When Does Choice Become Confusion?

December 3, 2007

It’s no state secret that we, as consumers, are given more and more choices in everything we seek to buy. Enter any supermarket and you’re probably as amazed as I am at exactly how many different types of cheese or hair shampoo there are. If you’re a short, white, ginger-haired, middle-aged, dry-skinned, flaky scalped kind of fellow, there will be a conditioner just for you! Try asking ‘what salad dressings do you have’ when asked if you’d like one in any restaurant in the US and you’ll be confused by the time your waitress has reached number three (of fifteen).

Choice is great of course: how boring would it be to always have to have the same thing, in the same colour, with the same taste? Every .. single .. time.

But when is it too much? At what point do we cross from choice to just confusion?

We were looking for a new mobile phone for my wife at the weekend. Being a bit of a geek I wasn’t phased by the choice of phones themselves – that’s just techie heaven. What confused (read: annoyed) me was the choice of tariffs. Or more significantly, the way in which those choices were almost deliberately designed to confuse and blind you with science.

Yes, I’d like to choose a plan that accounts for my activity. The more I pay per month, the lower my per-call cost should be. I understand that we can’t have a one-size fits all approach. But what is it with plans such as: ‘pay $14 on the $39 cap and get $140 of calls: excluding international calls, but including 5Mb of data, at $5 per month. With 200 included texts; but only on network-to-network super-maxi plan phones; on a Wednesday;in September’


It’s not a cap if I have to pay more. It’s an allowance. And I don’t want to have to then choose one of three ‘free’ add-ons that should be part of the standard plan. I want international on or off. That’s it. I shouldn’t need to know or care what network the person I am calling is on – give me a call rate and bury the cross-charges. I don’t know anyone else on your network – are you saying you’d like me to go to your competitor just so I can get cheap/free calls to my friends? Why would you want that?

As for data plans .. $5 for 5Mb? Are you serious? All of the networks here have 3 or 3.5G networks. How long would it take to burn through 5Mb of data? 15 minutes?

And don’t get me started on Australian broadband .. that’s even worse!

Give me a choice, just make it a simple one .. please!

Ok, that’s my rant for today. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest 🙂

(speaking of choice: my father was once asked in a diner in New York how he’d like his eggs. After some consideration he simply answered: ‘cooked?’)