Unlike clothes, I enjoy shopping for groceries. Never once have I walked out of a grocery store exhausted. Never have I stood in a cheese aisle stunned with indecision. Why is shopping for groceries so much different than shopping for clothes? Is it because I have to eat? Also, am I really making a statement or keeping up with the Joneses when selecting a butternut squash? Still, I find the further food moves away from sustenance and more towards fun the more indecision creeps into the aisles.
The other day I was waiting for a gentleman to pick out a couple of pints of ice cream. He stood in front of the selections with the door wide open for so long, the warm humidity of the waiting crowd fogged over all the windows.
I could understand the delay. Some of the ice cream brands get so creative with the names you don’t even know what you are getting. As a test, which of the below is an actual name for a pint of ice cream.
- FOX TROT CHOCOLATE
- DISCO TANGELO
- FLAMBE FLAMENCO
That’s right, none of them. See how much time you wasted coming to that conclusion. No pun intended but people are frozen with indecision:
CUSTOMER: You told me already, but what is in the Mango Malta?
SERVER: Mango and malt.
CUSTOMER: Hmmm, interesting.
SERVER: (Not really.)
CUSTOMER: Can I try a sample of the Yellow Brick Road?
SERVER: You did already.
CUSTOMER: I did?
SERVER: Yes, between the Watermelon Waterloo and Paddy Peppermint.
CUSTOMER: And what was in it again, the Yellow Brick Road?
SERVER: Banana, graham crackers, chocolate chunks and swirls of caramel.
CUSTOMER: I don’t think I had caramel in my sample.
CUSTOMER: It may have made a difference.
SERVER: (Not likely.)
Currently, we are in the middle of a craft beer boom. The phenomena may seem new but there is precedence. After all, that’s how it started when people got around on horse and buggy. But where most ale was brewed in the 1500’s as an alternative to poisonous river water, today’s beers are more concerned about setting themselves apart.
Take the 2017 Minnesota State Fair. There were seventy beer vendors selling over three hundred beers. That is a new beer for every day of the year if you give your liver Sundays off to rest. And with so many selections, you can understand how you can end up with beers like:
- MINT MOO JOOS FRIKEN
- MINI DONUT BEER
- DILL PICKLE BEER
In the midst of this renaissance, I’ve come to realize I don’t much prefer drinking beers that taste like food. I really don’t need to take a deep quaff and say, “Wow, I can really taste the kale. Is that kale?” I also don’t have that one beer I would take with me to a deserted island with my pot of gold, TV, shrimp bar and messenger bag filled with 10 of the 100 Most Essential Novels. This notion came to me in the form of a question when I picked up a New York City lager at a local liquor store.
I really like the beer but I wasn’t prepared to defend it when the cashier started asking about my selection. He said the lager wasn’t selling and although serviceable, his overall impression was it didn’t have much to offer, as in no PIZZAZZ!!!
I really didn’t know what to say for most of my beer selections derive less from showing a refined taste and more based on what is on sale. The cashier wanted me to mount a passionate plea to save this beer but I wanted him to lower the price if nobody else wanted to buy it.
Still, I’m glad to be part of this beer movement. We have it so much better than previous generations. Never once did I have to stand up in front of a crowd and shout, “Schlitz is the best!” But with so many selections can we possibly play favorites? Is it even possible to know the best? Do we need the best? How many samples must we try and how many brain cells must we kill to find greener and greener pastures?
There are those who search and search for that perfect choice when it comes to a spouse, a home or hand soap and they constantly rue making the wrong decision. But did you know ruminating over bad decisions begets more bad decisions. When we bring regret into a decision our brains will lend the negativity more weight by clouding the process and ramping up the stress. Besides, is it really worth the time and effort to find the most perfect pick? After all, none of us are Mary Poppins. Is it not sensible for our decisions to reflect the circumstance? I personally try to land on a decision that is below perfect and well above a disaster. Nobel Laureate in Economics Herbert Simon even has a word for this.
Satifice: a cognitive heuristic that entails searching through the available alternatives until an acceptable threshold is met.
Why would an economist come up with a phrase that is so-so? Well, economics is about commerce and commerce only works if there is a flow of goods and services. To sit on the sidelines for the perfect choice is to grind the whole enterprise to a halt. To have a belief that there is a better choice is correct but not helpful. To stop, revisit and regret kills the momentum.
Still, there is merit knowing when to walk away…