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Which packaging scam annoys you the most

It's been going on for years, prices go up but package weight goes down. Cereal, candy, seems like all the sizes are smaller yet not the prices.

I'm particularly annoyed with cheese. The pre-packaged stuff, Cabot, Cracker Barrel, etc. Even my own store brand cheese. The 10 oz. bars are now 8 oz. (I'm wondering now if they were 12 oz. once upon a time...) yet the price has gone up. This became really apparent when my local grocery had their bars of cheese on special 2/$5 and they had both old (10 oz. bars) and new (8 oz. bars) on the shelf at the same time. I rummaged and grabbed all the 10 oz. bars in the flavors I was looking for, knowing full well it was the last time I would ever see them! That's a 20% reduction in product for the same or more money. Bleh!

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  1. It's not a scam if the correct weight is marked on the package.

    17 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      It's a scam in my book, especially for older people who can't read the fine print or notice the difference. I suppose you could also call it "business as usual."

      1. re: Jpan99

        Manufacturers always have to balance increasing prices against decreasing package sizes. As the above poster noted, it's not a scam but an effort to keep prices within a specified range. Would you prefer that prices just keep increasing without giving you an option for a smaller, lower-priced package?

        1. re: ferret

          My point is, again, I'm getting less and being charged more. There are a lot of people who aren't going to notice the decreased package size, especially a sr. citizen. You ever notice when they are running some special promotion with more product they blast it on the packaging "Now 20% larger" you will never see "Now 20% less inside and $.50 more!"

          1. re: Jpan99

            And while this is a really tired, and hackneyed, topic let me just say this.

            Companies are in the business of making money. Their market research has no doubt shown that decreasing product size and maintaining the same price is a better approach -- from a profit standpoint -- than maintaining product size and increasing prices.

            Is this a scam? No, hardly.

            Product packages are clearly labeled. Now, you may find the font size a bit small for your liking, but with all due respect, that's a "you problem".

            Everything that manufacturers are doing with product sizes is legal.

            And, really, at the end of the day, manufacturers are in the business of making money. Providing a product or service is simply the means to an ends -- and the end is the making money.

            Plus, you (yes, "you") probably own stock -- either directly or indirectly -- or other interests in these bad companies via your 401k, pension, or other investment accounts.

            So, yes, it is an annoyance, but let's get over it.

            I don't mean this as bashing you, or the inconvenience that the change in product sizes is causing you, but really it is nothing illegal, or wrong.

            We don't hear the British still complaining about losing the colonies to General Washington anymore, do we?

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Well, we're all entitled to our opinions. I, however don't see how something that happened over 200 years ago can be compared to what I saw on my grocery shelves this morning.

              Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "scam" in my title. I'll change it to "Which ripoffs at the market really annoy you?"

              I do find it hard to believe that, assuming you go grocery shopping, you don't have any reaction to your favorite food in a small package for the same or more money. Sorry, but I'm not getting over it any time soon. And I wouldn't make the assumption that everyone has a 401k or deep pocket stock investments. Some people live pay check to pay check.

              1. re: Jpan99

                noun Slang .
                an act or instance of ripping off another or others; a theft, cheat, or swindle.
                exploitation, especially of those who cannot prevent or counter it.

                I don't see how that word would be accurate, either.

                1. re: tommy

                  Exactly. If you're going to devalue the word by applying it to trivial situations in order to punch up the emotional appeal of your argument, then what word will you use to describe an actual crime? It's like the boy who cried "wolf!".

                2. re: Jpan99

                  >>I do find it hard to believe that, assuming you go grocery shopping, you don't have any reaction to your favorite food in a small package for the same or more money.

                  As to the first part of that statement, yes, I do have a "reaction". And the reaction is that this is a marketing tactic (or gimmick, if you prefer) to raise prices in an indirect, non-confrontational manner.

                  >>And I wouldn't make the assumption that everyone has a 401k or deep pocket stock investments. Some people live pay check to pay check.

                  If you live paycheck to paycheck then it is in your best interest to have the manufacturers keep prices the same and shrink product size. If your income is not going to change, but you want to consume the same foods (albeit in smaller quantities) then the last you want is an increase in prices. Because if product sizes stay the same and only the price changes (i.e. increases) then at some point the basket of goods that you used to buy will be significantly different than the basket of goods that you can buy now post-price increase.

                  >>Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "scam" in my title. I'll change it to "Which ripoffs at the market really annoy you?"

                  And, lastly, this has already been addressed by tommy up above, but how in the world is different packaging a "ripoff"? There is full disclosure and products are clearly labeled and you are still getting the same type of good but only in smaller or different quantities.

                  Yes, I understand it annoys you. It annoys probably all of us when there are price increases, but that's all this is -- a price increase.

                  Do you realistically expect prices to stay uniform for all the products that you buy for the rest of your life?

                  Lets be real here. This is not a scam, a ripoff, or any other type of deceit.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I wonder if you’d feel the same if the restaurant you frequent reduced the size of your standard order by 20%, but kept the price the same. When I worked in the restaurant biz, if we did this I’d expect customers to complain because they’d consider it underhanded. And as I knew most of the customers personally, I wouldn’t feel right doing it. Whereas in my experience most everyone has understood the need to periodically increase prices.

                    1. re: Niblet

                      I have never, ever, left a restaurant hungry. I'd be more than happy if portions were smaller and prices remained the same, rather than prices going up and portions remaining the same. In fact, I get annoyed when I get a pound of pasta for 18 dollars. Give me 1/3 the amount and charge me half, and I'll be happy.

                      Of course, the economics of running a restaurant are totally different than that of a grocery store.

                      1. re: Niblet


                        The difference with restaurant portions is that they are not labeled, as they are with product packaging.

                        With the exception of maybe a steak (e.g. 12 oz sirloin) or sandwich (e.g. Subway Footlong), most appetizers or entrees or even desserts are not labeled or described by weight or volume. At most, you are told from menu descriptions how many you are getting (e.g. 2 pieces of chicken or 4 scallops), but not the total weight, which *is* what you are told with product packaging.

                        So with restaurants there would be a level of deception -- at least a lack of full disclosure.

                        But if a steakhouse or Subway, for example, were to say that it's now a "$5 'almost' Footlong" then I'd be ok with it.

                        With product packaging, there is complete disclosure.

                        1. re: Niblet

                          Typically restos don't list the serving size, so that's largely a false comparison

                      2. re: Jpan99

                        Costs are rising for lots of things but I have also seen prices go down on some things as well. Food companies are well within their rights to make a profit and as long as they declare the amount of contents on the packaging, I have no problem. I have a choice as a consumer to buy other brands. Along with freedom of choice comes personal responsibility.

                        Being on a very tight budget I never just grab the same brand each time - I always compare brands and ALWAYS look at the unit pricing for items.This is a habit so I don't feel it is too onerous. There are a handful of goods that I will always buy the same brand of but they are ones that will have to be priced ridiculously before I will stop buying them.

                  2. re: ferret

                    The prices are still increasing. The packaging is getting smaller so I just have to buy more. I just noticed this morning that Cracker Barrel cheese shrunk the package size AGAIN. It's disgusting. It just dropped 40 grams to 460. It originally was about 75o grams less than 10 years ago.

                    1. re: havefaith

                      "Disgusting"? Why -- or how -- is this "disgusting"?

                      There seems to be a lot of overwrought talk in this thread about something that (a) is fairly common, (b) is fairly innocuous, as business goes, and (c) is something you can't really do anything about any way.

                      If this upsets a person so much that such monstrous, out of proportion words as "scam" and "ripoff" and "disgusting" are used, I'd suggest a step back, a deep breath, and a look at more important things.

                  3. re: Jpan99

                    I'm an older person. I carry a magnifier with me so I can read the fine print in the supermarket. It's generally the ingredients which are in fine print. Net weight is generally much larger — I just checked several packages on my shelf to verify that.

                    I think most people who are as old as I have figured out how the world works. Almost everything gets more expensive. I remember when gasoline was well under a dollar per gallon. Increasing prices for those on fixed incomes is a real problem. Package size is not, in my opinion. It may be a bit confusing for a short time when a familiar package is changed, but for those who are especially concerned about the price, we have had unit pricing on the shelves for many years now. Don't most states have this?

                    My advice to those who have difficulty reading small print: carry a pocket magnifier or a pair of reading glasses with you.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      That whole "personal responsibility" thing is hard, though.

                3. I dunno if this would be a packaging issue or an advertising issue, but something that makes me crazy is when a product advertises itself as New!! And Improved!! But upon closer inspection it turns out that the New! And Improved!! part is......the packaging!! And not one thing about the item contained within has changed a bit!!
                  Another "crazy-maker" along these same lines is when a product advertises itself as New! And Improved!! (and more expensive!) and what's been "improved!" is a component of the product that never made a difference in the first place. To quote Peg Bracken, "salad dressing that's been 'homogenized to cling to your greens makes sense only if you've been noticing your dressing sliding off your salad greens in the first place."

                  2 Replies
                  1. I am really annoyed by obviously single serving sizes of things that upon closer inspection says, "serves 2". Examples of this are a bottle of Odwalla-type juice or a single, normal-sized store-made burrito at Whole Foods. So I'm supposed to cut this burrito in half, wrap half and put it in the refrigerator, and take the other half to work, where I microwave it, only to have all the filling spill out of the burrito while it's microwaving? This annoys me no end. I usually put things back on the shelf at the grocery store when I read "serves 2".

                    I think this is a scam because the manufacturer is counting on you to look at the nutritional label and see some reasonable number of calories and buy the item, but not bother looking at how many servings are listed.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                      This has been discussed before. 'serving size' on the nutritional label is not something that the manufacturer can arbitrarily choose. There are government guidelines.

                      It is not always in the manufacturer's interest to choose a smaller serving size (if they can). While some people want to reduce calories or sodium, others want more protein or vitamins.

                      It isn't that difficult to double the nutritional numbers if that gives you are more realistic serving. For example, a bread serving is usually 1 slice, but a sandwich is usually 2.

                    2. "Contents may settle in transit."

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: beevod

                        Is that a scam? Just wondering how this could be an annoyance.

                        1. re: tommy

                          When there is room at the top of the box for 20% more product. Did the contents really "settle" that much?

                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                            Did someone grab some of chips before they were sealed?

                            1. re: tommy

                              The packaging is needlessly large to make it seem that you're getting more for your money.

                              1. re: LauraGrace

                                I think it has more to do with how chips and cereal needs to be packaged. With a buffer of air. Of course the price is right there for everyone to see, along with the unit price, so one can determine if they are getting a good value.

                                I would think the wording arose from companies getting tired of fielding complaints of how peoples fruit loops were a bit dusty at the bottom of the package.

                                Of course, if they really are trying to be deceptive, they'd just make big ol' bags and *not* include the disclaimer. Including the verbiage is a clear argument *against* deception.

                                1. re: tommy

                                  I definitely agree about chips -- that air at the top is for insulation as much as anything. But re: cereal, I call bull. Some of the "natural" brands have started putting the same amount of cereal in MUCH smaller boxes, with a note on the side about how many trees are saved thereby (though none that I've seen about how much the reduced packaging widens the company's profit margin, but Truth In Advertising only goes so far. ;)

                                  1. re: LauraGrace

                                    And the size of the box as nothing to do with the disclaimer. It's a separate issue. So what of that disclaimer and why is it a scam? Perhaps the OP will address the question, since they posited this.

                      2. I don't find this to be a scam (in agreement with other posters) so much as an annoyance when trying to make a recipe that calls for a certain amount of an ingredient; i.e. a 6 oz can of tuna or 8 oz plain yogurt. Then I have to figure out if I want to buy two and have more of that ingredient, or just do with less of it. Thankfully I have a science background so I can do the mental math standing there in the grocery aisle. But knowing that the company is making more money off of me, not just in selling me a smaller amount for the same price but also forcing me to buy more to end up with the right amount for a recipe, really annoys me.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: LauraGrace

                            Exactly! Thank you! But if you notice, he takes 4 buns out of each of 3 packages, leaving him with 24 buns. He could have just bought 2 packages of 12. But then it wouldn't have been as funny.

                        1. Here's the annoyance that has bugged me for years... nothing new here: open the box and there is a "spacer" box inside, consuming as much as half the space in the box to make it look like there is more product inside than there actually is.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                            That is a tactic often used to reduce shoplifting of high price- to-volume items.

                          2. I know that so far you don't seem to be getting much sympathy on this subject but generally, I do agree with you. The classic example is the two or three pound can of coffee, and even the one pound can of coffee is 12 ounces.

                            The cheese thing baffles me a little because I have only noticed the pre-packaged small brick or bar of cheese such as cheddar, colby, Monteray Jack, etc. has always been an 8 ounce package. The brands that I see like this are Crystal Farms, Kraft, and the house brand at Aldi.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: John E.

                              I'm okay with the cheese to - hey, I never knew I was getting 10 ozs. - I always thought the smaller bricks were a half pound.

                              Coffee though - when did this happen? I grew up buying pounds of coffee - now as noted, I buy 3/4 pounds of coffee. Any recollection of when this change was made?

                              I love the marketing 'tags' - "no trans fats" - yeah, it's hard candy made entirely from sugar, I didn't expect any fats of any sort.

                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                Other than the shrinking size of candy bars when I was a kid in the 70s, I think the shrinking size of the coffee cans started to happen a long time ago like maybe at least 20 years ago.

                              2. re: John E.

                                At the grocery store yesterday, I noticed the 1 pound/aka 3/4 pound packages of coffee are now down to 10 oz. Grrr.

                              3. I see both sides of the "sizing" issue, but REALLY wish all kinds of baking morsels could come in standard 12 oz. packages. Lots of them turn out to be 11 or even 10 oz. Also drives me insane (as another poster mentioned) when the recipe calls for a size that isn't a convenient package size (26 oz jar of pasta sauce, the 8 oz. yogurt mentioned, etc.). Granted, lots of these recipes are older when the packages WERE those sizes...

                                BUT...what REALLY irks me (because I can read the sizes and do the math on the recipes if I have to - LOL!) is those darned clear plastic packages with hermetically sealed edges that you have to do battle with just to open. I know, there aren't many food items sold in these, but just had to get that off my chest!

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: jbsiegel

                                    This is IMO the one valid complaint on this topic, particularly because things aren't all scaled down the same amount. Sure you can scale everything yourself but this tends to lead to excess this and that which aren't easily usable otherwise.

                                    Even worse is baking where some things are designed for particular pan sizes

                                  2. The ubiquitous Hot Dog packaging to Hot Dog Bun packaging not being a 1:1 ratio.

                                    1. What about grocery stores that "round up" their one pound packages of ground beef to 1.15-1.25 pounds. A nice little increase in sales from folks looking to buy a pound of hamburger.

                                      I can almost imagine the chowhound post; my recipe says a pound of ground beef but I have an extra two ounces. What can I do with it so that Bossie didn't die in vain?

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: kengk

                                        What I hate more is when my recipe calls for 1.25 lbs of steak, and the closest I can find is only 1.2oz!

                                        Seriously, if you want exactly 1lb packages of ground meat, look for sealed packages or chubs produced by distant factories. If you want meat that has been ground in house, and packaged by the butcher with the help of his mini-production line, accept some variation. There are only 2 ways of getting exact weights - automation or fiddly handwork.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          And then there's those pasta companies that don't sell pasta in 16 oz boxes. Sometimes they are 12/14 ounces.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            My point is that there are never any variations of an ounce or two less than a pound, always an ounce or two more. I was mostly being sarcastic but it is clear that our store is adding a 15-20% increase to their sales of hamburger by making the packages a little larger.

                                            1. re: kengk

                                              At the deli counter, if you ask for half a pound of sliced meat, would you rather it be a bit over, or a bit less? I lean toward 'over'. I think customer expectations are more important than the 'increased sales'.

                                              Think of this way - if my recipe calls for 1lb, and all I can find are .9 lb packages, then I have to buy 2 packages to have enough. That increases their sales far more than selling 1.1 lb packages. When groceries advertise special meat prices, it is on the big packages; the family size with 4 mounds of ground meat, or enough pork chops to feed a frat house. They want you to buy more pounds of meat, not just an extra oz here and there.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                I suspect most people would buy the .9 pound package. So they are indeed selling 10% more by offering the 1.1 pound package.

                                                I rarely have the need to follow a recipe exactly. Most ratios aren't all that important. It's not as though you're making a cocktail. 1 onion? OK, how heavy? Who cares?

                                                I do enjoy those El Paso tacos on occasion, and that little package of salt and seasoning calls for 1 lb. Frankly I'd like to see a 1 lb package of beef, but if they are .9 or 1.2, I don't get too upset. And it doesn't impact the recipe one tiny bit.

                                            2. re: paulj

                                              I rarely see steak at my local grocery stores in packages of only 1.2 ounces. That's not even hardly one bite of steak!

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                "Seriously, if you want exactly 1lb packages of ground meat, look for sealed packages or chubs produced by distant factories"

                                                Very good point. When I go to my butcher and ask for a pound of ground beef, it's anywhere between a pound and 1.5 lbs. I don't complain, and end up with some extra very good stuff.

                                            3. I wouldnt consider it a ripoff/scam, but I have noticed Coca Cola promoting its 12oz containers for $.99, a few years back it was the 16 oz containers, and I grew up with 20 oz contianers being about a buck. Im wondering if my kids will get a shot glass of soda for a buck?

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: joe777cool

                                                Maybe they'll go back to the original 6.5oz bottle

                                                "1950s … Packaging innovations
                                                For the first time, consumers had choices of Coca-Cola package size and type -- the traditional 6.5-ounce contour bottle, or larger servings including 10-, 12- and 26-ounce versions. Cans were also introduced, becoming generally available in 1960."

                                                1. re: joe777cool

                                                  According to this Wall Street Journal article from last year, the smaller bottle was introduced at a lower price — $.89. In any case, 12 ounces was the standard size of a soft drink for many years. The larger sizes began to be introduced in the early 1970s, which coincides with an abrupt increase in the prevalence of overweight children in the US. Smaller doses are better, in my opinion.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    Isn't the 2L or Big Gulp or other mega size still available if you really need your sugar fix?

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      I don't know — I don't buy that stuff. But it's good that people who want to moderate their intake but are unwilling to give uo soda altogether have the choice of a reasonable dose.

                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                        Agreed. I appreciate the brands that are offered in small 6 or 8 oz. cans.

                                                  1. Pork. Don't get me started on pork. Kroger now carries almost all "enhanced" pork, which is injected with up to a 12% sodium solution. They say it makes the meat more tender. I think it ruins the texture, tastes weird and slimy, and that I'm paying up for up to 12% salt water. Oh you can buy the regular stuff, but it's twice the price. Bah!