CHOICES are wonderful. Choices are also troublesome. Have too many, and you might end up in that uncomfortable, stressful situation called indecision. Have too little, and you whinge and whine.
Not too long ago, when the semester holidays had just started, I had to attend a strings concert, and true to form, I devoted a whole hour to selecting a dress suitable for the occasion. First, I picked out a white-to-orange ombré dress, then a maroon flare-skirt and a black skater skirt, before fishing out some less formal numbers: a jump-suit, a floral romper, an off-shoulder blouse, and some more nonsense I can’t even remember. And in the end, what did I go with? The plainest thing in my closet: a juniper T-shirt, and a black-and-white checkered shorts.
Talk about foolish. Choices have a way of revealing our insecurities, and how we can easily be swayed, us fastidious, fickle-minded fools. So when retailers set out to lure their customers, they lay their traps with choices in mind. And poor suckers like me end up getting five pairs of Uniqlo jeans, all of which work equally hard, though the three black ones seem to be more favored than the grey and maroon ones. Why I own five is beyond me, since two, from a truly practical standpoint, would be sufficient.
Choices in the ever-changing, shape-shifting world of bling and retail is glorious for the consumer, especially the adventurous and the well-heeled. But let’s not forget the cheapskate, whose money is also king. Madam Miser would just as much enjoy picking out clothes at Far East Plaza or TEMT for as little as five bucks, as much as Big Spender Tai Tai would go gaga at Gucci or Ferragamo. Then there’s that mid-tier range of shoppers: they’ve got their own haunts for clothes, homeware, you name it.
There’s something for everyone, and that is a good thing. It’s what we call the economy, a landscape of vibrant commerce fueled by democracy and the grand understanding that variety is what drives our existence. If you don’t care for Apple’s iPhone, you can go for an Android. And if you’re not a Samsung girl, you still have XiaoMi. This is the name of the capitalistic game. It is alive and kicking, with competition clawing aggressively for marketshare everyday, 24/7.
No competition, no innovation, no growth.
Picture the good old days when Singapore Telecom was a monopoly, until StarHub and M1 came along. Surely, this can’t be a bad thing, having three versus one telco provider.
We all live for variety, whether it’s a Levis we like or a Calvin Klein we covet, or a Valrhona for a luxurious treat versus a Lindt just for that touch of sweet. If I were rich, give me a Calvin Klein anytime, and yes, let me have the Valrhona. But didn’t someone tell me that Guittard is even more upmarket, those bean-to-bar artisans who craft chocolate for the experts? Why not let me have that too? Oh, and while I’m at it, forget the iPhone 6S, the Samsung Galaxy S7, give me a Vertu. You see where I’m going.
We may all live for variety, but we’re all horribly human with needs so infinite nothing can stop us.
Give me a Lexus, and I’d just as soon be looking out for a BMW, before growing all weak at the thought of an Aston Martin. The ladder keeps climbing. So ask me if choices are a good thing, I’d be hard-pressed to say “Yes, it is,” and “No, it’s not.”
Lim Zhi Yi, Secondary Three
For more essays by Zhi Yi, visit Zhi Yi Writes.
This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2015 exam, Question #3:
Shoppers have too much choice, from chocolate bars to jeans. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having many things to choose from?
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