January 30, 2009



Stealth price increases
on consumer products

by Jim Hightower

Good grief! Whole industries are downsizing, paychecks are shrinking, home values are dwindling, and our 401Ks are deflating to 1Ks. It can’t get any worse, can it?

Well, don’t look now, but they shrunk the toilet paper. Scott Paper is pleased to announce that its "new" toilet product has fully 1,000 sheets of tissue on each roll. Actually, so did the old rolls. What's really new and what the company didn’t announce is that each sheet has been shorted. The old version gave us 4 inches of tissue, but the new and “improved” Scott’s has quietly been cut to 3.7 inches in length. That’s a decline of 300 square inches per roll! Yet the price remains the same.

All sorts of corporations are instituting stealth price increases these days by shrinking product content while holding up prices. Skippy peanut butter, for example, ought to change its name to “Skimpy.” The company is now providing two ounces less in each jar, but it did not lower what it charges us. Worse, Skippy is intentionally trying to hide its consumer heist by playing eye tricks on us. The new jar is the same size as the old one was, so it looks like you’re getting the same amount — unless you turn the jar upside down. Instead of a flat bottom, the jar has an inward dimple that reduces the volume inside.

Likewise, cereal makers are cutting content while maintaining prices, and also using package deception to keep consumers from knowing what’s up — and what’s down. The new cereal boxes have the same height and width, thus looking the same as the old ones on the shelf. But cereal makers cleverly reduced the depth of the packages, leaving you paying more per ounce without knowing it.

One outraged consumer has launched a website chronicling these sneak attacks on our pocketbooks. Check it out: www.mouseprint.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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