Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Just About Everything

One of the things that really grinds Agnes's gears is opening a new bag of chips, box of cereal, or some other such thing to find it only half to two-thirds full. The fine print on the box says something like "product is sold by weight, not by volume," so that you are (supposedly) getting what you paid for, but it still feels like you're being cheated, doesn't it? Everywhere you look, prices are going up while the products you're buying are getting smaller. Labels tell you they are "new and improved!" but they never tell you "smaller than last year, but more expensive!"

I got to thinking about this when I ran across this New York Times article yesterday: The Mysterious Shrinking TV. If you're one of my readers who doesn't follow the links, here's the Readers' Digest version of the story: the screens of most big-screen television sets are actually smaller than what their sales ads trumpet. They get away with this by, for example, advertising the sets as being in the "52 class" when the screen measurement is 51.5 inches or smaller. And while we normally think of screen size in terms of area (width multiplied by height), the screen measurement in advertisements is always diagonal. Does this make a difference? Do we really notice the difference in size between 51.5 inches and 52 inches? Does size really matter?

Sit down, Mike.

In point of fact, we probably don't notice the difference. And that's why manufacturers can get away with gradually reducing the size of our products - from candy bars to television sets to boxes of cereal and laundry detergent and bags of snack chips. Things may be packaged by weight rather than volume, but when was the last time you hauled that bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to the bathroom scale and tested it to be sure you weren't being cheated? And many of us don't know we've been ripped off for a while, which makes it easier for the crooks to fold their tents and sneak away into the night...the radical downsizing of our IRAs and 401(k)'s didn't really hit home until that quarterly statement arrived and we saw how much red ink they needed to print it, right?

Of course, some things don't shrink. Some things are much bigger than you need. Movie theaters sell candy bars the size of bathmats (at equivalently large prices). You can buy a Super Big Gulp drink (1.5 liters!) at your local 7-11 store and a "venti" coffee at Starbucks (if they call it "venti" rather than "large," you don't mind paying through the nose for it because it's more exotic, dontcha know). Drink enough of those Super Big Gulps and you'll get bigger, too.

Well, that discussional horse has stopped twitching, so I'll stop beating it. Suffice it to say that I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this downsizing any more.

Until the next time I need chips or laundry detergent, when I will trudge to the checkout with ovine resignation and buy them anyhow.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I'm more unamused by paying more for products that have really shrunk. Have you seen the size of a Ho Ho lately?

Gilahi said...

Yeah, if you ever go to a home improvement store and by a 2X4, you should measure it. It's not 2 inches by 4 inches.

Amanda said...

One of the conversations I recently had with my brother was in an KFC outlet in Cairns. It turns out that the price of that particular meal was almost the same in Cairns as it is in Palembang, yet the size of the chicken in Cairns was about 3 times bigger than what we get here. So, its not even downsizing, its just small size!

Mike said...

really grinds Agnes's gears
smaller than last year
The Mysterious Shrinking
.5 inches or smaller
Does size really matter?

There's just so much here to work with I don't know what to do!!!!

KKTSews said...

Look out, the GS cookies this year have been struck by this marketing trend...you'll have a couple fewer Thin Mints in your boxes. (I'm the cookie Queen for my town's GS troops).

I must say, though, that the laundry detergent doesn't bug me. We bought a front loader when we finally gave up on the quarterly repairs to our "trusty" Kenmore machine (~5 years old and a piece of #%$&!). The HE detergent we must now buy is expensive and in a small jug. BUT, if you follow the directions, it does last. I think the first jug we invested in lasted three months. And yes, we DO actually clean our clothes. I think it's worth the downsizing in this case.

John said...

Another sneaky trick...some energy drinks come in a 16oz size can but are only 15oz.

Word verification...dinke

fiona said...

I'm assisting Mike on this one :-)