- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” Dumbledore says in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” If that’s true, then Americans today have more ways to show who they truly are than any other people at any other time in the history of humanity.

It’s hard to imagine that just a generation or two ago, you couldn’t buy a burger at 2 a.m.; couldn’t own a copy of your favorite TV show on a shiny plastic disc; couldn’t walk into a giant box store and choose from more than 100,000 items to buy from all over the world.

Today, it’s all part of the expected consumer landscape.

So take a deep breath: Here are a few randomly selected examples of drastically expanded consumer choice in this country that you wouldn’t have seen a few decades ago:

Number of flavors and sizes of Doritos tortilla chips: 22, from Salsa Verde to Hot Wings, made by Frito Lay.

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Number of auctions on eBay: 14.9 million listings across 34 categories and hundreds of subcategories, on Aug. 4.

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Number of books available on Amazon: 22.7 million on Aug. 4.

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Number of colors of paint: More than 1,500, from “Coming Up Roses” to “Sockeye” to “Habanero Chili,” sold by Sherwin-Williams.

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Number of recipes: More than 40,000 available at allrecipes.com, a popular cooking Web site.

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Number of items on a fast-food menu: 84, at Taco Bell.

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Number of magazines launched in 2007: 204 titles, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Number of flavors you can add to your prescription medicine so it won’t taste bad: 20, including “Grapeade,” “Banana Pie” and “Bubblegum,” at CVS drug stores.

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