Tailgaters Paying More For Less

Cheezit BagsWe tailgaters are going to tailgating no matter what. It is what we do. But when hard economic times hit, gas prices rise or inflation goes through the roof, those factors determine how much and how long we will tailgate.

No matter your political leanings or your opinion on the economic path America is headed, the fact remains prices are going up on everything. We’ve already seen it at the gas pump and now food prices are starting to fall in line. But unlike a gallon of gasoline where the service station has to charge a certain price for a standard amount, food companies are raising prices on their goods with underhanded tactics. Food companies are reducing the size of their packaging yet charging the same price as they were for a larger package.

New York Times: Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags
Newsweek: That Shrinking Feeling

Plain and simple, downsizing product packaging is a sneaky price increase. You are paying the same price but getting much less. By keeping the size of the product the same and just raising the price, the product manufacturer risks consumer “sticker shock”. The consumer might be so upset about the price hike they would choose a competitor’s product even though it may contain less. Rather than take that risk, they keep the price the same but reduce the contents in order to stay competitive.

Food companies aren’t going to come out and say right on the package, “New Smaller Package” or “Now with 20% Less!”. They will try to convince the consumer they are reducing the size of their product for other reasons. Many times they will say they are converting to “greener” packaging thus reducing waste and having a smaller impact on the environment. This is true but in many cases the impact on the environment is less because the package is smaller.

Many of us tailgaters may reach for those packages that are “portable” because they travel well. The fact is that the portable versions are just smaller. Another way of sneaking in a price hike into smaller packaging is by calling their new packaging “healthier”. We’ve all seen those 100 calorie bags of chips or cookies on store shelves. They didn’t reduce the calories in cookies. They merely measured out the number of cookies you can eat and stay within 100 calories.Less cookies equals a smaller bag.

So what’s a tailgater to do? Just sit there and accept it because “that’s the way it is”? Actually there are six things you can do to combat rising food prices and/or reduced size and smaller packaging.

Compare different brands – Not all manufacturers downsize. Minute Maid is still selling orange juice in half-gallons. Ben & Jerry’s still sells ice cream in pints. Just make sure to pay attention to see if their prices have gone up while keeping their packaging the same.

Compare unit prices – Think about a product in terms of its cost per ounce, per quart, per pound or per sheet. The grocery store where I shop has a “price per unit” breakdown right next to the price.

Go with store brands – Generic brands are usually 25 to 30 percent cheaper than name brands and are often at least as good. If you are in charge of bringing the hot dog buns to the next tailgate, do you think anyone is going to complain you bought the store brand over a name brand?

Stock up – Supermarkets sell staples such as paper goods, cereal, and soups at or below cost and rotate them regularly. Many items go on sale at predictable intervals, so stock up until the next sale.

Bulk up – Warehouse clubs offer everyday low prices on large sizes or multi-packs. But don’t forget to look at those unit prices to make sure you’re not paying more with the assumption that you’re getting a better deal in a bigger package.

Be the squeaky wheel – Normally food packaging has a way to contact the manufacturer right on the label. Most times they include a toll free number. Call up the company and complain that you don’t like paying the same amount of money for less product. We’ve heard that when people have called a company and asked why a product had been downsized, the company often offered coupons as an apology.

If you personally have any other good tailgating ideas as to how beat rising prices and smaller packaging, leave a comment below.