When less is more

“Laughing at your mistakes can lengthen your life” 
- Shakespeare

On more than a few occasions our amchigelomam has driven me around Toronto and gotten lost in the maze of traffic Even with GPS. “Trust your grey matter more than GPS ”that is my mantra, boasts amchigelomam. It happened again to our mam trying to maneuver for a parking spot at a Blue Jays game. amchigelomam explained, kasal karache, I am not alone – a man not wanting to ask for directions.“Call it manhood, trust your instinct, high testosterone, or men are from Mars and women are
from Venus…

The same holds true for amchigelomam while going grocery shopping. “I do not need to write down five things, it is all in my head.” This is exactly what   amchigelomam said to his loving wife  as he headed to the store. But then, once in the supermarket, there he was standing in front of a 20-foot long yogurt section. Staring at all the white stuff. So much to choose from, no wonder his mind went blank. All he could remember was Dahi. What brand? What size? What kind?. Lost in thoughts.

Amchigelomam wondered if he was being indecisive or is there simply too much choice these days to make his mind go blank. All these tubs of yogurt make your head spin. Should I pick Astro, Liberty, Danone, President’s choice? Should I pick up the 5%, 3%, 2% or zero fat; high protein, Greek style, Organic, light, creamy, soya, lactose….And this is before even getting to all the flavours or sizes. Of course, there is an option of calling home, but that would be admitting defeat. That is not in
amchigelomam’s  dictionary.

Amchigelomam reached out for a container with a bold caption “ take me home you will love it”. Once home, just a look in his wife’s  loving  eyes told the story of having picked the wrong item and wrong size. Never mind a  certain lecture from mai, for missing out on sale items. Amchigelomam wondered how  did the supermarket put a googly in his eyes, when all he wanted was a simple plain Dahi. A typical major supermarket chain carries 50,000 over different items. It is not just the yogurt that has gotten out of hand. Entire  isles are dedicated to just breakfast cereals or cookies or soups just to name a few. With hair colours,  I bet there are at least 10 different shades of Brown alone.

Supermarkets offer a great quantitative choice but not a qualitative choice. The longer they can grab your attention with time, the more likely it is you will spend more. Next time you are at the supermarket, take a look for yourself. On the surface in any given category each
product available appears different. Yet when you take a closer look, they are surprisingly similar behind a wall of clever marketing. Confused while shopping, amchigelomam is not alone. For example, compare Shreddies, Shredded wheat, honey coated shreddies, and wheatabix. At a quick glance, all have different boxes, but looking closely at their ingredients they are all similar – mostly wheat, sugar and additives. 

Every season, clever marketers design a new box and then distribute coupons to entice you to break old habits and try their “new” product, at possibly a higher price. . Line extensions are what they are rather than innovations. Call it “retail choice overload”.

One way to not get duped by marketers is to compare products in a nerdy way. Analysing the sizes and doing mental math to figure out the price per 100 grams.  Am I out for an enjoyable shopping experience
or for mental  math practice?  Marketers know that most of us are not mathletes, and this is why it is so easy for them to always stay a step ahead of us consumers. 

This is also one reason farmer’s markets have taken off in recent years. Most shoppers want a curated experience and quality over quantity. I agree, less is more. To verify the concept of “ less is more”, I looked at the stock prices . Below are the stock prices for Costco, with their business model of limited choice, compared to major Canadian supermarkets offering unlimited choice. Financial markets, like shoppers, have also voted with their dollars that less is more. (in full disclosure I do not hold any stock of Costco in my investments).

                  May 2011          May 2021       
 Costco           82                    378                     
 Loblaws         35                     74         
 Metro           57.42            58.76.  
 Sobeys         17.55              32.51
Just goes to show more is not necessarily better. That evening at dinner time, amchigelomam admitted to his better half, that choosing between different yogurts was not easy, and I made a mistake but choosing my life partner was easy, and I have made a perfect choice,  mai just rolled her eyes and said “thataastu!”

Here is a quiz from amchigelomam:
World price of pure Saffron is about 10 dollars a gram, how come locally you can get a Saffron for about a dollar a gram?

About the author…
Madhav Shanbhag holds a Ph.D in biochemistry. In his retirement, he enjoys encouraging budding entrepreneurs and imparting the wisdom of our rich culture…