mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The paradox of lack of choice...

Much has been said about expanding consumer choice in recent years. Thanks to technology that makes it easier to make small batches of products and better distribution through things like the internet, consumers have more of a variety of goods to choose from than ever before. Some people have even theorized that we have too much choice, which I've looked at before.

So if we have so much choice, why am I drinking a Diet Pepsi right now, when I'd prefer, say, a Diet Mountain Dew?

I'm at work, and while I usually bring a 12-pack of soda to work and keep some in the fridge (because I'm cheap), I forgot to put any in the fridge, and I'm starting to fade due to lack of caffeine, so I went in search of a tasty beverage to the vending machine area of the building. Alas, the only beverage that met my requirements (diet and caffeinated) was DP.

The irony is that the machines we have were designed to allow for a wide variety of choice. They are the glass-front design (like these , where there are a bunch of rows and you can see what is in each row. That means that they can be stocked with a wide variety of beverages instead of just a few like on traditional machines with buttons.

Except they never are. They have Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, water, a couple kinds of juices, a couple kinds of iced tea, Gatorade, and one flavor of Frappaccino. Despite the dozens of regular and diet sodas out there, the only soda you can get is Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. And the stock in there is planned - they have actually magic-markered what to stock on the side of the inside of the machine so the driver knows what to put.

Now, I know this is the vending machine company, Aramark, and not the college or Pepsi. But it seems stupid to have a machine where you can put a bunch of different stuff in, only to have a couple varieties.

I guess part of it is that, if you are going to buy out of a vending machine, you probably will buy something even if what you really are craving is out. But there probably are some people who pass it by because they don't like what is in it.

I've noticed the same thing with convenience stores and fast food restaurants. They usually only have one diet soda in the fountain, despite the large number of diet soda drinkers out there. I give props to Chick-Fil-a, which has been putting Diet Dr. Pepper in a bunch of their stores, and to Sheetz, the only place I've ever seen Diet Mountain Dew in a fountain. But why can't other stores follow their lead and offer their customers more choices?

I'm sure there are other examples out there where retailers miss obvious opportunities to deliver the varieties that consumers crave.


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