A few years ago, perhaps many, professional curmudgeon Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes did a piece on shrinking product sizes. The most obvious example is, of course, the pound of coffee, which Rooney noted had been reduced to 13 ounces — enough to generate more profits, but not enough for the average consumer to notice. Naturally, the price was not lowered to reflect the lesser amount. Recently, I noticed that my coffee now comes in a 12-ounce can. At some point, I expect the pound of coffee will become a half pound, and no one under, say, 60 years of age will know the difference.
I’ve become used to these games when it comes to packaged foods. I may think it’s a questionable tactic, particularly since the manufacturers and distributors don’t announce the reduction in quantity or size the way they announce “new and improved flavor” or new packaging, but there is nothing I can do about it. The practice has become too widespread and too widely accepted (or ignored); there’s no motivation for companies to change the way in which they operate or market.
This practice is not limited to foods, of course. Shampoo, toothpaste, cosmetics — all come in smaller sizes than the standard sizes I grew up with.
I am aware of this, yet I still managed to be surprised by my recent purchase of notebook filler paper. The shrinkage is not in the number of sheets, which has always been variable — 100, 150, 175, 200, 250, 300, 400, 500. No, the shrinkage is in the size of the sheet itself. In the U.S., a standard letter-sized sheet is 8.5″ x 11″, whether it’s plain copier/printer paper or notebook paper. I have filler paper from about 10 years ago — it’s 8.5″ x 11″. But the new filler paper, from a leading manufacturer of school supplies, is 8″ x 10.5″.
They cut one-half inch from both the length and width to keep the proportion.
Now I will have to find some other brands to see if this size is the new standard for filler paper. Imagine. 8.5″ x 11″ paper that’s 8″ x 10.5″. Along with a pound of coffee that’s 12 ounces.
I can’t wait to find yardsticks that are 30″ and foot-long rulers that are 9″.
Postscript: Staple carries 8.5″ x 11″ and 8″ x 10.5″ paper. I forgot to see if there is a difference in pricing.