Sunday, September 19, 2010


(I better have a point by the end)

I admit it shamelessly today. I have had enough with having too many choices over trivial things in this country. No offense to this great country but this whole choice thing in the All-American shopping experience sucks big time. Remember, I come from a culture where my mom likes to hold exclusive decision rights for everything - right from my toys to brown covers over my textbooks to even a bride. So, when I just came to America and saw 30 brands of ice-cream in 50 different flavors, it was natural for me to go, "woah! This is it … I am in the land of the free, home of the brave … ".   

But 4 summers later, I have gotten sore of having to sift through a countless kinds of merchandise everyday as a part of merely making it through the day. In a sparkling clear moment of a freakish traffic-collision  where self-enlightenment crashed into self-realization in reverse gear, I knew I don’t need this much of choice … esp. in shopping or eating.

Consider the following scenarios:

SCENARIO # 1 - THE COFFEE SHOP

I just step hurriedly into the coffee-shop. Without understanding my limited IQ, the clerk treats me as if I am a recreational part-time gourmet coffee connoisseur trying to review their coffee-shop for the local magazine while I just wanted to inject some caffeine in my bloodstream and run to my research meeting for which I am two hours late already.

I know many of you heard this joke but I always calmly wonder how simple it used to be.

Considering my social awkwardness, I have longer conversations with the Starbucks lady than I could in an entire evening if I ever go on a date !!!

SCENARIO #2 - THE RESTAURANT

Ordering how you precisely want your meal made was cute for two minutes in 2003 when I saw Meg Ryan do it in "When Harry met Sally". Here's a little secret about me - "Honestly, I don’t know how to make the food and besides, I don't even want to" - That is EXACTLY why I came to the restaurant. Being a vegetarian, there is generally 1 relevant option out of some 80 and after I get through the process of describing my meal + drink and the waitress goes "How do you like your eggs?" Or worse "How do you like your side salad?" .  "Hmm ... How do I like my side salad?" Answering this question has become so central to obtaining my meal and hence, staying alive that this question is presently at #2 on my list of "Must-know answers before I die". Take a look:


The goddamn Subway is even worse. I have to describe each one of the vegetables I need in my sub and too many jalapenos tend to spoil the whole meal in the end. In India, no one EVER asked me if I like my dosa crispy or my Sambar stale? That's the other end of the spectrum when I didn't even know I should complain.

SCENARIO # 3 - THE SUPERMARKET

The frickin' supermarket with its plethora of choices is so huge that finding what you are looking for is harder than locating the capital of Tunisia on a world-map while jogging on a treadmill. Besides, I could never find that simple-minded Vanilla Ice-cream I want. There are always some chocolate chips or dehydrated strawberries ruining the whole thing or it would be fat-free or lactose free or it turns out to be an ice-cream with natural vanilla flavor. If it's "naturally- flavored", why can’t they put just the real "vanilla"? What's the point of taking vanilla from nature, make a flavor out of it and then put it? Seems dumb and tastes awful !!! Anyway …

This prerequisite to be cognizant of the qualitative features of the product I intend to buy is a hell a lot of, as Alvin Toffler puts it, "nearly-traumatic information-overload". The whole ordeal of memorizing the flavors, the prices, the brands, the calorie information, the store locations and the on-going promotional sales to buy something like a bag of chips can even hurt my GPA and is proving to be a BIG pain in the pelvic posterior. Believe me, there are times when I have postponed buying a pair of jeans for 3 months because every time I went to the store, I remember some other store selling the same thing cheaper or on sale next weekend. Not just with me, research shows the same thing, we don't end up making the best choices just because there are more options even if you are bestowed with the best set of shopping genes. And, I argue, it's just a waste of time and not just because it doesn't improve my flirting skills.

More disturbing trend is how these lazy-assed, mid-level managers in these giant corporations are asking me  for marketing suggestions or just do idle marketing. What the hell is that all about?

EXHIBIT- A: Dominos Pizza is asking me to take a picture of  my pizza and send it to them which they would put it on their ads.  

"Hellooo! I already bought the pizza. There is no point in advertising it to myself. Is there?".

EXHIBIT- B: The movie "Snakes on the Plane", I heard, incorporated suggestions from the internet for Godssakes!
"In response to the Internet fan base, New Line Cinema incorporated feedback from online users into its production, and added five days of reshooting".
(Source: Wikipedia on "Snakes on the Plane")
It wasn't any shock, it turned out to be a B-grade movie that couldn't be saved even by nudity.

EXHIBIT- C: Minute Maid recently changed the shape of the apple juice bottle and advertised it as !!!NEW LOOK!!!

What?? Which Nobel-prize winning shopper would go, "oooh! New bottle. Let me have some apple juice" ?

I am convinced that these are evil ploys designed to waste my time. And worse, they are now even asking me the caption I want on my T-shirts. If I had the wit to write captions on my T-shirt, I would be having a PhD in Literature.

I have given up. I no longer even dread that look characterized by cerebral discrimination I get when I say, "jeez! I don't know what I want …!". And for the record, I also no longer consider my friend lame anymore even though he always orders the same kind of coffee. You know what, America? Give me something. Anything. I can't tell the difference anyway.

4 comments :

... said...

Cannot agree more!

Purba said...

The first time I went to a supermarket in the US of A, I was like a lost puppy. And now it's even worse...your egg or even chocolate can be organic/near organic. It may be farm fresh (excuse me I don't expect it to be otherwise)

And India is catching up too, we are now spoilt for choice.

Sash! said...

@ Purba: The way I look at it, Organic is a big hoax to charge 60% extra. It seems puzzling we have gotten to a stage where a highly industrialized process ("processed and refrigerated") costs cheaper than the simpler process of production ("organic") !!!

Rajesh said...

Wonderful post. Very humorous.

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