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August 13, 2006


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The American consumer is so besotted with choice, I fear there's no turning back. Do we really need 12 different kinds of Wheat Thins? Oreos? Coke?


It's all about portion size. Come on, when we were kids, remember those bitty bags of chips mom would slip into your lunch, half an ounce? Today, people inhale a 5 or 8 oz. bag in a single sitting without giving it a second thought. Same with fries; remember the fries served in little 3 inch square bags? Don't get me started on Big Gulps!

There is lots of mindless round-the-clock eating going on. How about your kids' sporting events? Garbage snacks served after the game? There is no event or gathering too insignificant to warrant the groaning board! Every new electronic gizmo contributes to a more sedentary lifestyle.

I spent my childhood being banished from the house on summer days and Saturdays; "Go out and play" was the admonition. We would hop on our bikes and disappear for 10 or 12 hours, stopping in at home to gulp down a perfunctory lunch, and off we went, returning home at the end of the day spent and sweaty.

Sleep deprivation causes weight gain too. If you don't get your eight hours a night, it messes with your metabolism. If you're awake, your body senses it has to conserve energy.

The American consumer is so besotted with choice, I fear there's no turning back. Do we really need 12 different kinds of Wheat Thins? Oreos? Coke?

Personally, 99% of outlet shopping depresses me. Most of the stuff is manufactured specifically for the outlet market. The bland and predictable nature; same stores everywhere you go.

It's particularly queasy-making in Rehoboth, like you have to travel through the gates of hell to get to the other side. No getting to the beach without passing through! Escapes me that people have weekend homes there; navigating through the traffic and kitsch on a regular basis? No way!

Good column, Duncan. Your other stuff, well it's too jargon-laden for me to understand! Do worry about the jacked up rates on student loans though. Further restricting the educational choices of the true middle class. The very poor and brilliant will do fine, and the rich, too!


Ethan Stock


You're one read of Fast Food Nation away from being a liberal... ;-)

My one-sentence summary of your email would be, "consumers are very bad at making 'rational' choices that fully account for all the long-term, short-term, and social factors of their decisions." Once you've given up on market fundamentalism a whole new vista opens up before you!

-- Ethan


Terrific observations.

I concur especially with those about driving, shopping and eating. Whenever I go visit Texas or my inlaws out in New Mexico it strikes me how there's a real cultural difference.

I think that our similarties outweight the differences but it's interesting to realize that the differences are quite real.


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