The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
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It's Only a Few Ounces


November 17, 2021 | View PDF

One of the home “fast food” go-to meals is burgers, or most any sandwich, and a plate of chips.

No, it isn’t usually very healthy, but it is quick and light.

I still recall a time — it feels like years ago now — when I stopped at a store to get my favorite variety of barbecue chips and found the 20 oz bag had generally 12 ½ ounces of product.

I might be exaggerating some, but it truly felt like the bag was only half-full. So, I paid for a full bag, the bag was full size, the wording described the bag implied I was paying for… well, come to think of it, the bag said 20 oz bag, not 20 oz of content.

So, initially the argument was raise the price or change the size of the product. Good point, sort of. As the cost of the supplies necessary to make the product increases, producers have a choice: increase the price, or change the size of the product. Option two provides a better price per unit, but the unaware consumer is giving up a few ounces, even a pound or so, for a package that looks identical to what has been on the shelf since their grandmother was cooling pies in the kitchen window.

So the question is how many people pay attention to the size of the product. Your favorite carbonated drink is now only 100 calories! Oh, by the way. It is 11.5 ounces in a can slightly narrower than the traditional 12 ounce can.

“Now, come on. A half-ounce doesn’t make a difference!” you might say.

Tell that to a cook. Would you want the baker skimping on the sugar for her, or his, famous peanut butter cookies? Also consider saving a half-ounce on each product sold might not affect your thirst much but it will sweeten the profit margin of the companies.

There’s a well-recognized soft drink retailer that has a “new” product on the market that defeats both ends. This product is at first viewed as lower in calories while maintaining the caffeine hit. Then on a closer look, the unit price is higher, and the size of the unit is smaller. So the 75 cent can of carbonated drink is approaching $2, and the buyer is giving up one-half to one ounce, or more depending on the expectation.

It does make me wonder how many people realize they’re buying four pounds of sugar, probably the same with flour and salt as well, not five. Have you read the fine print that says “28 ounces by volume, not by weight; contents may have settled in packaging.” So my half-full bag of barbecue chips is just an Oops, or the price of buying commercial.

Until the day when grocery stores have bins where a consumer can fill his own bag and be weighed at the counter, like buying produce, there aren’t many options. But it is almost fun to watch. Does the cook for Thanksgiving dinner buy and extra bag of flour and have a few pounds for next time, or make smaller cakes and pies with one four-pound bag? Do you walk out of a store content with an eight or 10-oz can of carbonated beverage content to only be drinking 80 calories and a lower percent of caffeine, or do you buy a bigger bottle and reseal it?

On the serious side, several generations ago, the quote turned cliche was “Let the buyer beware.” It is encouragement that should be applied to all levels of service, or arrogance of the business; again, depending on your viewpoint.

However, the buyer should be aware, from selecting steak for dinner, or dinner out, to what grade of gasoline you pump into the family wagon. Business owners and managers are where they are to make money. We can’t fault that. But consumers should approach the bright colors and flashing lights with their eyes open.


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