5/31/2011 11:47 AM ET|
Beware: Same price, less product
Some manufacturers are using new packaging to shrink the contents of their products while charging the same prices as before.
While prices for many goods are rising, in cases where prices are steady, the packaging frequently is smaller. It's an unmistakable trend for grocery shoppers these days: Every other package seemingly has a "great new look" for the "same great price."
The problem is that the new look is a few ounces smaller than the old packaging. Or there has been some other creative way to have shoppers pay the same money as always without recognizing that they are bringing less home.
Barring a change in the way packaging is regulated, consumers need to change habits -- or at least be more attentive -- to make their dollars go further and minimize the effects of this cost-inflation/product-deflation cycle.
It's been particularly noticeable to me of late because my family recently switched from our preferred grocery store to a nearby competitor. With the change, we noticed that it felt as if our dollars were buying less and less.
Retail prices in the two stores are roughly the same, but we were buying less. For instance, a "half-gallon" container of orange juice from Tropicana is actually 59 ounces; a roll of toilet paper is shorter, the "new-look" salad dressing is 4 ounces smaller and so on.
Mind you, the manufacturers aren't discussing the pricing/packaging change. Tropicana is running commercials saying its packages have "16 fresh-picked oranges squeezed into each carton" -- a claim the company has made for years -- but there must be some orange deflation if the carton is about one glass of juice smaller. Tropicana cut its packaging size in response to last winter's freeze in Florida, according to Consumer Reports, after consumer research showed that people preferred to pay the same price even if it meant less juice.
That's part of the problem, because the grocery budget is not just about finances; it's about how far the products go.
"It's caveat emptor on aisle three," said Donald MacGregor of MacGregor-Bates, a Eugene, Ore., firm that does research into consumer judgment and decision making. "Consumers must realize that, as a group, they are easily manipulated, and companies are counting on that. If a company reduces the price of something by 5% but gives you 10% less, you look at the price and think you are getting a bargain, but they have increased their profit margin by 5%. It looks good to you, but you're really paying more to get less."
The manipulation involves playing with different units of measure, a problem consumers allow because they get familiar with a certain size and then assume it stays the same. Ask people in the orange juice aisle what, exactly, they are buying, and they will say "a half-gallon of orange juice," even if they are picking up a carton that holds less.
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I was shopping for coffee at WalMart this morning and noticed that the tag on the shelf with the price for Boyer's Coffee said 1 pound while the package I held in my hand said 12 oz. No deception there - that is a flat-out lie. Highway robbery is what I call it. I want my missing 4 oz!
I didn't think to check, but does that mean that the price per ounce number shown was calculated based on 16 oz vs 12 oz - another lie?
Some good comments, here. I too get frustrated with deceptive packaging, 30oz "quart jars of Mayo, 56oz or less "half gallons" of ice cream. Where does this end? I personally think that they do think we're stupid. They do all this market research and find they we'll buy it anyway, even if we know we're getting taken. We need to complain, LOUDLY, to those who are taking us and picking our pockets. They are charging us more anyway and then they short us on contents? America! WAKE UP, get mad and let them know we want fully measures.
P.S. Hey! Whatever happened to a baker's dozen anyway? When I was a teen they still gave you 13 donuts when you bought a dozen at Dunkin' Donuts and elsewhere.
Exactly, this is old news. They've been doing this for years now. My way to fight the high prices of food is to cook cheaper meals, black bean burritos, butter bean soup, lentil soup, chickpea "burgers, etc. I use chopped carrots & zuchinis on my meat sauce, that way, the kids get veggies and I save money on meat. Beans are cheap and a good source of protein. I don't buy in bulk b/c it's only me & the kids (2) so, like somebody said before, I sometimes buy the more expensive unit price instead of the one that is 2 more and twice the amount...if I'm going to throw away half the jar, then I didn't really save 2 bucks, unless I can freeze I go for smaller packages. I cook a lot and I cook big batches so I can freeze portions saving time too. My meals are planned based on what's on sale that week. My local produce market has deals every week so I get cheap veggies & fruit once a week. I don't buy extras or prepackaged meals. I cut my food budget a long time ago due to the high prices of food. You just have to get kitchen creative
Um...it's really not that hard. It doesn't even require a person to actually do basic math when most of them can whip out their phones, even ones that are bordering on obsolete, and divide the price by the number of ounces, which is printed on every package of ice cream I've ever seen. Why do we need federal regulators to hold our hands for that?
I have noticed that a pound of spaghetti isn't a pound anymore. Of course, this does require knowing that 16 ounces is a pound, but then maybe the question should be what the he!! are the kids learning in school?
Do they think we are stupid? I noticed those 5 ounce tuna cans right off the bat. No article needed on us being duped. We KNOW! and we don't like it. I hate to say it but I remember when the cans were 7 oz. The good ole days!
Don't you notice when you run out quicker??
Have a good day all... things are coming to a head.
So what happens when you've cut workers and up productivity of those remaining,using lesser paid workers or move out the experienced FT with cheaper part timers without benefits? When your down to your last trick in the hat, you pull the lesser portion for more money. Its a simple little trick to fool the consumer which is often considered idiots or fools by these suit and tie college grads. You'd be amazed at how many fall for the lesser portion for a few pennies less. They think they're getting a deal and don't even realize it. When in reality that portion was about 10-15 cents.So they lower the shelf price by a few pennies and profit the rest. I've seen in some cases where they raise the price and lower the portions also making a even more huge profit.
Buy a head of lettuce and cut it/wash it yourself. Any pre-washed, pre-packaged salad costs more. Grate your own potatoes for hash brown. That only takes 5 minutes and a little brute force, and you'll save half the cost of frozen hash brown (and it's delicious made from scratch). Coffee prices are through the roof these days (world shortage due to bad crops and developing nations wanting more of the stuff), so if you can deal with tea, you'll pay a lot less for tea than coffee (get a teapot insert and buy bulk tea for half the price of tea bags). Soda and bottled water are two great examples of perfectly useless products (and soda is also really bad for you, too). We got a reverse osmosis filter (the most expensive kind of filter) and five durable water bottles, and we still broke even after just one year! After that, even with changing the filters once a year, the system pays for itself in six months, and then we drink impeccable water for the price of tap for six months of each year. (Savings would be even more spectacular with a plain activated-charcoal filter--probably twice or three times as much.)
You should also use your old cotton/linen clothes to make rags. Just wash them in your washing machine on hot, and you won't have to buy expensive paper towels anymore. Get some cloth handkerchiefs, and you can also skip the facial tissues. Cloth menstrual pads and cloth diapers are more high-maintenance, but they will save you even more if you can face the added work. Toilet paper is more of a pain, but springing for a Japanese toilet that cleans you automatically with warm water and dries you with warm air is the ultimate answer. Those toilets are not cheap, but if they last for years, you'd finally recoup your cost (this tip is not guaranteed--we've not tried that product personally).
By buying some things bulk (rice, pasta, dry beans), I can afford the organic kind without paying any more, but people on a very tight budget could probably also benefit from using the non-organic bulk bins at the supermarket. Sack-&-Save has great deals on bulk pinto beans all year round, for example.
Good luck to all. These are hard times.
My grandmother used to say that when a company announced that its product was 'new' and 'improved', it meant they had changed both the color and the smell; and, of course, the price.
Another cute trick used over 20 years ago: one detergent company only sold its product in sizes Large, Giant, and Super. This way, the smallest you could buy was Large. I guess this was to make you feel like you were getting more, even though it was no larger than a small of any other company's product.
It's all psychology. And today's company marketing divisions are well versed in consumer psychology. Just look at the placement of ads on TV; and the way they get you to unmute the sound in the middle of a group of ads by making it look like they're returning to the show.
It makes one wonder exactly what is taught in college business courses. One has to grant them this: it has taken this long for people to notice just how they're getting screwed. And the ingratiating thing about it all is that the industry assumes we are too stupid to understand when they have to charge more due to increased manufacturing costs.
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