October 08, 2007

Absence of Choice

A recent post by Seth Godin in Seth's Blog called "Choice" had this to say: 'If I had to pick one word to describe what's new, what's different and what's important about now vs. then, it would be "choice."'

As usual, TAC disagrees. What's new and different is absence of choice.

"Then" there was a mens' store, a pharmacy, a grocery, a shoe store, a fruit stand, a pizza joint, a coffee shop and a bakery on every corner. "Now" we're stuck with Wal-Marts, Rite-Aids, and Pizza Huts. Our economic choices are being consolidated at an alarming rate (see "Dull Men in Grey Suits.")

Of course, what Seth is talking about is electronic choice. Like most of us who sit in front of a computer screen all day, the web is Seth's default frame of reference. Certainly the web, cable and satellite tv, and other electronic innovations give us choices we didn't previously have.

But, as so often in life, there are cross-currents. When it comes to commerce, it's a different story. The best stats I can find say that internet commerce represented 2.4% of economic activity in 2005. Let's be generous and say it's doubled since then (guaranteed it hasn't.) If so, internet commerce comprises about 5% of our economic activity. So for 5% of our purchases we have a lot more choice. But for 95%, we have a lot less.

Choice? Anyone tried to find a tailor lately?


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