Saturday, July 6, 2013

Variables That Impact Purchasing Decisions

Some time ago I described a situation in which Andrea and I had to weigh multiple factors when trying to decide which chicken to buy at the grocery store. The chicken from our preferred, local, farm, was only available in small packages, which meant a lot of waste over the alternative, which was also priced lower. In the end we decided to buy the larger packs of the cheaper chicken, even though it wasn't locally produced.

This dilemma caused me to think of other variables that impact our purchasing decisions. While priorities vary from person to person, I suspect that many of these are factors for most people when making a purchasing decision.

Price is the variable that most people consider first when making a purchasing decision. While I often prioritize other factors above price, I find that in some situations price is the primary factor in my decision. I was thinking of this recently when checking prices for guttering. I always say that I need to buy products from locally owned stores, but when the price is double that of the large home improvement store, I find it hard to justify the extra expense.

When it comes to food, our top priority is usually finding a product that is certified organic. We have also recently started trying to buy non-GMO products, whenever possible, although we still have a lot of work to do in that area. We prefer to buy meat and dairy products that are produced from grass fed and free range animals.

Environmentally Friendly
Obviously the organic label applies primarily to food, with a few exceptions such as clothing. For other products we prefer buying items that are environmentally friendly. Sometimes this might mean choosing a product made from a material other than plastic, or it might mean choosing a product that uses less energy, either in its production or daily use. Unfortunately, though, it is sometimes difficult to choose products that are truly environmentally friendly, since many manufacturers have found that they can market "green" products as a way to charge more for an item, even if it isn't particularly environmentally friendly.

One of the things that we love about doing our grocery shopping at the Good Foods Market in Lexington is that many items can be bought in bulk, and placed in reusable containers, rather than being prepackaged. This includes everything from nuts, flour, and spices to shampoo. This is also one, of the many, reasons that we prefer buying our milk from JD Country Milk, a Kentucky based dairy. Not only does JD use glass bottles, but they require a refundable deposit to motivate people to return them so they can be reused. I wish that more products were available in reusable, or no, packaging.

There are several reasons that we like to buy local products, whenever possible. The first is that we like to support the local economy, especially when those producing the items are small businesses. I consider a dollar spent on a locally produced item to be worth much more than the same dollar spent on an item produced on the other side of the country, or the world. In addition to economic reasons, we also prefer locally produced items due to the environmental impact of having items shipped around the world. While we do still buy items produced in other countries, such as bananas, we make the effort to buy items that do not require being shipped long distances.

Any, or all, of the previously mentioned factors can be superseded by quality, in our decision making process. If an item is not effective, or in the case of food, does not taste good, then it isn't worth buying, regardless of price or any other factor. I also prefer to buy items that can be expected to last a long time, even if that means paying more for them. I have tried to especially consider this when buying tools, as I know that it should be possible to build a tool collection that will last a lifetime, if done carefully.

Politics and/or Social Concerns
Lastly, I wanted to mention the topic of politics and social concerns as they apply to purchasing decisions. I have recently found myself avoiding specific brands that are produced by companies with leadership who are actively engaged in political activism that I disagree with. This is also sometimes a reason to avoid buying products from a specific country, or to at least make sure products are certified as being fair trade. These moral or principle-based factors can sometimes cause a great deal of disagreement, and for that reason I try to avoid discussing the details of my preferences.

I'm certain that I have left out several factors that may impact purchasing decisions. Their absence from the list is not meant to imply that they are less important than those I've listed. In fact, I suspect that there are missing variables that I consider on a regular basis that just slipped my mind. Sometimes our decisions are made so quickly, especially for small, inexpensive items, that we are only vaguely aware of the factors that went into the decision. That, however, doesn't mean those factors are unimportant.

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