Does Size Really Matter? Understanding Product Downsizing & Unit Pricing

29 Dec

ImageDoes size really matter? Yes, yes it does. Rather than raise prices, or raise them too much, manufactures have been downsizing products. I never remember this being so obvious as it has been since the economic downturn began in 2008. The most clumsy example is toilet paper. Manufacturers claim it is now thicker, and true the girth has increased, but did they not think we would notice the 2 inches they lopped off the width now exposing our unattractive toilet paper spindle for the world to see? Here’s a link to more of the most commonly downsized products.

Remember back in the 1970’s when the US government tried to switch us over from English Standard Measure to the Metric System like the rest of the world, citizens were up in arms fearing they would get cheated in their purchases and it would in turn decrease sales? The only ones who embraced it were the gun manufactures and drug dealers (including the pharmaceutical industry), yeah, really put them out of business, didn’t it?

So how do you spot a downsized product?

  • New & improved. New size for sure, improved profit for them, but any benefit to the consumer is negligible. Remember the “thicker” (but shorter) toilet paper example?
  • New package design. On the surface it just may seem they just want to update their image, au contraire mon frere! It is just a way to camouflage the size change by distracting you with shiny new toys. You can get great deals on products in the older packaging at deep discount stores because not only are they priced less, you get the larger size.
  • Sold at a dollar store. Believe it or not, manufactures create different size packages for different stores, the dollar store is just the most obvious. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you understand you are being charged less for less. Empty nesters, students, and anyone who has limit space or needs a small amount, welcome the idea of smaller sizes that save space and limit waste of unused portions.
  • Snack size. If you buy a box of individually bagged Cheetos, guess what? You are paying for your own laziness and extra packaging. If you can’t take the time to portion out food, whether it’s for kids lunches or your new diet, you are going to pay for the privilege of someone doing it for you and giving you less in the process.

More stealthy tactics to beware.

  • Unit price. While unit price info available at the store is a good place to start, it is better if YOU choose the unit you want to measure. Why? Not all states have mandate unit price, only grocery stores are required to post not other stores that sell food, the unit chosen for a product varies depending on the store. Depending on the store or the items, the same product may be priced by liquid measure, dry measure, English Standard, Metric, or the number of individual items in package. The size of the unit used for comparison is arbitrary as well. I find it easiest to convert to the smallest size available, usually an ounce, and let that be my unit price for comparison. Click this link to learn more about unit pricing.
  • Size shaving. It used to be that we used standardized containers, many of them reused continuously, now we have disposable packaging. Remember how the milkman used to deliver and pick up the glass milk bottles? Now imagine if the dairy was constantly changing the sizes of their containers, it would cost them a small fortune, that’s why they had the standard gallon, quart, and pint. Disposable packaging makes it very easy to deceive the consumer. Without standard one-pound containers, consumers don’t notice when they downsize from 15oz to 14oz or 10.9oz, because there was no real point of reference to begin with.
  • Same size package, less content. This one irked me the most. The package size is the same, but there’s less stuff: same size package of plastic wrap, but less on the roll; same size box of cereal, but more air and less cereal. Sometimes they add more packaging as filler like increasing the girth of the toilet paper tube to make it look like its still the same thickness, or stick deodorant that decreased the size product chamber inside the tube.
  • Changing package shape. If you lop off the corners, you’re going to get less, that’s just a fact. And while some of these new slick packages may be pretty, getting cheated out of your hard earned cash is not. Another way they do this is to keep the size of “the face” and decrease what lies beneath. You see this a lot with box products; the front of the package has the same width so it seems the same when you see it on the grocery store shelf, but when you grab the box you notice it’s skinnier.

So what did we learn today class? Disposable packaging makes it easier to cheat consumers, the Metric System would make it easier to comparison shop, only pre-packaged food is affected, and some tips to use to protect you as a consumer since the first two issues are not changing any time soon.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

4 Responses to “Does Size Really Matter? Understanding Product Downsizing & Unit Pricing”

  1. Canadianbudgetbinder December 31, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    We see it all the time and for us it’s most noticeable when they do package changes. Sometimes we see a simple package change and the price skyrockets. They appeal to the eyes and smell and it works because we keep on spending. We also compare the weight of the product especially if we see older stock on the same shelf. It’s only bound to get worse. Great post!

    • realpennywise December 31, 2012 at 5:11 am #

      Thanks for your feedback. I’m always looking out for the fellow budget minded 🙂

      • Canadianbudgetbinder December 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

        No problem mate… I always appreciate when others spread the word about awesome posts I write so I love to share when I read other bloggers who have awesome informative posts. My fans.. well, they deserve it! Happy New Year mate.

  2. Lorraine December 31, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Great post!

    A tip about toilet paper, cleaning products etc. – buy at the janitorial stores where it is much cheaper in bulk. Last year I bought a bottle of all purpose cleaner concentrate for $21 and have barely used 2 cups out of a gallon jug so far with my daily cleaning. You don’t need a business license to go there.

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