Monday, March 5, 2012

Less is Better?

Have you noticed that some companies repackage their products either in smaller size or with fewer items but charge the same amount as they did for the original larger size?  This drives me crazy!  Last week I bought a box of cream of wheat instant packets.  The box I'd just used up had 12 packets.  The box I bought had 8 packets.  I don't recall how much I paid for the 12-packet box but I was dismayed that I could not find the product again in a 12-packet box.  Now, I thought maybe it was the store I shopped at -- they chose not to carry the 12-packet box.  So I went to another grocery store.  The second store didn't carry the instant packets at all!  Geez.

And then there's toilet paper.  Believe it or not, I have a reserve package of TP that I've had for years: 4 "big" rolls of 352 one-ply sheets per roll.  This product came in four sizes at the time: regular, big, giant and mega roll. Now, in order to get 352 one-ply sheets per roll, I must buy mega rolls!  And because they're "mega" rolls, they cost more....  Then there's "ultra soft" or "ultra strong."  Why can't there be toilet paper that's both ultra soft and strong?  Why are they two different products?

A favorite cracker package recently "downsized" from 16 oz. to 15.1 oz. for the same price.  Eeeeeerrrrrrgh!

It's not enough to have plain facial tissue, but you can now buy facial tissue that's been softened with lotion.  I'm sure the lotion makers aren't too pleased, except, of course, the one that has the deal to provide the lotion to the facial tissue company.  I used to buy giant boxes of facial tissue.  Now, the "giant" boxes have shrunk but not the price.  Maybe we should all return to using cloth handkerchiefs.....

Companies rake in the dough from all these "downsized" products so for them less is better.  They force us to return more often to the store to buy more because we run out of the product faster.  So, this is a clever trick: instead of raising the price on a larger-sized package, they keep the price the same but shrink the package size. Consumers buy more.  The effect is probably the same as a price increase.  And I can't help but feel companies are hoodwinking me.

I can imagine their rationale, too.  A company PR exec might respond to my complaint by saying that prices have increased for production, distribution and marketing.  Those costs need to be incorporated into the product pricing.  Rather than increasing the price, they do their customers a favor and maintain the price they expect, but they decrease the amount of product the consumer buys for that price.  The American dollar just doesn't go as far as it used to.

What are my choices in this situation?  I can continue to buy the downsized products at the same prices as before.  I can stop buying those products.  I can switch brands (but I suspect I'd run into the same situation eventually).  I can join a warehouse discount store and buy in bulk which for me living solo means enough for a year, probably.  I have choices, so why complain?

Because I still feel like I'm being hoodwinked!  I mourn the day long past that quality meant far more to establish and maintain consumer brand loyalty than it does now.  And I hate shopping....


Anonymous said...

I used to buy in the big chain stores, but now we get a case or two of bulk facial tissues as needed from an online store at

nice little packs without the controversy of the major brands like Kimberly Clak

Gina said...

Thanks for the comment! With Costco and Sam's Club popular alternatives, lots of people choose to buy in bulk, especially large families. For single people, even commodities like facial tissues or toilet paper would be more of a bargain bought in bulk, especially the way companies of shrunk the products but not the prices.