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COLUMN: A mind-numbing search for granola

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices on the grocery store shelves
There are plenty of varieties of granola available on the store shelves. (

It was supposed to be a quick and simple cereal purchase.

I was at the grocery store the other day to pick up some granola for tomorrow’s breakfast. This isn’t a complicated item and it should have been a simple matter to run in, go to the cereal aisle and pick up a bag.

However, it wasn’t quite that simple.

The cereal aisle — along with pretty much every aisle in the store — offered a lot of choices.

There are multiple companies producing granola and similar breakfast cereals, and each one has its own flavours and varieties. If I’m looking for cereal, but not necessarily granola, I’ll encounter even more choices. The cereal aisle in any grocery store is going to be quite long.

Customers also face a lot of choices when looking for coffee, tea, pasta, yogurt, ice cream and other foods.

The plethora of choices can be just as overwhelming outside of the grocery store.

Try shopping for a computer, a smartphone or other electronic items. The selection can be mind-numbing. It’s even more overwhelming when signing up for a cell phone plan, as many companies are offering special deals, packages or limited-time sales offers.

And once someone has the phone and the plan, there are more decisions to be made about the cell phone case and a pair of earbuds. Some of the offerings are great quality and value, while a few are best avoided.

The overabundance of selection today is a far cry from Henry Ford’s statement in 1909, about his Model T automobile which had been introduced a year earlier.

“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black,” he said at the time.

Today, Ford has a huge selection of cars, trucks and vans, and they come in a variety of colours. And Ford isn’t the only motor vehicle company either. Customers looking for a vehicle have plenty of selection — maybe too much.

In recent years, studies have been conducted on choice overload. These have included psychology research and business studies, and they show that it is possible to have too many options available to consumers.

This can also be bad for business. If a customer is overwhelmed with choices, he or she may simply leave the store without buying anything.

Sure, there are ways to narrow down the choices.

Some publications dealing with technology will put together their own product reviews, going into detail on how the product performed in each of several categories. These can be useful, but they take some time to read and evaluate. And it will still be difficult if not impossible to review every option on the market.

Some online retailers have customer reviews and ratings.

These can also work well, unless a product receives five-star ratings from half the respondents and one-star ratings from the other half.

One friend of mine has been posting short video reviews of potato chips. He has been doing this for quite a few months, and he isn’t close to running out of new chips to taste.

With a big-ticket purchase, I’ll do some research before buying.

For smaller items, like the bag of cereal, I’m not too interested in finding consumer reports and user reviews.

I’d rather get into the store, buy some granola and go home.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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