The “Scarce Abundance” Strategy for Ruthlessly Depriving Your Customers of Choices

David Lowenthal
5 min readApr 30, 2021

It’s not exactly a profound statement these days to say that it feels like we have more choices than we’ve ever had in all of human history.

Indeed, just pull up YouTube and behold the thousands of videos that are offered up to you the moment you get on the site; or the hundreds upon hundreds of book and product recommendations you get on Amazon; or even the menu you get at the local Denny’s or IHOP diner, with page after page of soups, sandwiches, salads, sides, etc. (Is it just me or does every breakfast place in America feel like it has more pages than a Merriam-Webster dictionary!)

And it’s only going to get more intense as time goes on because experts now say the total amount of information in the world doubles every 13 months. And in not so long, it will double every 12 hours!

That’s more information than any of us could even hope to understand in a million lifetimes.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because we all know the feeling of “analysis paralysis” — that feeling of dread when you have so many choices and options that you can’t decide so you just completely shut down and refuse to make a decision.

And given the alarming growth of human knowledge I mentioned above — which will create more product and service choices than ever before — I predict that “analysis paralysis” will become an epidemic (which is strong language because I’m writing these words during the COVID-19 epidemic!), with people having complete mental nervous breakdowns because they won’t be able to handle it.

Which is why in the coming years, customers will gleefully and joyfully welcome FEWER options and LESS choice.

And no one is in a better position to dominate this new reality than the superstore chain Costco.

If you’ve never been to one before, every Costco store is located inside a massive warehouse with products sitting on their original factory pallets on rafters raised as high as the eye can see. The floors are pure industrial cement. And there are no aisle signs or internal directory.

At first, the sheer size of the place and the size of the containers that the food comes in is overwhelming.

But don’t let the warehouse environment fool you. Shopping at Costco is actually much more relaxing for customers to shop in (except for the Costco checkout experience which is admittingly pretty chaotic) than a typical grocery store, which makes the customers much more likely to buy.

That’s because Costco, even though it famously sells in GINORMOUS quantities, such as barrel-sized buckets of soy sauce, doesn’t actually have that much variety.

So, if you’re just browsing through the aisles at Costco, you’ll notice in most cases there will only be three or two, or sometimes even JUST ONE option for a product like peanut butter, which (obviously) makes the decision of which one to buy much, much easier.

Indeed, a CNBC News documentary on Costco showed that while traditional supermarkets stock about 40,000 different products, a typical Costco store only stocks about 4,000 products (or 10 times less); while a Walmart superstore, for its part, stocks about 100,000 different products per store — 25 times the number of products at Costco.

You could call this strategy “scare abundance”, i.e., having a huge supply of a relatively small variety of goods.

But that doesn’t mean Costco isn’t making beaucoup profits.

It’s one of the world’s biggest meat sellers, selling over $4.5 billion worth of meat every year, according to the documentary. It also sells over $4 billion in produce, almost $2

billion in TVs, 35 million prescriptions, 3 million pairs of glasses, and 55 million chickens every year.

The company also dominates their competitors in the warehouse club membership industry by controlling HALF of all customers who have a warehouse club membership.

And nine out of every 10 Costco customers renew their membership each year at the $55 or $110 level.

Lesson: So how does Costco “get away” with doing business this way and how can you do the same in your business, reaping all the financial and personal rewards in the process?

The main answer, I think, lies in the advice of Email Players publisher and copywriter Ben Settle to “defy and defile” your industry’s norms by doing as many things differently as possible so you can offer something that truly stands out for your market to see.

For Costco, they don’t only break the rules by selling you meat, frozen pizzas, cheese, and other classic grocery staples in huge quantities that they could feed a small country.

They also sell products and services that you would never ever expect to buy at the same place you buy your groceries from; products that include anything from luxury goods (big-screen TVs, high-grade diamond jewelry, expensive watches like Cartier, real Prada handbags, the world’s finest European wines, and even designer wedding dresses) to a vacation package to Disneyland or a mortgage for your home, or even a custom-built garage!

They also do something else Settle talks about: “world-building.”

Costco has built its own universe, its own adventure, its own story that the customer enters when they walk in.

It’s no different from tuning into your favorite show or picking up a great novel, or playing your favorite video game.

The reason why those things are entertaining is because they’ve placed you into a story and world that you want to be a part of and see what happens.

Don’t believe me?

Well then, do I have a challenge for you!

If you’re reading this and you have a Costco membership, and you have a foreign friend who’s never been to Costco before, I want you to stop reading this book, call or text your friend, and then take them with you the next time you go to Costco — if it’s not currently locked down due to COVID-19 (I’m writing this e-book in early 2021 while the pandemic is still happening).

While you’re there, watch and observe your friend to see how they react to the place and listen to what they say.

They might love it; they might hate it; but I guarantee they won’t be neutral!

And they’ll either want to spend a whole week straight shopping there or they’ll want to high tail it outta there faster than a twinkie at a Weight Watchers meeting.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter how big or small your business is: you can prudently and effectively “defy and defile” your industry’s status quo and open up your customers’ minds to a new world.

© 2021 David Lowenthal Enterprises Ltd.

David Lowenthal is an independent direct response fundraising serving libertarian and other freedom-loving nonprofits.

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David Lowenthal

Direct response fundraising copywriter for libertarian and pro-freedom nonprofit organizations