In case you hadn’t noticed, it costs you more to sneeze and blow your nose these days.
We’re all victims of downsizing, the sneaky method of raising the price of a product. Less for more we call it.
I’ve addressed this topic a few times before, but there’s always new evidence that encourages me to point out some of the latest examples. After I wrote the first draft of this column, ABC News ran a short piece on its TV newscast, showing that you now get about four feet less on a roll of Brawny paper towels. And the network also noted a newly-reduced size of Maxwell House coffee.
Companies today think nothing of the ethics of downsizing; they just do it without regard to above-board honesty, an old-fashioned (and out-of-date) term. Apparently, honesty isn’t part of their business plan.
I hold some securities, so I can understand the need or desire of companies to produce profits to reward their shareholders. But if that requires raising prices – preferable to giving you less of the product by my way of thinking – firms should be forthright about it instead of trying to fool the customer.
Downsizing manifests itself in two ways – reducing the contents of a package, and/or increasing the price. Customers really lose when the company offering a product does both simultaneously.
Let’s consider a big outfit like Proctor and Gamble, the Cincinnati-based producer of a variety of consumer items. Along with competitor Colgate-Palmolive, P&G has cut the size of its larger tubes of toothpaste from 8.2 ounces (an idiotic number to begin with) to (equally silly) 7.6 ounces. Did they lower the price commensurately? Of course not. And the box the toothpaste comes in is the same size as before. This is a blatant effort to fool the public – companies must think we’re too stupid to notice.
The volume of potato chips and snack foods keeps shrinking, but not always the bags they come in. The scoundrels who make these things are pulling a fast one on consumers. Obviously these products used to come in 16-ounce sizes – a good number because it equals one pound. Back then, the company might have labeled the one-pound bag as the “family size.” Today, the family size is a multi-downsized container that might weigh an asinine amount – say 11-point-six ounces – a weight that makes no sense. Nobody “wants” that size. The volume first went from 16 to 15-ounces, then to 14 ounces, then to 13-point-something ounces, then to 12-point-something ounces, and more recently, a most peculiar 11-point-whatever ounces. And they put air in the bags – they say it protects the chips from breakage, but I’m not so sure.
Perhaps the least-expensive part of a bag of chips is the potatoes. Other costs include labor for the preparation and packaging processes, raw materials such as oil and salt, as well as marketing and transportation.
Boxes of food products are continually shrinking. It’s nothing to purchase the same sized box of cereal as before, only to read the small print showing that you’re getting less. Some companies are brazen enough to raise the price at the same time.
Proctor and Gamble produces a tissue they call Puffs. It’s a decent product – but the box used to hold 240 tissues. But the number of sheets has dropped several times, and the current box gives the consumer 180 sheets. P&G reduced the size of the box very slightly when cutting the volume by 10 percent. I guess they’ve added more air to their tissues to make the box look full.
I can’t say for sure if they also raised the price to retailers, but it’s a good bet they did. My calculations tell me I’m now getting 10 percent fewer tissues while paying 33 percent more. That comes to an adjusted price increase of 47 percent (fewer tissues plus higher price). P&G competitor Kimberly-Clark is no better, although K-C did shrink its box first.
In case you hadn’t noticed, toilet tissue rolls are smaller these days. Several manufacturers have not only cut the number of sheets per roll – they’ve cut the size, too. If they keep it up, you’ll be able to load two rolls onto the spool in your bathroom at the same time. I don’t even want to speculate how well they’d work.
This constant method of hoodwinking the customer through downsized packages comes despite very small increases in the Cost of Living Index.
I was joking with my wife, Martha, the other day saying that it won’t be long before Frito-Lay comes out with a personal sized bag of Cheetos – a product that has gone though significant and frequent downsizing the past few years. My forecast is that the new personal size bag of Cheetos will contain just one Cheeto. To explain the new size, the company’s marketing geniuses will develop a campaign that first claims customers want that size (obvious nonsense), and then ballyhoo how well the company is fighting obesity by offering the miniature size. That’s what candy bar makers do – sell you a “fun size” that’s anything but. With continued downsizing, it won’t be long before the $100 worth of food you buy at the supermarket will fit in your purse.
I should note that not all downsizing is bad. A smaller waistline is usually good, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if governments figured out how to downsize?