You look closely at that carton of ice cream in the store freezer, and a nagging thought arises: “Has that thing shrunk recently?”
There is a good chance your eyes are not deceiving you. “Shrinkflation” — which occurs when the size of a product shrinks, but the price remains the same — is on the rise, according to consumer advocates.
This stealth way of raising prices on customers is nothing new. Steve Reed, an economist at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, tells ABC News that the BLS tries to account for shrinkflation when it accumulates data for its Consumer Price Index. The CPI is a measure of what consumers pay for goods and services, and as such is considered a gauge for inflation as well.
Consumer advocates long have decried shrinkflation. Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocacy lawyer and former Massachusetts assistant attorney general, tells ABC News:
“Basically, if a manufacturer is thinking of raising prices, you can do it in one of several ways. The typical way is, well, to raise the price of the item. The sneakier way is to keep the product package looking about the same, but put less in the container.”
By employing shrinkflation instead of raising prices, companies avoid giving the consumer “sticker shock,” even though they are really “having the consumer pay the same price but getting less for their money,” Dworsky says.
So, how can you avoid shrinkflation? Perhaps the best way is to be more conscious of trying to think about prices by weight, Dworsky says.
He suggests memorizing the net weight of items you purchase consistently. That way, you will be more likely to recognize a change to the item’s weight when it happens.
If you spot an example of shrinkflation, look to competitor brands to see what they are offering. Or, consider store brands, which “tend to be the last to downsize the unit price,” Dworsky tells ABC News.
Looking at family-size packages of the product also can be helpful, as these products often tell you the cost per ounce or, in the case of products like paper towels, per 100 sheets, Dworsky says. That can make comparisons easier.
For recent real-world examples of shrinkflation, check out “5 Product Packages That Have Been Downsized — or Upsized.”
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