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How the Internet is hurting consumers

Buyers are no longer making decisions the way they used to.

With the rise of the Internet and smartphones in so many pockets, the way people buy and find out about their products is shifting, multiple news reports suggest.

Smartphones and the Internet are disrupting the car sales business, for example, according to the Boston Globe. Recently, consumers have less of a need for a car sales rep to tell them about cars since they can grab the information easily on the Internet, the Globe reported.

“We’re seeing this massive shift in how people shop, looking for answers in real time,” said Nick Gorton, co-founder of Seattle-based, which won a three-day competition for teams creating easy ways for people to sell cars. “The rise of the smartphone is particularly disruptive.”

But there’s some agony that goes along with this. The Atlantic recently reported that by having smartphones and the Internet at their fingertips, consumers want to know more about the products they're buying. And sometimes that leaves them feeling empty-handed. Some consumers, called “maximizers” in The Atlantic piece, “want the best of everything, and they want to know they have the best of everything,” and are perfectionists, The Atlantic reported.

“The trouble with perfectionists is that, by wanting the best, they aspire to be perfectly rational consumers in a world where we all agree that's impossible,” The Atlantic said. “It's a recipe for dissatisfaction, way too much work, and even depression.”

And the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology recently published a study called “Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness Is a Matter of Choice,” which looked at how people respond to buying certain products and what they looked for. Perfectionist buyers tend to lean with what will make them more socially acceptable, and are more “sensitive” to what their peers may think of their recent buy, the study found.

There are also the realistic buyers, the study said, who buy what they think will work the best for them and don’t worry about the other products out there.

Buying in these two ways is only an option for consumers, though, and not necessarily the way things need to be for them. In fact, the economic system was built on the idea that consumers would have enough knowledge on their own accord to purchase products. But so many things over the years have blocked buyers from making these rational choices, The Atlantic said.

“For consumers, this means embracing the limitations of classical economics,” The Atlantic said. “We don't know everything. We don't have everything. And that's okay. Pretending otherwise is, in fact, anything but rational.”

Twitter: @hscribner