Throughout the ’70s, when I was a kid, I remember standing with my father in any number of German or Polish delis. And I clearly recall one particular instance in which, glancing down at the checkout counter, he disgustedly commented that candy bars had shrunk down to half the size they were in the 1950s.
Today, contraction is epidemic; it’s occurring everywhere from quarter-sized cookies to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. A few weeks back Subway Restaurants announced that they may have been shorting their signature foot long sandwiches, and pledged more consistent sizing going forward. (I, perhaps blindly trusting, have never seen fit to bring a ruler to lunch. Evidently someone did.)
In fact, over the last few years many canned vegetable weights have quietly dropped from 16 to 13 or 14 ounces, sugar has been repackaged in 4 rather than 5 pound bags, and containers of moist/’baby’ wipes have been reduced from 80 to 72 ounces. By another account, bags of a number of well-known chips/snacks held 20% less actual food in 2011 than they did in 2009.
Certain brands of toilet paper have cut the size of their ‘squares’ to 3.7 from 4 inches. And by adding strategically placed “dimples” in plastic jars, a well-known peanut butter maker has been able to reduce volumes.
Horse meat has recently been discovered in hamburgers in Europe. And yesterday, Maker’s Mark announced that it would be cutting the alcohol content of its whiskey.
Systemic reduction is afoot, but I don’t blame the manufacturers. They, like everyone else, are being squeezed in ways both overt and subtle. But consider all of the above – and numerous other instances I haven’t included (feel free to share your own in the comments, below) – amid rising nominal prices and much higher levels of both unemployment and underemployment. Even setting aside the highly…massaged nature of such government statistics as CPI and PPI, real inflation is undoubtedly being underestimated. It may even be shocking.