Analysis paralysis

24 11 2014

It’s such a burdensome and frustrating experience to make a purchase decision in this highly consumeristic world. I’m simply overwhelmed by the number of choices available, which results in a number of decisions at every step.

I’m basically a rational person, who usually likes to evaluate alternatives and make an informed decision. But of late, I am trying to avoid or at least control analysis paralysis by not analyzing too deeply certain decisions which won’t have a considerable impact to my lifestyle. But alas! It’s easier said than done.

Let me give a personal example. All I wanted to get myself is a smartphone. I started with great enthusiasm. The first and foremost decision to take is – the brand and model. Which one? Samsung or iPhone? Ok, I mulled over it for a week. I consciously steered away from rationally listing down pros and cons of various models, which consumes lot of time and energy. Somehow I zeroed in on iPhone. Yay!! I briefly congratulate myself on reaching this milestone with minimum effort.

Next comes the decision about the carrier. It seemed easier. AT&T. Because people all around me are using the same service. I just accepted their wisdom and refused to do my own analysis to convince myself. Another victory. Yay!

But “picture abhi baaki hai mere dost” (the story is not over, my friend)! I now need to select the plan. It’s right here that my head starts spinning. There are AT&T Next and 2 year Contract besides the option of buying the unlocked phone upfront and then use a mobile share plan. Of course, I also need to consider my data usage, sharing possibilities and so forth. It seems simple and straight-forward as I put it out here, but actually it’s not. It took me a lot of time, energy and effort – constantly going over the options, reading reviews, and evaluating them.

Even as I start getting irksome about the whole elaborate process, it gets worse. I also need to check for the “deals”. How I hate it! Grrr! 👿  It’s often difficult to ignore the lure of the “deals” because they have the potential to save you significant number of bucks. In the case of not budging and insisting on the straight path and buying for the MRP, there is a high possibility of feeling cheated when folks all around you get the same stuff and more much cheaper.

With “deals”, you have to be watchful, scour the websites for updates, wait, and then pounce. Meanwhile, rest assured, one will be spending significant amount of time and resources on the internet and related stuff. Even after all these, it is possible that you may not be 100% sure that you got the best deal. In order to get certain level of confidence, you have to increase the intensity of your search and give it your best. And think about the processing effort – the strain on our brains!! 🙄

It’s the same case for any other significant purchase (read – “worth more than few tens of bucks”). Today’s consumer market is not for the lazy. It demands considerable effort on the part of the consumer. If you want to get the best for your money, you have to spend lots of time, energy, and other resources. Otherwise, you are a fool.

Even after all these years, I don’t get used to this idea and I fume every time I’m compelled to go through this process.

It’s the same with Tax Savings too. Agreed that, government wants to incentivize good behavior (aka savings), it’s not very clear for a layman what all constitutes “good behavior”. After a few basic things, it all gets murky and we are tempted to leave the planning to tax professionals. Why to make it so difficult in the first place is my question. (Other than providing bread and butter for the tax experts, that is. 😛 )

With the myriad of options for almost every product/service, the consumer is undergoing analysis paralysis. Does anyone bother about the collective effect of this? – how much stressful it is for the people, leading to lower well-being; how much productivity loss with all the time and energy that is spent on the process of purchasing?

It’s the curse of “maximizing”. The sellers are just trying to take advantage of this “toxic mental habit” of us. And we feel helpless as we are going deeper and deeper into its vicious jaws.

More on “choices, consumerism, analysis paralysis, maximizing vs satisficing” to come.

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