Caution: manufacturers gouging you with ‘short-sizing’

Once upon a time Consumer Reports magazine pointed out that one-pound coffee cans no longer contained 16 ounces of coffee. I don’t recall how many decades ago that was, but it raised in me an awareness that remains to this day. Manufacturers of all kinds of products are continuing to short-change the consumer with “short-sizing” — reducing the amount of product in the package without reducing the price.

The manufacturers cover their rising costs by giving you less product for your money, and hoping you won’t notice. They know you won’t be happy if they raise the price. They know you’ll notice price increases. So they just reduce the quantity instead, and hope you won’t notice. It’s not illegal, but it sure is underhanded.

MSNBC has a good story on the subject today, but it covers nothing new. The short-sizing they describe has been going on for many years. Fewer sticks of gum in a package, fewer ounces of candy in a bar. Four sticks of margarine no longer equal a pound.

My personal favorite example of short-sizing is toilet tissue. The number of ways to short-size a roll of tissue is positively mind-boggling. Reduce the number of feet on a roll; presumably everyone is too smart to fall for something as obvious as reducing the number of sheets per roll, but of course they can combat that by reducing the size of the sheets. Texture the tissue; that puffs it up and makes a fatter- looking roll, which may or (most likely) may not contain the same amount of paper. Make the textured, puffed-up tissue single-ply instead of two-ply, and you’ll get even more volume (but not more tissue). On the off chance that consumers truly are oblivious, there’s the old make-the-tube-a-larger-diameter trick; I’m not sure what the tube diameter/amount of tissue ratio is, but I’ll bet the manufacturers have calculated it down to the last mm. Last, but not least, they can reduce the width of the roll; oh yes, there’s a reason why your tissue holder is so much wider than the roll.

It should be noted, however, that the width of a toilet paper roll is partly determined by the clearance necessary to get a fatter roll on a standard holder.

It’s probably only a matter of time till they start selling just the cardboard tubes and trying to convince us we’re buying their incredible new invisible environmentally safe toilet tissue — guaranteed safe for all toilets and septic systems!

© 2008 Some rights reserved.

... and that's my two cents