The Paradox of Choice

I recall several years ago listening to a Ted Talk on The Paradox of Choice from psychologist Barry Schwartz which now has 12 million views. Schwartz recounts wearing the same style jeans for decades and then going back to the store years later: there were so many styles he didn’t know where to start. All he wanted was the same simple style he had before. I didn’t realize how much this would ring true as time progressed with the proliferation of materialism.

I passed by the following at a local convenient store and was hit with the paradox of choice.

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Luckily I didn’t need orthotics but this wall immediately led to a plethora of questions running through my mind. How should I choose the orthotics that are best for me? Should I come back because I assume the racks that are empty are the most popular and thus the best product? Maybe I should start looking for reviews online but there are 30+ options here and that would be extremely time consuming. I could consider speaking with a sales associate but then again there are probably several thousand products in the convenient store and what are the chances the sales associate has an expertise in orthotics? Should I narrow down my choice by not going with an option that is on sale because items that go on sale don’t sell well? Even if by some stretch I did find a good option, they may not have the right size.

Here are some perhaps rationale thoughts to tackle this quagmire: 1) Categorize the orthotics. For example, do certain products advertise they are specifically for pronation. 2) Look for a brand that appears reputable. Dr. Scholls is a recognized brand here I see. Satisfaction guaranteed language may instill confidence in the product or maybe there’s an industry/customer ranking on the packaging. 3) Compare the price and review the packaging to understand what may be the rationale for that premium. 4) Consider my intent. Do I plan to wear these for just a few days to bring on a trip or am I looking for to use them for a long time. Remember the mental model that, “cheap things are not good, and good things are not cheap”.

The old way would be nice here. I’d like to go to an old fashion shoemaker and get a proper fitting. But maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a way for an automatic selection to be made using AI based on a body scan that I had at my recent annual physical or via an app on my cell phone. Maybe my internet cookies could understand my preferences or my transaction data would know what type of fit I’ve selected for other related products (e.g. socks or shoes). Finally, maybe AI could sync to a friend or family member so I can see what worked for them in the past.

Boy, that was a headache. Good thing the orthotic aisle is next to the pain reliever aisle. But wait, which headache pain medication should I buy?

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