Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Be Wary of Stealth Price Increases

Prices have been going up everywhere on just about everything. It’s easy to notice when something that you buy frequently raises in price. But there is one kind of price increase that creeps up on you in a stealth mode: packaging and quantity changes.

I did my usual twice-monthly stocking up of household items today at Wal-Mart and my local supermarket. Not only were the price increases very noticeable, but the packaging changes were so dramatic that they were obvious not only to my eyes but to my HANDS. There were several times that I picked up that I could tell that the size of the package had changed. In one case, my shampoo, the bottle size had grown, but so did the price – per ounce. It seems like you're getting more for the overall price, but you're getting more at a higher ounce price. One item – my dishwasher rinse aid – was clearly in a smaller bottle, and the size changed enough that my hand could tell immediately as I picked it up off the shelf. And the price went up, too. The other area is with cereals, where boxes have become thinner in depth, or in breads, where you may get the same amount of slices, but the slices are smaller (the bread delivery man tipped me off to the latter).

I understand that price increases are necessary these days because the cost of making the product and simply moving it to the stores and getting it on the shelves has risen. But I cry foul when a company changes their packaging without making note of it to the consumer, and then selling that lower quantity for either the same price or higher. It seems like cheating or stealing to me.

Now that I have noticed the change, it’s time for me to start re-evaluating some of the products I use often, and I may decide to make some changes in what I buy. The companies that I have been loyal to in the past that changed the package size AND raised the price already have a big strike against them. So instead of getting more money from me by delivering less of their product, they may find that they get no money from me at all.

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