“How do we buy toilet paper?”
As I increasingly reflect on how individuals make decisions, I have found myself pondering about my own personal behaviour and what influences my decisions. It was in one of these occasions, that I experienced the subject for this essay. A short stroll to a local supermarket (any supermarket witnesses an enormous number of individual decisions) served both as material for a reflection and as an attempt to understand how consumers’ choices can be influenced. Cognitive biases can affect consumers’ choices even when picking products that they need. Or do we really need them? The examples of anchoring and confirmation biases are hereby presented.
Anchoring toilet paper prices
Similarly to your need to buy food to feed or toothpaste to keep your dental hygiene, you also need to purchase toilet paper for its small purpose in your daily life. It was by having to choose a particular brand of this item that I observed how my decision was influenced by an anchoring bias. There are not many technical details one needs to look after when choosing toilet paper. It is mostly all down to the number of rolls per bag and the length of each roll. One can argue that texture and resistance are other relevant factors to be taken into account. But, quite frankly, how can those factors affect the nearly instantaneous experience you have using this product for the purpose it was created for? Back to the case, as I entered the row exclusively dedicated to toilet papers, just as all my fellow consumers, I started comparing prices. There were three equivalent products at three different prices: €1.99, €2.89 and €3.65. I immediately picked the €2.89. The “logic” behind it was: “let me pick the middle one”. Gladly, I took a second to reflect before I placed the bag in the shopping cart. I then imagined the scenario where I would only have to choose between the two cheapest brands; in such a case, I would surely choose the €1.99 option. The line of thought...
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