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Archive for March, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Product

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

An ominous sleight-of-hand is occurring all over Supermarket Land. Food products and packaging are slowly getting miniaturized.  For years manufacturers have been progressively selling us less product for more money. But over the past two years, the shaving-of-contents has been getting as obvious as America’s prodigious waistlines. Maybe the manufacturers are on a quest to help us with our obesity. But I don’t think so. I think they’re ripping us off. If they keep up this pace, pretty soon, we’ll all be buying empty boxes.

Take national brands of canned tuna, for example. Have you noticed that the old six-ounce can is now a five-ounce can? You could say this was an effort to save us from extra mercury poisoning, but the truth is more sinister. They are trying to STARVE US. I used to be able to make two, normal-sized tuna sandwiches from one can. Now I can make only a sandwich and a half from their new anemic can. What? Did they think we wouldn’t notice that we didn’t have enough tuna to make two normal sandwiches? Aside from sandwich making, look at any other recipe that calls for tuna. The directions state to use “one six-ounce can of tuna.” Well, that only leaves Trader Joe’s tuna because they still have the decency to sell their tuna in six-ounce cans. Forget Chicken-of-the-Sea (which is an apt name for a company that rips off their customers but aren’t upfront about it) or Starkist or any of the major brands, they’ve all gone to five-ounce cans. Bastards!

Not only have they stolen tuna from me, this Christmas the food people really crossed a line when they messed with my sugar. I was shopping at my local Safeway and saw sugar was on sale. I wanted it for holiday baking, but was concerned about picking up the five-pound bag because I’d recently thrown out my shoulder and could barely pick up a letter without excruciating pain. Still, I needed sugar. But something about the bag looked wrong. It looked smaller. Since my eyesight is going and I had just ordered glasses, I assumed it was my vision that had the problems. When I picked up the bag, I felt no pain, surprising me. At first, I thought I’d miraculously healed in the three-block drive to the store. I thought I had somehow gotten stronger. More buff. The bag seemed much lighter than normal. And my entire hand fit around the bottom of the package. I checked the weight printed on the bottom of the bag and gasped. Then snarled. Four pounds. After a zillion freakin’ years of selling sugar in five-pound bags, they shaved off a pound and didn’t expect us to notice? Thieves! Charlatans! Again, you could spin this and say they were worried about the over-sugaring of America, but we know better. They are ripping us off!

I continued on my unmerry way to the cereal aisle, always good for a little blood boiling. The cereal aisle has been a thorn in my side for years. Cereal manufacturers been playing fast and loose with packaging, contents and prices since I can remember. I’ve watched the price of Cocoa Krispies go from about a buck a box in the late seventies to four bucks plus over the past couple years. Since I am addicted to Cocoa Krispies, I grit my teeth and pay their price. But this time when I picked up the box, it looked strange. Thinner and taller. Again, I attributed the change to my eyesight, but when I got home and put the box next to my nearly-empty Cocoa Krispies box, I couldn’t believe it. The new box was nearly a full inch thinner. For the same price. And because it’s so thin and tall, the box is super unstable and keeps falling over. So where the hell are they going to go from here? I’m sure they have a team of engineers working on this stability issue. “Bob? We need a cereal box the thickness of a National Geographic, but as tall as the previous box. And it needs to stand on its own. Maybe we ought to play around with weighted bottoms. You think the idiots will notice?” You know they must refer to their consumer base as morons and idiots because how else would they expect to pull this Houdini-disappearing-contents trick on us. Rotten jerks!

Last week, I was back at Safeway, picking up OJ for Frank. After taste-testing many brands years ago, Frank chose Tropicana. And only Tropicana. No other OJ will do. So I reached for the half-gallon container and happened to glance down at the contents labeling. 59 ounces. WHAT? I looked again. The label still said 59 ounces. I nearly screamed. Now not only did they think I was so stupid I didn’t know that there were 64 ounces in a half-gallon, but they stole five ounces of orange juice from me and I hadn’t even bought the carton yet! So I didn’t. I shoved the box back in the refrigerated display and searched for a brand that still sold me a half-gallon of juice. Of course, Frank was not happy with the Minute Maid and so now, every time I buy the stupid Tropicana Rip-off Juice, my blood-pressure rises so high, my eyeballs throb.

Where will this all end? What’s next? Five-packs of beer and soda? One stick of gum per package? A single, sad, lonely Cocoa Krispy taped to the bottom of a giant, paper-thin box?

And how will all this product-shaving effect our vernacular? Will we be saying things like: “Hey, check out that dude’s awesome five-pack abs.” “Honey, could you pick up 59 ounces of milk for me?”

I can see the future when product miniaturization hits the fast food industry. “Hey, can you super-shrink that order for me?” “Sure,” the pimply-faced order taker replies. “Would you like fry with that?”

©2011, Janet Periat

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