Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 29, 2012 06:51 AM

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!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's not a scam if the correct weight is marked on the package.

    24 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!".

                  1. re: tommy

                    Completely accurate if the package size is for a large part air.

                  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

                            1. re: Niblet

                              Okay, let's talk a minute about something that really matter. You go into a pub, rder your favorite brand ad they say "Glass or Pint' So you say "Pint" ad they brig you a 14 ounce glass. This is definately UNtruth in advertising

                              1. re: gtauri

                                It isn't my experience (in the U.S.) that this is a significant problem. It is rare for a beer glas to be described as a "pint," and when it is, it usually is. Most often, customers just order a beer and take it in whatever glass it is customarily served in. I can't remember the last time I heard someone ask about the size of the glass. Quibbling about such a thing is contrary to the spirit of having a beer.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  When I go out for beers it's for a pint!

                                  The pint glass thing really annoys me. People don't ask because they assume they're getting a pint.

                                  I get really bummed out, when the bottom is half an inch thicker and the glass is actually 12oz's not 16 oz. Funny, a bartender told me once that it was 14 oz so we bet and measured it using a can of beer as our guide.. I won that bet and I am not alone in being peeved by the smaller glasses.


                                  To this day if you go into an English pup (in the UK). The quantity is mandated by law and marketed on the glass. Also, the practice of giving less for more is exactly what cause laws to be passed for the "bakers dozen" for instance.


                                  Yes, the quantities are marked on the labels but, I have a hard time believing that people are defending smaller and ever changing package sizes?? At the end of the day, it's meant to confuse and increase profits... not to give the consumer more value.

                                  I like the Kiss principle and the ever decreasing packages violates that principals for me at least.

                                  1. re: sparky403

                                    About a year ago, Baker's Chocolate reduced their package from 8 to 4 ounces and pretty much kept the price the same ($3.29 vs $2.99). People immediately began complaining and they defended their new product size as saying it was based on "consumer feedback." Regarding pricing, they've defended their decision by saying they can only suggest an MSRP, not mandate it, but would have their product team check on why stores are selling the new, reduced by half product for the same price.

                                    Really, Kraft? Consumer feedback? I can't think of anyone who says "Your product is too big! Reduce the size by half but it's ok to charge me the same. Please and thank you."

                                    I tried they new size, which is in a bar form now instead of the one ounce individually wrapped squares. I think their strategy of trying to compete with premium chocolate that is formed, sized and priced similarly, isn't a good one. Besides, I think it tastes waxy now, although I've seen nothing published that the formula was changed, I'm sure they downgraded the ingredients.

                                    Their new product and pricing strategy backfired, at least with me and others I know that use a lot of chocolate for baking. I discovered I can get Callebaut, among other semi-sweet premium couverture, block chocolates at Whole foods for less per pound. Sometimes as much as $4 less per pound, but I usually buy the Callebaut which is $2 less. I see that as a win on both taste and price for me.

                                    If anyone is interested, at a couple different Whole Foods I've been to, the block chocolate is in the produce section, not the baking isle. The pieces range in weight and wrapped in plastic wrap.

                          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.

                          3. re: ipsedixit

                            Let's not be delusional. Partially what this individual and many others are referring, is the "fact" that the package size is the same! Yet 20-30% (or more) of it is air. Check a bag of chips 50%+ is air, quaker oaks bar box 20% air, same size package Oreos, the last two in each row is missing. So yes it's a rip off. Large package half empty. I'm 50 years old and remember when the chip bags were close to full. So yes it's about profit, but more about ALMIGHTY GREED! If they weren't deceiving us, they'd just reduce the size of the package to fit the product inside! I'd love to see a comparison in same package size vs package quantity from 1970-2015.
                            Charge me as much as you must, reduce package sizes, but don't sell me air!

                        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.

                        4. re: GH1618

                          It's a scam if the package size remains the same and the contents become less and less and less!

                        5. 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."

                              9 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. re: beevod

                                  Are you old enough to remember a full bag of chips? They settled no differently then than they do now, they were just full.

                                  1. re: thomj

                                    I'm old enough, but I still haven't noticed anything in that regard which I think dishonest. What I have noticed is that the bags seem stronger and more securely sealed to remain airtight. This is an improvement in two ways: the product stays fresher longer, and is better protected against physical damage.

                                3. 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.