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The Paradox of Choice (Too much choice?)

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The only place I've come across too much choice is Subway.

You have to go through a damn interrogation to get a sandwich.

I was thinking the same thing. I have always found it funny that if, for example, I order a Southwest Steak and Chipotle sandwich, they still ask what I want on it at every single step. I mean, I have ordered a Southwest Steak and Chipotle. Surely they must have a recipe for creating that sandwich. There's a picture of it up on the menu. A menu chef created it a certain way in the Subway test kitchen. There is clearly a way to make it so that it matches that picture and recipe. I want to try that sandwich. Why have sandwiches with descriptive names if you get asked at every step what you want on it? Am I only ordering a sandwich "platform?" If so, why not structure the menu so it's somewhat more a-la-carte?

Is the problem the average Subway "sandwich artist?" Are they all so concrete-bound that they cannot hold a concept of what a Southwest Steak and Chipotle sandwich is?

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I was thinking the same thing. I have always found it funny that if, for example, I order a Southwest Steak and Chipotle sandwich, they still ask what I want on it at every single step. I mean, I have ordered a Southwest Steak and Chipotle. Surely they must have a recipe for creating that sandwich. There's a picture of it up on the menu. A menu chef created it a certain way in the Subway test kitchen. There is clearly a way to make it so that it matches that picture and recipe. I want to try that sandwich. Why have sandwiches with descriptive names if you get asked at every step what you want on it? Am I only ordering a sandwich "platform?" If so, why not structure the menu so it's somewhat more a-la-carte?

Is the problem the average Subway "sandwich artist?" Are they all so concrete-bound that they cannot hold a concept of what a Southwest Steak and Chipotle sandwich is?

I know a Subway "Sandwich Artist", and the problem is this.

The things advertised aren't actual sandwiches, just fillings (one part of the sandwich). Each filling can come on one of 5 different breads.

Some fillings, such as meatball, also have optional extras (such as parmesan and oregano). All sandwiches then have the option of cheese, and being toasted.

Once toasted (or not) there is a choice of salad, and there is a huge choice.

You can then choose the sauce you want on it, no matter how weird the combination is, and then salt and pepper.

So the thing advertised is only 1/7th of the sandwich. But it makes very little difference, because most of their food tastes the same.

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I understand the problem of 'too much' choice, as I am very indecisive, wanting to maximise utility sometimes to the point of paralysis on even very insignificant choices. I resolve the problem by sticking to what I know for the most part, I am a creature of habit. My dad laughs that I am such an ardent capitalist when I have such difficulty making choices, but fails to understand that even regardless of the moral imperative, principles and individual rights, capitalism allows me to maximise my utility by providing services and goods at a low price - or that my difficulty to make decisions is in any way relevant. The idea that there is too much choice is similar to the idea that ignorance is bliss which is bad enough, but it is disgusting that someone could suggest that because they can't make their mind up, that this somehow justifies government force to limit the choices of others.

There is a great TED talk by Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti sauce that deals with choice and maximising utility, he may have hair like Sideshow Bob but I highly recommend it. It is 17 mins long. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/malcolm_...etti_sauce.html

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You clearly haven't bought gas (petrol) in the US then. Some pumps you have to answer 5 questions (only one of which is selecting the grade of gasoline) before you can finally pump the damned gas. Five questions when you have three choices!!

1. Hi, how are you?

2. What grade?

3. How much?

4. How will you pay?

5. Wanna date me?

Seems like 5 perfectly reasonable questions. :)

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It's undoubtedly more difficult making choices when there are more to choose from, even for ice cream flavors as opportunity costs slow down the decision-making process, but I like an ice cream store that sells 30 flavors better than a store that only sells three (given that quality, etc, are all equal). Even if I do end up choosing one of three flavors provided in the second store, I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that it was my choice, my decision that narrowed the flavors down to one. I don't want to shirk the responsibility of thinking for myself by letting the second store think for me and limit my choices.

As for the Subway sandwich, for the sake of convenience, the store could just add the option of a standard sandwich in the beginning. I mean, it would save their employees the time the interrogation would take and potentially serve more customers, right? :D

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In an ice cream store, having "too many choices" just means you want to choose more than one of them, so you have to choose among your choices. It isn't really a complaint.

There are psychological problems some people have with making choices, due to feeling that your choice, besides satisfying yourself, needs to meet with the approval of significant others. If your choices are seen as reflecting on you as choices, given the world's predominant values, or your family's values, etc., the choice itself becomes difficult, and can present incompatible valuations--like, it is what you'd yourself enjoy most, but it would be diss-ed by your friends.

This is, of course, the "social metaphysical" mentality, and can be better understood and dealt with in light of that classification.

-- Mindy

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I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet but this question has a very interesting connection to Ayn Rand. I had to Google a few keywords to find the actual story, which I remembered involved Ayn Rand's sister and toothpaste. The story is recounted on this blog: http://flyunderthebridge.blogspot.com/2005/06/facts-are-wrong-analysis-is-silly.html

Here is the relevant text:

Too many toothpastes for you? That was true for Ayn Rand's sister in the 1960s too. As Barbara Branden related the story in her biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand, upon Rand discovering that she had a sister who'd survived World War II in Leningrad, she brought her and her husband to New York to live with her. But it didn't go well, as the sister had no skills to cope with life in a capitalist country.

The straw that broke the camel's back was a trip to a drugstore that overwhelmed the sister with the multiplicity of choices of toothpaste.

In Russia there was only the toothpaste you were given, here there was Colgate, Pepsodent, Ipana, Crest, Arm and Hammer, Macleans. Even though her husband's weak heart needed the attention available only in American hospitals, she returned with him to Leningrad, because she was unable to handle the complexities of shopping in America.

That does seem paradoxical!

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