Less choice is often better

FOBO & Amazon

Every now and then, I’m searching for something on Amazon and end up not buying. The problem is that I get overwhelmed with choices and end up with option paralysis. In other words, a serious bout of fear of better options (FOBO). Yesterday, I was looking for a long outdoor extension cord. Amazon has 14 pages of cords which are longer than 50ft. I couldn’t make a choice. My local Home Depot only had one option. It’s easier.

With the explosion of Amazon, I find myself more often in the situation that I don’t want to buy there. There’s just too many options. I just want the best option. The best option is either determined by product attributes, price, quality or a combination of both. But often I can live with any caveats as long as I know it’s good. That’s where Amazon often is not very helpful. None of the options scream good to me.

“Amazon Recommended” is one of those solutions, but often I read the reviews and then it isn’t anymore. I wonder then if that’s a paid promotion. How does Amazon otherwise “recommend” this product to me? I don’t feel it’s a human-curated list. It feels random.

Reviews are often mixed. People have problems with the product or get “open box” version shipped by a seller.

I wish that Amazon – or someone else – could curate Amazon’s inventory and just show me 5 options. Definitely not more, maybe even less. Those options should reflect things I care about like good quality for a good price. I don’t care if it’s cheap or the best.

I think this is where retail can make a difference. Retail used to be that. You went to a specific place because of their product selection. Based on the brand, you knew you were paying the lowest price or got the best option etcetera. Nowadays, it feels like that retail is either big box and cheap or high-end expensive. There’s nothing in between.

When I want to buy a TV, I have a specific price point and size in mind. If you go to Amazon or Best Buy you could 50 different options for similar TVs. Which one is the best for me? I don’t know. I wish someone could make that decision for me or at least help me with that decision.

I know brands can do a lot here too. With Apple you know it’s expensive, but it’s also high quality. It’s like a BMW or Mercedes. It’s easy to be loyal to a brand like that. But many other brands are not consistent with their product portfolio. You can definitely buy an underpowered but cheap laptop from Dell while at the same time they offer high-end performance laptops. It’s that inconsistency that makes many brands unreliable indicators for selecting their products. You’re back relying on retailers and reviews. Often that leads to my fear of better options (FOBO).

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