Archive for the ‘Choice’ Category

Service of “You Choose”

Thursday, March 9th, 2023

Image by martynaszulist from Pixabay 

A friend was a talented interior designer. She would come to our home with a stack of fabric samples all of which were great choices. “Big deal,” you think. When it came to home décor, my husband and I had very different likes: He leaned to the formal and elaborate. I prefer the opposite. Yet she’d surmount that hurdle with ease and arrive with perfect color and pattern pitches for the pieces that needed upholstering. And we’d happily choose the finalists and the winner.

But you don’t expect that approach at a doctor’s office. Seems it’s a popular tactic these days. A few years ago my doctor, knowing I was going to visit a surgeon next, said, “I hope to goodness he doesn’t give you choices.” Sounded strange to me: I either needed a procedure or I didn’t.

Here are two examples in which the patient was asked to decide. In one, it involved which operation of several needed should take place first. The surgeon told the patient to choose. In the other, the same words were uttered about two powerful drugs. Neither patient is a physician. Without the background, how in the Sam Hill can a patient make the most judicious choice?

Had we made a bad selection of fabric the only damage would have been to our wallet. But a patient choosing door number one when it should have been door number three could be seriously up the creek.

There are exceptions. My dentist has warned me that a conservative approach and tricky fix for a dental crisis might not work and I’ve chosen to give it a whirl. Dr. Alan Jaslove is a spectacularly talented dentist and if anyone can carry out a challenging procedure, he can. I’m braced to tolerate the more costly alternative if he can’t pull off the difficult, less expensive one—he makes clear the risks.

And obviously there are countless examples of patients who refuse to take medicine the side effects of which are worse than the disease or who stop physical therapy or decline to follow suggested diets. But sometimes we need guidance from an expert.

I’m guessing that passing the buck to the patient approach is influenced by insurance companies in a litigious society. Can’t you hear it: Doctor to the judge: “Well Jeanne opted to do thus and such. I gave her the choice. I had nothing to do with her decision.”

Has a doctor—or anyone else, such as a builder–given you a choice you weren’t prepared or educated to make? Are the medicine and operation examples I described one-offs? Why do you think some doctors leave crucial decisions up to the patient without recommendation?

Image by Max from Pixabay

Service of Choosing Gifts

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

‘Tis the season: Will you, too, be scratching your head to find perfect gifts?

Some of Evan Polman’s findings may shed light on final decisions. He reported them in “That Product Will Work Well for You. But for Me? Not So Much,” in The Wall Street Journal. Dr. Polman is associate professor of marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business in Madison.

“In 15 studies involving thousands of participants, we found that people believe that scores of products—including moisturizer, granola bars, calendars and online classes—will have a greater positive effect on others than on themselves.” The less familiar the product, wrote Dr. Polman, the stronger this belief. [He observed that some think medicines work better for others hence they opt to overdose, which obviously isn’t healthy…but I digress.]

Dr. Polman wrote: “When buying gifts for others, for example, we might worry less about whether something will be as effective as advertised because we assume it will have a relatively positive effect on the recipient.” That’s why, he posited, gifts are less practical and more creative than what most would buy for themselves. “This would suggest that people have a blind spot when choosing gifts for others, preferring gifts that dazzle in the short run but have less usefulness in the long run.”

I don’t think this happens when buying gifts for children who often have their hopes pinned on specific toys or games. Fanciful substitutes won’t do.

His research also has impact on a company introducing new products or entrepreneurs launching a business: “New products—and businesses—often fail, and this could be because marketers and entrepreneurs overestimate the benefits that their products will have for others.”

Given that the recipient already owns the basics, do you look for something special that is considered a treat, even an extravagance, that a beneficiary wouldn’t buy for him/herself? An example could be as simple as a luxury Swiss or Belgian hot chocolate powder vs. a generic grocery store brand that might already have a place in the pantry. Wouldn’t this also explain how people choose gifts, even if they don’t exactly “dazzle,” in Dr. Polman’s words? How do you decide?

Service of Terrible Decisions: Pay Bills or Buy Gifts for the Children?

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

I saw a Facebook posting in which a single mother grieved that she was overwhelmed by debt with no end in sight. She was jobless. She worried that she didn’t know how she’d manage to buy Christmas gifts for her children.

One comment caught my eye. The writer reprimanded the mother for thinking about gifts when she owed money. She should pay her bills and forget presents, she scolded.

I empathize with the mother. Imagine if you’re faced with eviction, starvation, and possibly illness without medical care for you and your family. The looks of disappointed children who may understand what’s going on at home but nevertheless hope for a surprise would add to an already astronomical heartache. [I am sorry I rushed by the post at the time and didn’t track down the mother.]

Churches, organizations and clubs around the country traditionally had giving trees this time of year, all cancelled now, while at the same time the need for basics by millions has exploded. There was nothing frivolous about the wishes I took from such trees. Written on paper ornaments or tags were requests for a warm coat for an infant; a housecoat for a senior. Real estate companies at some of the larger buildings in NYC showed off the bicycles, games and dolls slated for children associated with a charity.

Not this Christmas.

The economy isn’t going to snap back even after 70 percent of us are vaccinated. Millions will continue to suffer.

As I pass residential and commercial lobbies in Manhattan I see gargantuan Christmas trees decorated to death. They cheer for the moment tenants and guests dash by. What if co-op and condo boards and tenants in rentals voted to skip the trees and donate the budgeted money for food, warm clothing or gifts for little ones? There might be a collection in each building to buy a few poinsettia plants for a lobby instead.

But such efforts are miniscule potatoes.

All around the country small businesses have crumbled and with them the hopes and savings of the owners. Thousands have been let go by giant corporations. I fear another stimulus check–$3,600 for a couple with two children–while better than nothing won’t make much of a dent on past due rent, electric, phone and credit card bills.

I’ve written before about the thrill of sending a surprise to a child through the Letters to Santa program. This year the link is The site reported that 23,244 letters have been adopted so far! In addition, when I looked early this morning I read: “There are none left now, but check back later. We add more every day.” Aren’t Americans wonderful?

There are 630 $billionaires in the US according to It would help if each tossed in one of those billions to pay the rent and essential bills of the unemployed. A compensation lawyer such as Kenneth Feinberg who deftly handled the 9/11 and BP cases, among many, could organize and direct the distribution.

What might non-billionaires do?  What choice should a mother in such a predicament make?

Service of Shopping Without Your Reading Glasses

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Even before the pandemic I’d find myself in a grocery or drugstore without my reading glasses. While then it was only occasionally because I’d drag pounds of belongings with me, because I carry almost nothing now I leave my glasses at home.

I can see sell-by dates on milk and other crucial info without specs but lately, because I want to get in and out of any business in a flash, I have made a few irritating errors.

Have you noticed the baffling number of toothpaste choices at any standard drugstore? I opened a new tube last week and without paying attention placed some toothpaste on my brush. Turns out I bought Colgate Zero, one with no taste. While I prefer seltzer, coffee, and most everything in its original state, without embellishment, I like my toothpaste minty. I’m trying to think of other things I can do with Zero Colgate as I dread using it and dislike waste so I hesitate tossing it.

I had a battle bringing home the correct yogurt: I prefer the gutsier Greek style. Recognizing the brand I grabbed what turned out to be a giant container of standard yogurt which I find slimy. I was more careful the next time only to discover I’d bought vanilla flavor Greek style, not the plain. Not good.

Any ideas for what else to do with toothpaste? Have you made mistakes choosing products when distracted, rushed or without your specs? Do we really need all those choices of toothpaste and for that matter, yogurt?

Service of You Can’t Win: President Obama, Event Timing, Redskins, Debt Limit and Voting

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Sometimes you can’t win.

The options President Obama has when dealing with the Syrian or debt limit crises could be summarized: No matter what, too many innocents will be killed or hurt.

Fortunately most of us don’t have to weigh options with such momentous repercussions, yet choices come up daily that work for some and not others. Plan an event for an organization, company or family and it’s inevitable: some can’t make mornings, others can’t fit in anything in the evening, lunch is out and didn’t you remember that favorite Aunt Muriel is off to her annual timeshare on the only weekend you, your brothers, sisters and cousins can travel to the family reunion?

Result: Noses out of joint.

The owner of the Redskins football team is being challenged to change the team’s name as it offends Native Americans. Even the President chimed in suggesting clearly that he consider an alternative. In discussions I’ve heard on TV and radio nobody remarks on the millions spent to build the brand and what it will cost to create the new identity. Goodness knows, these teams almost print money so that’s not the primary consideration but still. Regardless of the decision there will be many who disagree.

Choose a menu for your guests winding it around allergies and taste preferences and you’re sure some will think you hadn’t considered them.

You can’t win at the polling booth when you object to both candidates. [I can think of one Senatorial race like that and I’m happy I don’t live in that state.]

Is flipping a coin the only thing you can do under such circumstances? How do you make choices when you’re not totally happy with any option? Are there words that work to soothe injured feelings of those whose preferences must be disregarded?

Service of Options

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012


The word “option” came up in remarks made by both special award winners at the 63rd annual ceremony of The Christopher Awards last week. I was fortunate to be part of the team to promote the event.

Marty Lyons, former defensive lineman for the New York Jets and ESPN Radio color analyst, spoke about the options faced by one of the children he met through the foundation he launched 30 years ago. In fact it was for this foundation that he was given the 2012 James Keller Award. James Keller founded The Christophers and the award recognizes adults who impact the lives of children and young people who change the world.

christophers2012motherdeloresmartylyonsLyons, [his photo is on the right, with Mother Dolores Hart], told the guests at the gala in New York about a 17 year old severely ill with leukemia. She told Lyons she dreamed she had gone on a walk, farther from home than usual, and was confronted with the option of returning or going on to God’s house, which seemed to represent the shorter distance. He said that she knew that it was time to give up the pain and morphine and to go to her new home. That day, he said, she chose the latter option.

In three decades, the Marty Lyons Foundation has offered hope and inspiration to seriously ill children and teens. Among the over 6,000 wishes the Foundation has granted, it provided a seizure-alert dog for a teen, a trip for a 13-year-old girl dying from leukemia to visit her extended family, and sent a Long Island, N.Y. boy with a rare genetic disease to Disney World with his family.

Helping these children appears to have been a natural choice for Lyons and as a gifted speaker, describing the program a joy. However he is so moved by their plight that he chokes up with emotion when he speaks about some of them. He had to stop to catch his breath as he told us that the child who inspired the foundation would have celebrated his birthday the day before the May 24 awards gala. Lyons, who works full time and maintains a frantic schedule, opted to show his emotions when he could have said he was too busy to attend or could have kept his remarks on safe ground, addressing issues that didn’t touch him deeply.

Mother Dolores Hart. Photo Bettina Cirone

Mother Dolores Hart. Photo Bettina Cirone

The issue of options came up again when the other special award winner, Mother Delores Hart, noted “we have the option to live correctly.” The 2012 Christophers’ Life Achievement Award recognized the former actress who became a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. There aren’t many people with a soaring career who opt for the path Mother Delores chose. The first actress to kiss Elvis on screen, she was recently profiled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “God is the Bigger Elvis.”

Mother Dolores never left behind her connection to the arts.  With close friend Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal, she built a performing arts center on the Abbey grounds, which hosts a wide range of community productions.  She remains an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives her a vote that helps determine each year’s Oscar winners.

Can you share examples of options where the choices are dramatic and repercussions difficult or life-changing?


Mary Higgens Clark is to the right of Mother Dolores; Ken Schroy of the Marty Lyons Foundation to Marty’s left; Mrs. Lyons to his right.

Service of Excessive Choice

Monday, April 18th, 2011

You can’t be too rich or too thin said Wallis Simpson and I agree with her except when someone is too thin because they are sick or overstressed.

I don’t always welcome excess especially when it comes to  choice. Even when I feel flush I don’t like humongous menus with a million choices. How can all this stuff be fresh? I am never distracted by the endless list of options when I have a yen for a toasted poppy seed bagel and coffee.

Reviewers gave Research in Motion, the BlackBerry folks, bad marks last week for their new tablet. A big complaint: RIM’s tablet has only 3,000 apps when others, such as Apple’s iPad, provide 300,000. I can imagine the disappointment and inconvenience when just the programs you want to download aren’t available on the tablet you just bought, but does everyone really need hundreds of thousands of choices? The coverage I read in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post didn’t note that RIM selected to partner with the 3,000 best apps in the world, which would have been a smart thing to do, to counteract the opinion that  “more is always best.” Is much, much more always better?

I knew a wife who sounded like the waiter at a sandwich counter when asking her incommunicative husband what he wanted for lunch. She’d list a zillion combinations of cheese and cold cuts including a range of condiments. That extreme may have kept their marriage intact, who knows?

When I shop for a skirt, shirt, dress, shoes or a gift-and I love to shop-I stop when I find what I want. Do I need to see 10? 50? 1,000? I guess 20 options of style and color would be perfect. Must I check all the rest or continue shopping once I’ve found IT? No: Who has time?

When is a ton of choice ideal and when excessive?

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