I’ve visited over the last few years. The plethora of so called “choice.” Friday night, T needed me to stop by the store for some ingredients for a dish she was making. I got to our local train wreck of a Kroger’s to find these ingredients. They shouldn’t have been too difficult to find – eggplant, garlic, zucchini, ricotta cheese, and milk. Man was I in for a shock –Garlic came only in these designer satchels with some stupid logo on them. I have found a grocery store, in the Midwest, that did not have scads of zucchini—in fact—they had none whatsoever.  There was only 1 type of mega-expensive ricotta to be found in the whole store.

What I did notice, while I was frantically searching for these items (thinking I was blundering about and just not paying attention to the items I needed), was just how many repeats of the same item there is in a store. I saw at least 6 types of white bread – all white bread, not even going beyond to the wheat’s /gluten free/ hand chewed chemical free breads made by part time Arabian Buddhist monks…nope – 6 different brands of white bread. Then there’s the 3 types of personalized packages of grape tomatoes and the 3 brands of Clementine oranges.

I guess it’s fairly ok for there to be different “brands” of produce. We don’t have to fight to awful hard to get the kids to eat fruit and veg. Then again, that’s what we eat – so the apples didn’t fall to far from the tree (figuratively).
What caused me to really stop and take pause of the insanity that is the current grocery market – the wall of Tide. Yep, Wall. I’ve got about 75 flavors of Tide to choose from. Isn’t Tide just, umm…Tide? Do I really need to have “All Organic, spring showered butter flowered smelling Tide”? The toilet paper isle was just as bad – well, almost. There were at least 4 different brands of TP there from the Kroger super-special to the “Quilted bed-top ultra-absorbent” brands (that also come in a variety of stenches too).  I had to laugh. There really isn’t much that one can do to control the market forces (or is it farces? I can’t tell at this point), so 75 flavors of Tide and 25 types of TP it is.

The next stop in my quest for ingredients was the pasta isle. One might think that pasta is easy to come by and one could come up with any number of types of pasta to be carried by a store. And there are a vast number of types, if by types you’re talking colors and textures of spaghetti. I was looking for large tube pasta (like cannelloni or manicotti tubes)— there should be at least one brand making those, right? NOPE – Not even the bigoted Italian company had a product representation at this grocery market. Now, I could get you gluten free, spinach/tomato/banana/and whole wheat versions of just about any type of spaghetti/linguini/angel hair/ or macaroni noodles. Just like the detergent isle, this plethora of choice of something I don’t want, or need, made me shake my head in disgust. At this time I knew I would end up having to make a special trip to another store, after dinner, to find the remaining ingredients that T needed.

This also left me wondering: Is 75 variants of the same thing the same as having “Choice” or is it 75 of the same thing with no choice? To me, it seems that multiple variants of the same product (or even product class) is not much of a choice when the thing that I am looking for is excluded from the option set.

Later Friday night, rummaging around on one of the financial sites and attempting to look at the number of products that a typical store carries, I found that any given store carries around 60,000 different items. Today I wonder if that’s really truly 60K of different items – or 4,000 items with 20 variations of those same items. Does it really give us true selection choice, or is it a level of marketing?

I don’t know – I don’t care. I had to go to 2 different stores and had to hunt for the exact item I was looking for at both. I really don’t think that my options of choice have been met. I fear that we’re going to get more of this lack of true choice and more marketing of the same thing from one or two suppliers. I might have to learn to make real pasta (better).


I think I took FAR more than my allotted 15 minutes, and I know I’ll come back to this topic over and over again. I don’t mind being out on the fringe and doing what I think is right – but telling me I have choice, when I don’t have a real choice, is akin to lying to me. And that is not tolerated.

Until tomorrow…

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