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Too many places to spend our money

June 3rd, 2007 at 03:36 pm

We spent the day at Jersey Gardens. For those not from the area, Jersey Gardens is the largest outlet mall in New Jersey. We go there about once a year as we do get some good deals, much better than at local stores or malls. The mall occupies a plot of land about the size of Rhode Island, across the road from Newark Airport.

Anyway, I was looking at the directory while DW and DD were in one store and I couldn't help but think about why people overspend so much. There are just way too many choices of where to spend our money. Years ago, we didn't have such choice and variety. Shopping options were quite limited compared with today.

The directory of shops certainly reflects the typical differences between men and women. There are 33 women's apparel stores, 23 for kids and just 10 selling excusively men's apparel. Got feet? There are no fewer than 33 shoe stores at the mall.

For those who would argue that at least clothes and shoes are necessities to a point that we all need from time to time, the list doesn't stop there. Need some bling? Jersey Gardens has 22 jewelry stores. Want to smell better? There are 9 perfume stores with such creatively varied names as Perfume Boutique, Perfume Forever, Perfume Romance, Perfumania and the romantic French-sounding La Perfumerie. Do we really need all that? Perhaps your cell phone is on the fritz. There are 7 cell phone vendors on hand.

The choice and variations of what to buy and where to buy it, I think, just encourages people to spend more and more money on stuff they probably don't really need. And this isn't limited to clothing and accessories. The same thing is true at the grocery store. In 1970, the average grocery store carried about 9,000 items. Today, that number is well over 40,000. On one supermarket trip, I counted over 200 choices in the cereal aisle alone.

Or go to the toiletries department at Target or WalMart and see the variety of deodarants or toothpastes or shaving creams. They come in every imaginable color, style, fragrance, etc. Women, do you really care if your legs smell like mango/kiwi or strawberry/banana after you shave? Does it truly matter if your armpits evoke spring rain or summer breezes?

There was a great book a few years ago called, I think, The Paralysis of Choice, in which the author talked about how many consumers are completely overwhelmed by the options when they go shopping and are often unable to make a decision, lest they pick the wrong thing.

Oh, to return to a simpler time. Stores were smaller and more manageable. People were thinner (the overabundance of food choices is part of the problem behind the obesity epidemic). And shopping was far less stressful. Plus, shopping was done more out of need and less out of entertainment value.

6 Responses to “Too many places to spend our money”

  1. JanH Says:

    Not to mention the fact that stores closed earlier and were closed on Sunday. Wow, times have changed, haven't they? That paralysis is something my DS really had. Poor thing--when he was little, give him more than a couple of choices and he was stymied. I guess it really is a wider phenomenon than I thought!

  2. LuckyRobin Says:

    See, this is why I only have a cell phone that makes phone calls. No IM, No internet, No TM, No caller I.D., voice mail, games or cameras. It doesn't do my taxes for me or clean my house. It just makes phone calls. I like simple in too many things because I don't need that many choices.

  3. disneysteve Says:

    Lucky Robin - Have you gotten a new cell phone lately? My wife and daughter got phones last month. Every phone in the store was at least a camera. All come with a couple of games already loaded. Caller ID and voice mail are standard with service. I guess you can have them turned off if you want to.

    Things get more complex whether we want them to or not.

  4. boomeyers Says:

    I guess the upside of many stores is that you can have the luxury of shopping for the cheapest price for something. Competition is not always a bad thing. I guess multiple stores are just bad if you are a shopaholic.

  5. daylily Says:

    Great writing.
    Agreed, there are too many choices in shopping now.

  6. disneysteve Says:

    "I guess the upside of many stores is that you can have the luxury of shopping for the cheapest price for something."
    Actually, that isn't so easy. Why? Many of the major chains get items made exclusively for them. Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, and others do this. It makes it very difficult to compare items evenly. Plus, you'd drive yourself crazy trying.

    I'm also talking about choice within one store. For example, go in Target and look at hair blow dryers. There are about 20 different models. Clothes irons? Also 15-20 to choose from. It is ridiculous.

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