Saturday, November 14, 2015

Choice Confuses and We Don't Need It

It was on the cards and when they – Uchumi, finally announced the closure of their Uganda operations, I could hardly contain my excitement – not because I had beef with them, its management style, the employees or what they sold. Rather, it had to do with stress.

A week ago, the affable Simon Kaheru, was stressed with Telecom Provider over their work ethics in installing internet in Friends office. I did sympathize and will tell you that the stress Kaheru and I faced, is all down to having ‘too much of choice’.

Today we have streams of supermarkets, FM stations, bufundas, soft drinks, schools and coffees. Let’s take coffee for example. Back in the old days – pre-1986, Waitress would ask: “African or English?” Sometimes she didn’t bother asking and served according to her whim.

Today when you walk into Good African Coffee or Java, Waitress with a chirpy and enthusiastic voice will ‘stress’ you with choice: “A a cappuccino, mocha, latte, café au lait, expresso, Americano, macchiato, doppio, or risretto?” It’s too much of a stress trying to decide which of the nine coffees to have.

Why can’t she be like Old Skool Waitress with the bored voice, the deadpan face who with a grudge, would slam down her grandmothers flask of lukewarm water and one that’s bigger than your average home water tank, a tin of Nescafe with the tin foil pulled half way back and a small jug of milk designed to spill the milk all over the table? While Old Skool Waitress would annoy, she never stressed me and I’m sure she wouldn’t stress Kaheru either. As we try to get to grips with our stresses, we need to know who is responsible so we can bring them to book.

Ah, it’s Marketing Executive. He told us that ‘choice’ when MTN, Shoprite, DStv, Game and Nakumatt and the rest hit town, would give us freedom and autonomy to decide what WE want. He also promised supermarket shelves laden with brands and that if Offspring didn’t get into Makerere, we shouldn’t fret because there is KIU, Nkumba, Ndejje and other universities which are equally as good. He also told us that if we didn’t want to listen to Ssalongo John reel off 100 dead people names per minute as he tore through e’birango on Radio Uganda, there would be hundreds of FM stations we could tune into.

Marketing Executive didn’t lie. But rather than give it to us kidogo kidogo, he gave us the entire 40ft container in one go that I literally break into a cold sweat walking down the Nakumatt aisle and stop at the dairy shelf to find twelve+ brands of butter displayed. I opt for salted Danish but when I get to the checkout counter, everybody else has gone with a UK brand.

Suddenly I feel everybody is staring into my trolley and wanting to berate me for going Danish that I ‘pee my pants’ and head back for the UK brand, when I spot the French brand boasting of having ‘50% extra’. 50% extra what? It’s time for my tab to consult Google.

Getting home, more stress lurks in the living room. Should I watch Urban TV, Bukedde, Bukedde 1 or, one of the ten or so other TV stations plus another 60+ that satellite TV has to offer? Jeez, I really can’t decide!

The presidential campaigns are also stressing. Who am I going to vote for? In the old days, I didn’t stress because Idi Amin always decided for me.

So let’s get rid of choice, bring back the days of ‘we only have one brand’ like Tree Top juice, Tip Top bread, Nescafe, Blue Band, Marie biscuits, Radio Uganda and I’ll have less grey hair to pluck out.


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