DEDHAM, Mass. — We’re so focused on rising grocery prices these days, consumer advocates say there’s another trend hitting us in ways that are not so easy to see. It’s called shrinkflation.
Shrinkflation occurs when companies reduce an item’s size, quantity or quality but keep its price the same, giving consumers a little less for their money. Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky says the practice has been around for decades.
“Manufacturers know that consumers don’t check the net weight and the net count, [so] they can get away with it when they try to pull a fast one on shoppers,” Dworsky said.
Shrinkflation is not illegal or even deceptive as long as products are clearly labeled, according to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Dworsky says shoppers need to pay close attention to how much they’re getting each time they go to the store.
“We’re very good shoppers are being price conscious. We’re not so good at checking the net weight. We have to become net weight conscious,” Dworsky said. “Downsizing [or] shrinkflation really is here forever. As long as prices go up, as long as manufacturers see high gas prices or high raw material costs, they’re going to find some way to pass on those costs to consumers.
Dworsky said there are four ways to protect yourself from shrinkflation:
FOCUS MORE ON SIZE
Pay close attention to quantity and weight; it makes it easier to spot shrinkflation when your favorite product suddenly gets smaller.
“We have to look at the products we buy all the time. How many sheets on your rolls of toilet paper or paper towels? How many ounces in your orange juice? How big is the family size of cereal?” Dworsky said. “That’s the only way you’ll be able to tell if the manufacturer is tinkering with it when you go back to buy the next box or bag.”
Check out a company’s competitors if your favorite product has downsized--and don’t forget to look at the store brand.
“The store brand tends to be the last to downsize,” Dworsky said. “See if a competitor hasn’t changed and switch brands.”
COMPLAIN TO THE COMPANY
Write an email or a letter to the manufacturer to complain. It won’t stop shrinkflation but it could save you some money.
“Are Charmin or Cottonelle going to change because you wrote a letter? No, but they’ll send you some coupons,” Dworsky said.
USE UNIT PRICING
Unit pricing is the “price per ounce” or the “price per count” labeled on the shelf. Unit pricing gives buyers a good baseline for what their getting for their money.
“[With unit pricing] you can compare different products of different sizes and brands and find which one really is the best deal,” Dworsky said.
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