There's always been a special place in my mind for all those manufacturers of consumer products who are constantly downsizing their products surreptitiously. That place is also known as the Seventh Circle of Hell.
I just think it's annoying that a jar of mayo is now 30 ounces, not a standard quart of 32 (unless you buy Duke's); toilet paper lost a half-inch of width a couple of years ago (but the Costco brand still has it); if you read old recipes from decades ago, you'll undoubtedly come across the incredible shrinking can of tuna fish. The assault is constant and, from my perspective, silly.
That's why I was pleased to see a report on ABC television news lately, focusing on the problem. The report doesn't bring much new light on the subject, except the interesting observation by a 10-year-old that a downsizing is often accompanied by words like "new, improved" on the package.
Manufacturers will say that people would rather see a downsizing than a price increase. Of course it's the same thing, except that the former practice can be hidden more easily. Most people just don't notice. And, it can also be argued that it doesn't really matter. If your bottle of ketchup is only 14 ounces instead of 16 (or whatever), who cares? That's true of commodities, but many people buy prepared foods intended as portions. We don't use a lot of that kind of stuff around our house, but it can still be noticed in the shrinking Boboli pizza shell, where eleven inches ins't twelve; or the reduced amount of pasta in a box -- a pound is two portions, or four, but 12 ounces is not.
For those of us who do notice and would like to share the outrage, the ABC report offers an outlet: Have a look at www.consumerworld.org.
Looking a little further, I note two interesting facts:
- This trend to downsize grocery packages is curiously just the opposite of the supersizing trend in restaurants. Human behavior just seems to operate differently in these two environments, I guess.
- Ultimately you can only shrink products so much. The "back side" of downsizing is just as common: the re-up-sizing that comes later, with bold new proclamations on the label promising "12% more" with - are you ready? - a still higher price. In effect the producer gets two price hikes for one.