Meeting Customer Needs Mislabeled As Excessive Choice

This article, titled “When Fewer Choices Mean Bigger Returns,” is not geared to me, for I like choices and the research involved¹ in some of them. However, it’s refreshing that at least there is no request for someone outside the private marketplace to limit choices. Consider:

This point came rushing back to me the other day when I heard a radio commercial for Wal-Mart in which the company boasted about how small its selection of HDTVs was. The spot wasn’t apologizing for Wal-Mart’s lack of selection, nor was it saying the fact that Wal-Mart carried fewer options than the competition didn’t matter. The commercial actually touted the fact that Wal-Mart had improved the HDTV buying process by limiting its selection to only the most popular models.

The author appreciates this because he is overwhelmed with the number of available HDTV choices. Fair enough. If you’re content with the small selection Wal-Mart offers, you’re being catered to perfectly. I don’t prefer that method, because I know that the right possibility for me might be something I’m not aware exists. So this is not a chore:

If they can go to Wal-Mart and choose from a handful models that will do the job just fine for the average person, they will be happier than if they are required to sort through 40 or 50 models at Best Buy or Circuit City.

Again, I find this article useful in that it only makes the case that a business may meet its customers’ needs by doing some of the work for them. Free enterprise doesn’t have to mean every person has to try 500 brands of toothpaste. Where the author’s thinking is dangerous, though, is that “required to sort through 40 or 50 models” is an excuse for central planners to argue that too much choice is bad.

No one is required to do any research, of course. But if I like research and want to buy a TV that few people buy, there’s still a market. I may pay more for Best Buy to stock that model, but if it’s worth it to me, I’ll pay and Best Buy will make a profit. Whether or not that’s likely is subjective, but I am the person best-suited to being the decider.

¹ Ask Danielle how true this statement is.