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More Choices, More Waste

Sunday, June 1, 2008 by Slaughter Development

As much as 10% of all supermarket food is dumped because it spoils before it can be sold. This amounts to $20 billion in annual waste in America alone. The cause may be from too many choices for consumers.

An editorial from The Economist (reprinted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) explains that the industry term for loss is “shrink”. Food spoilage is partially caused by inability to accurately predict demand, but the author highlights a more interesting factor:

Many American store managers believe high shrinkage is inevitable, given their enthusiasm for huge displays and the widest possible range of produce. “This feeds a vicious circle of more and more choice,” says Matthew Isotta of Oliver Wyman. And it can backfire if displays disguise rotten food or too much choice overwhelms customers.

When a process offers choice to a stakeholder, it can generate satisfaction. However, too many choices can overwhelm both the customer and the entire system. In Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice, studies of supermarket patrons demonstrate that we are less likely to buy when there are too many options to easily evaluate them all.  The end result is not only a dissatisfied customer, but a supply chain system that generates wasted products.

Workflow management at an office, warehouse, factory or other facility is subject to similar principles. Some choices are good, as they promote flexibility and help people to have ownership of their work. Too many options can establish a culture of chaos where it seems like everyone has a million projects and nothing is ever truly completed. Slaughter Development provides Workplace Diagnostics to help organizations understand the challenges and opportunities in the way they work. Contact us today to help provide the right choices to benefit stakeholders and reduce the tragedy of waste.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

All You Can Eat Or Else - A New York City all-you-can-eat restaurant is playing the role of your mother. Leave uneaten food on your plate, and you will be subject to a hefty surcharge. Read on »
Waste Not, Get Sued - Eddie House got so good at recycling, composting and reducing his waste that he decided to cancel his garbage service. The official response to his earth-friendly efforts? Sued by local government. Read on »
A Complete Waste of Sponsorship - A few months ago we attended a major industry conference with a huge corporate sponsorship. As far as we could tell, however, that effort was nearly a complete waste of cash. Read on »
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