I was in a supermarket recently, having trouble finding my favorite margarine. I looked in the refrigerated display case but didnt see my margarines familiar, bowl-shaped container. All the margarine containers I saw resembled overweight Dixie cups.
I was vaguely aware that other margarine brands had switched to those squat, cup-like containers. I just didnt know mine had.
But then I saw my usual margarine was now also in one of those squat cups. I carefully read the printing on the container. I wanted to make sure it was my brand, and it was. The only difference I noticed was it said 15 oz instead of 16 oz.
It was my usual margarine, but it wasnt its usual weight. It wasnt a full pound, although the price was still the same: $2.99. This was another case of camouflaged price hiking. Id have to pay the same price, but Id get less margarine. That means, in fact, its price was raised.
I checked other brands of margarine in the case. All the similar-sized containers held only 15 ounces. I guessed my brand was a Johnny-come-lately to the price-rise party.
I assume the margarine executives hoped we wouldnt notice theyd shaved off an ounce. Their subterfuge reminded me of a 1983 Frank and Ernest cartoon. It shows the pair following an arrow above a sign that reads, The Cowards Way Out. Watch Your Step.
And it isnt just the margarine people who try to hide their price increases. A few months ago, I noticed the smallest bags of potatoes no longer contain five pounds. They now hold just four.
I doubt the potato packers switched to four-pound bags to make them easier for us to carry. I also doubt they worried that we couldnt use five pounds fast enough to keep some from spoiling. I strongly suspect they hoped a lot of us wouldnt notice theyd actually raised their per-pound price.
Such camouflaged price increases are nothing new. Back in January 2008, I wrote a column about the Quilted Northern people cutting a half an inch off the width of their toilet paper. Thus, we got less paper for our money.
Stores and food packages are scientifically designed to get as much of our money as possible. I wouldnt call it a war, but it is a contest. If we come in with a plan a list and read the food labels, well usually hold our own.
Reach Phil Dirkx at email@example.com or 238-2372.