As price-conscious consumers, we always aim to maximize the value of whatever we're buying, whether it's a box of cereal, a carton of orange juice or a roll of aluminum foil.
Product shrinkage, when companies downsize a product and don't lower the retail price, continues to be an extremely popular topic with my readers. Here's another sampling of the mail I've been receiving.
In a previous column, I shared an email from Marion, who noticed that a large bottle of mouthwash had half the fluoride strength of the smaller-sized bottle of the same brand.
Marion was upset and felt that the larger bottle was being watered down to save money. I have to admit, on first read, I assumed the same thing. Why make the larger bottle half the strength of the smaller one? Reader Linda shares some light on this issue:
I am a registered dental hygienist with my Master of Science in dental hygiene education. I read Marion's note in your column about the larger mouthwash bottle having half the strength of the smaller bottle.
This is most likely due to federal restrictions on the total amount of fluoride that can be in any over-the-counter product. The theory: If someone were to ingest the entire bottle, they would not reach a toxic level of fluoride. I hope this helps her feel better about the product and company.
I appreciate Linda's email. It's an answer I had not considered! But, armed with this knowledge, I'll also be more inclined to buy smaller bottles of mouthwash with a higher concentration of fluoride, too.
But there's more shrinkage to discuss. You readers have been reporting in on everything from soap to nuts to bath tissue. In many ways, I wish this column topic wasn't as popular as it is, but it's also definitely good to be informed consumers.
Concerning shrinkage in products, a couple I have noticed: Bars of soap came out in a new shape and a reduction in size from 4.5 ounces to 4 ounces (11.1 percent less) with no decrease in price. A brand of mixed nuts changed the shape of their plastic container and dropped the amount of nuts from 2 pounds 8 ounces to 2 pounds 2 ounces (15 percent less) again with no reduction in price.
Also I have noticed that some boxes of cereal are getting thinner while their prices have increased. I recently ordered a new box of blank checks and the number of checks dropped from 150 to 120 (20 percent fewer), again with no reduction in price. There are other examples of shrinkage, but that's enough for now.
Do companies think we won't notice skinnier rolls of toilet paper? We live in an older house and our toilet roll dispenser is built into the bathroom wall. It really makes you notice how skinny the width of these rolls are getting when you put them in a dispenser that was made over 40 years ago. It's embarrassing. If companies keep this up, eventually I will fit two rolls side by side on my dispenser's roller.
Isn't it nice ... the food suppliers are still charging us the same price for things, except we're getting less. We only have to spend more time, money and gas when we need replacements earlier. I have noticed our toilet paper and paper towel suppliers are now using thinner (cheaper) tubes, too. The pressure of the wrapped paper crushes the tube, sometimes to a sharp point or ridge into the hole. This makes for some interesting unrolling events.
Smart Living Tip: As we head into 2014, it's good to know that so many of my readers are closely watching the changes in their most-purchased products. This is the kind of knowledge that helps us remain fiscally conscious consumers.
Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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