Friday, December 21, 2007

All Things are not Created Equal and Other Shopping Myths

I was faced with one of those dreadful shopping dilemmas yesterday: I had to replace the milchig slotted spoons I use for cooking and stirring. 36 years of use have taken their toll and even my husband noticed their condition. Now what is the big deal about replacing 2 spoons, you well may ask. Had you asked me that yesterday morning I, too, would have said "no big deal." That was before I tried to buy them.

It should have been easy--just head into Shoprite, go the the household items and pick up the two spoons. What faced me, however, was the result of consumerism run amok in America. There were 8 different brands of spoons being sold. Four of those brands had two different styles of spoon available. Three of the brands had three different styles of spoon available. For three of the brands the spoons and styles came in different sizes. The size of the bowl of the spoons varied considerably. And yes, in addition, the spoons came in different handle colors and different materials. Some of the handles were "specially padded for ease of handling." Some of the spoons were dishwasher safe and some were not. A few of the spoons said that they were safe for use only up to 400 degrees of temperature. One of the spoons warned consumers not to scratch the spoon or they could not guarantee full service. What they all seemed to share in common was their price--$7.99 and up. I walked away without the spoons.

When I have to spend as much time in deciding which spoon to buy as I would in deciding which car to buy then something is wrong. When spoons come "name branded" then something is wrong. When spoons come with "warning" tags then something is wrong. For too long we have worked on the assumption that having more choice equates to having better choices. Maybe in some things, but not in far too many.

The woman next to me in the aisle had a can opener in her hand, yet she was still looking at all the other can openers available. I made the comment to her that manufacturers must think we are all stupid. She agreed, but then added "But I have to check them all out just in case they are right and I am wrong."

I thought of her comment while driving home. Very often we find something that will suit us just fine, that we like, that will do the job that needs to be done, that is the price that we are willing to pay for it, and yet we continue shopping, all based on the premise that maybe, just maybe, there will be something "better" down the road. Maybe "they" are right and we are wrong. Sometimes the differences in the products we see are all in our head--we are conditioned to think there are differences so of course we "find" them. We somehow refuse to see that in some areas, all "things" are indeed equal--one is as good as the other.

I'm just not a very gullible shopper. I refuse to waste time trying to find the absolutely perfect spoon. There are very few things that I value enough to put hours and hours of comparison shopping into. Certainly not clothes. Definetly not spoons.

I headed straight for the 99 cent store near the house and there I found my old spoons only new ones. They were on special: buy one, get one. And for the difference between what the spoons cost me and what I would have had to pay at Shoprite, I bought myself a book to read, one that the rest of the family will enjoy as well.

We need to learn to reorder our priorities. We need to learn which things are worthy of having time spent on them and which are not. We need to learn that for some things the first one you pick up is as good as the last one. And some things are just not worth the price charged, no matter how prestigious the brand. And yes, for some things, but just some, you need to carefully look at what the selections are and make a choice based on what you need from the item, not what the manufacturer would like you to need.

I'm sitting here gritting my teeth and girding my loins--I need a new fleishig stock pot. What awaits me in the stores is just too horrible to contemplate right now.


Anonymous said...

For me it was a potato peeler. I figured it should take me one minute tops to go in the store, get the peeler and get to the checkout. I wish!

I wish one of my kids had spent as much time in deciding what to major in in college as she does every time she goes to buy a pair of shoes. You're right--everything should not be equal.

Anonymous said...

My Shabbos crockpot had to be replaced thanks to a kindly helping husband who didn't believe that the insert could possibly be so hot that he needed potholders to grab it out and then dropped it on the floor when it burned him. I refused to have to spend a day shopping around for another one. I got on the internet, typed in the name of the exact crockpot I had and found it in about 3 minutes. Maybe shopping for home items was fun as a kallah but it sure is not now. A day I don't spend shopping for the ridiculous is a day I can spend with my family or do things for myself.

Anonymous said...

I don't shop for anything unless at gunpoint. When forced I give myself 5 minutes in the store. After that I'm out of there. Isn't that what mothers and wives are for? To save men from the evil of shopping?

Orthonomics said...

Super post. I can relate completely. Sometimes I will be standing in a store looking at the items in front of me thinking that I spent less time looking at the homes we have purchased over the years, for which the repercusions are far greater than the shape of a pyrex, pattern on a crock pot, or features on plastic storage. Oy!