On having too much choice

We all know about the perils of having too much consumer choice – standing paralysed in the supermarket as we try to decide between 20 different brands of olive oil. But it can happen in our buildings too, as the idea of giving the building occupant maximum control tips over into making them think about things that they really don’t want to think about.

We all know about the perils of having too much consumer choice – standing paralysed in the supermarket as we try to decide between 20 different brands of olive oil. But it can happen in our buildings too, as the idea of giving the building occupant maximum control tips over into making them think about things that they really don’t want to think about.

I once went to a launch of a new office chair which could be adjusted in more ways than you would believe were possible. I asked how new users would get to grips with that, and was told that when workers first arrived in their new/ refurbished office, the instructions would appear on their computer screen.

If I had just gone through an office move, I think the last thing I would want to think about was following literature on how to adjust my chair. How about dealing with my emails/ catching up on some urgent work/ gossiping with colleagues?

But the worst offenders are hotels. Because most of the time we are new to them, and we don’t stay long enough to become familiar. A friend recently posted this photo of a toilet in a Japanese hotel.

Now I understand that the Japanese have different, and probably better, standards of hygiene. But do we really want to have to think this much?

Another area is lighting. I recently stayed in a pub with rooms, and it was lovely because there was a light switch as I entered my room, and another switch on the bedside light. And that was it, apart from the bathroom light. What a contrast with the high end hotel I went to recently where I arrived tired at 1am and had to set about understanding the lighting controls.

I recounted this story to a lighting designer who said how common it was. Apparently a top Hollywood actress once called a hotel reception in a fury at 2am, asking how to turn the lights off. The lighting designer’s advice to me? Pull out the key card and stumble around in the light emitted by the TV button or whatever. Hardly an ideal situation.

Sometimes less choice really is more…

Ruth Slavid

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