The idea for his story about choices came from Susan Oakes at M4B Marketing. She had just written an article about the choices a business should offer their customer. A lightbulb went on as I was writing a comment to her post.
We’re always searching for choices. The more choices the better, right?, but is that always best to have a multitude of choices?
Here, is my story.
I was day camp director at a local park in the summers between my school year as a teacher. The day camp was for children ages 4 to 11. It was a very broad range of ages with many varying degrees of challenges. The kids would come early in the morning and would remain with us throughout the day to participate in many activities and training programs such as swimming and the like. The day camp lasted 8 weeks. One of the most anticipated events was an organized camping sleepover. It was something the day camp kids really looked forward to.
This event required a lot of preparation and equipment, such as tents, food to serve, activities, chaperons and various other things. The park was well patrolled. It was a safe place for this activity, and the rangers always enjoyed stopping by to talk to kids about what they did at the park. Among the many activities we arranged was a scavenger hunt, a campfire where the kids would make and consume a ton of s’mores, sing songs and the park rangers would tell fun scary stories to entertain the kids.
One of the biggest challenges for the camping sleepover was always what to serve for breakfast the following morning. This wasn’t my first overnight with a large group of kids, but it was for many of the mothers who had volunteered to chaperon. Generally the moms who were chaperoning went along with our recommendations, but every now and then we would have to do a little convincing.
My day camp councilors and I were conducting our preparatory meeting with the chaperons to discuss what we would be doing what their part would be in all the activities and generally what to expect from this overnight event. This year we scheduled to have around a hundred kids. Some of the chaperons were repeats, knew what to expect and were looking forward to the kids camping sleepover. Some were new to the whole experience and had a ton of questions, all of which my staff and I were prepared for.
There was one new Mom who just didn’t agree with our plans for breakfast. Try as we might, we couldn’t get her to understand the reasons we made the choices we did. She was determined to have it her way. After some deliberation with my staff, it was decided to let her do it her way. I will say we had very big concerns about her plans. But she wanted to do it so we decided to let her give it a go.
The day of our day camp camping sleepover had arrived, and the kids were over the moon about the opportunity to sleep over with all of their day camp friends. The kids helped set up our site (somewhat). We had laid out the scavenger hunt the night before and then explained the rules, the teams, what was expected of each team and the prizes. Our plan was that everyone would come out a winner in some way. It was a hit.
The campfire was fun, and there was a definitely an over indulgence of hotdogs, beans, coleslaw, chips, pop, s’mores, and lots and lots of running around. It had gotten dark. All the kids were now surrounding the campfire listening to the rangers tell some of their fun scary stories with our homemade sound effects. The kids would giggle, scream and laugh, generally having a great time with the whole of the evening. It was getting late, and it was then time to tuck everyone in to their tents and sleeping bags. No one got much sleep that night, but that was all part of the fun.
Morning had arrived, and our new chaperon Mom was VERY busy getting everything ready for breakfast. She was exhausted and had been unprepared for the total lack of sleep she would get the night before. She had a very elaborate breakfast planned and was busy trying to prepare and put it together. Many of us tried to pitch in, but it was obvious she didn’t feel she needed our (experienced) help. The kids were starting to line up for breakfast. The display of items for them to choose from was mindboggling. That was when all the trouble began. The kids couldn’t make up their mind. The first group took forever. The second group was getting antsy, and it only got worse as time was ticking by.
The whole breakfast thing became a huge bottleneck. Very few kids had been served let alone made a choice from the LARGE array of things to eat. The chaperon Mom, in charge of breakfast, was becoming more and more agitated, finally throwing up her hands declaring “I’m done with this. I can’t do this. They are impossible”. We had anticipated this.
My counselors and I jumped into action. We quickly cleared away, packed up and stored the un-kid friendly banquet. The new chaperon Mom just looked on as if we were nuts. We set up our original plan of A or B choices. A – Pancakes, B – scrambled eggs, all to be served with Bacon and Orange juice. All 100 kids, chaperons and my staff was served in 15 minutes flat, and the kids gobbled down the breakfast as if they had never had anything so good in their lives. Some even came back for seconds. Our beleaguered breakfast preparing chaperone Mom was astonished, and said “My son would never eat anything like this at home”. Ah, the power of group think, cool morning air and wanting to eat the same thing as the other kids.
What this Mom didn’t know is we had seen it all before. Too many choices will confuse and befuddle a group of kids. They simply had a difficult time making a decision with too many choices. The fewer choices there were for the kids, the easier it was for them to decide; A or B, which will it be.
Isn’t this true for all of us. When we’re presented with a plethora of choices, it takes us that much longer to make a decision. We feel we need more information, or research and time just ticks on by. Sometimes we’ll not make a decision at all. It’s just too much work. So when you’re in that situation, narrow down what you or your customers really need and give them an A or B choice and we/they will make a decision quickly and move on.
So have you ever had this happen to you? What do you do when there are too many choices? Please, do tell.
Life’s journey continues…