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Shrinkflation

I learned a new word today: shrinkflation.

Shrinkflation is defined as “a term used to describe the process of a product’s size being reduced while its price remains the same.”

Actually, I’ve been aware of this phenomenon for years, just like everyone else. I’ve just never had a name for it.

The first time I remember noticing it was quite a few years back when I was purchasing a certain bath product. I noticed one day that there was less product, but the price hadn’t changed. And the way they had cleverly re-packaged it made it look like you were getting the same amount.

But it really hit me recently when I was buying some of my usual deodorant. The shape of the container had changed. It was made to look like it would be easier to grip, kind of rounded in on the sides. How handy.

And then I got suspicious. I looked closer, comparing the old container with the new one, and saw that the amount of actual deodorant had been reduced by several grams. Surprise, surprise, the price was the same.

Not only that, but on the label, the size of the font with the number of grams had gotten smaller. Trying to hide something?

According to Wikipedia, “Shrinkflation allows companies to increase their operating margin and profitability by reducing costs whilst maintaining sales volume, and is often used as an alternative to raising prices in line with inflation.”

It’s just sneaky, you know? And how long do these companies think they can get away with it? At this rate, my deodorant will be the size of a crayon in a couple of years.

I’ll bet these big companies all have a Shrinkflation department. Nerdy people who sit around all day trying to figure out how to give us less and still charge us more. Change the packaging, make the content look like more than what it is. Give it a new name.

Sometimes they’re very clever, but other times all we have to do is know how to count. That box of tea bags used to last me a month. And didn’t I change that roll of toilet paper just the other day?

To be fair, occasionally there is a legitimate reason for a price increase or shrinkflation. The cost of producing something might go up unexpectedly, for instance.

The makers of Toblerone chocolate created a huge scandal a few years back when they changed the shape of the bar, making the gaps between the triangles wider, AND raising the price. Their explanation was that there had been an increase in the cost of cocoa so it was more expensive to produce. After a public uproar, they finally gave in and went back to the old shape. But the price went even higher.

Deodorant is one thing, but don’t you dare touch my chocolate!

There are some suggestions out there as to how to shop more wisely so you get the same bang for your buck. And of course, you can always complain, write emails, or post blogs.

One of the suggestions I read was that you don’t have to stay loyal to a brand. There’s an idea. Shop around for a competitor’s product and buy that instead. Ha!

Actually, I think I’ll take it one step further. I may just give up using deodorant altogether, and raise a REAL stink. That’ll teach ’em.

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Facebook Follies

When I became a computer operator (now referred to as a computer “technician”) at the Vancouver Public Library back in the early 80s, it was an enormous task to enter the name of every book and periodical, and every patron, into our new system. We hired a group of people for that task, and they literally spent months and months tucked away in a room, doing nothing but data entry.

It amused us at the time that a few of the patrons were worried about their information being put into a computer system. Who would see their names and addresses? Who would have access to their records? We rolled our eyes at their paranoia.

Little did we know that 40 years later, we’d be carrying devices in our pockets that knew almost everything about us even when we didn’t mean for them to. Not only that, but those little devices could also broadcast whatever they knew about us anywhere in the world, to whomever wanted that info.

Last year around this time, we were on what would be our last (sob) vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii, before this COVID thing hit. We were walking through a market when I spotted a t-shirt on a woman about my age, and it made me laugh. I can’t remember now exactly what it said, but it wasn’t anything I’d seen anywhere before, and I thought it was pretty funny.

So I giddily told my husband and my daughter about it after we had passed the woman.

Back at our condo that evening I was on my iPad perusing Facebook, when I saw that very t-shirt in my Facebook feed. It was a unique t-shirt, so I knew it wasn’t a fluke. That was the first time I realized just how little privacy I actually had. Suddenly, those long ago library patrons questioning where their info was going to be seen or accessed, weren’t so paranoid to me anymore. My phone was actually listening to me.

As we have all discovered, the technology and algorithms on our phones and other devices are mapping our routes, listening to us, and watching every Google search we make.

A lot of people have quit Facebook for many reasons, including that privacy issue. Facebook pretty much makes all of their revenue (in 2020, close to $86 billion US) from businesses, big and small, who want your dollars. Of course, that’s what advertising is for, and what would businesses and companies do if they couldn’t advertise?

What bothers me is the sneaky little way that technology is figuring out what you might want to spend your money on. It feels creepy. It’s like some sleazy guy followed you as you walked through the mall, and watched as you eyed that new red dress. Then he shows up in the parking lot with the red dress, trying to convince you to buy it from him as you’re attempting to get into your car. That kind of creepy. And so much more.

Because, now imagine thousands of sleazy guys following you through the mall, every one of them carefully watching to see which purchases you might be considering. That’s closer to reality.

What’s even worse is how we are targeted by political ads. The fallout from that has been witnessed in such a distressful way with our neighbours to the south. “Freedom of speech” the tech companies say. More like “freedom to spew bull poop”.

In spite of all of this, my 149 friends and I are still on Facebook. Oh, there have been a few who’ve left, especially after some of the negative publicity that Facebook has received. And others have un-friended me for reasons I cannot fathom. What did I do? What did I say? It feels like being dumped.

And why are the rest of us still scrolling our Facebook feeds? That’s a good question, which I am sure has many answers. For me, it’s about staying in touch with friends and family, especially during these difficult times. Sure, there are other ways to do that, but at this point, the convenience that Facebook offers is unparalleled, at least for me.

Many of us are are waiting for the day that these social media companies will be held more accountable for their content, and take greater responsibility for their massive influence. We can always hope?

Me, I’m just trying to keep my voice down, in case that creepy guy on my phone is still listening. Shhhh!

“Hello, How Are You Today?”

I had a most interesting phone conversation today, but for the life of me, I can’t remember most of it.  It’s not that the guy on the other end didn’t try;  in fact, he tried too hard really.  He went on for 20 minutes, almost straight through, making points for his cause.  He was from a charitable organization, one that I used to send regular monthly contributions to.  I won’t say what the organization is, because that’s not the point.

For a number of years I supported this organization until I gradually began to feel less comfortable with it;  maybe I changed, maybe they did.  For the last two years that I supported it, I was rather resentful of the money I was giving them every month.  Now it’s not that I sent a whole lot; it was minimal, really.  But I began to feel that I was wasting my money supporting something I was not 100% behind.  Finally, when I had to close a bank account for another reason, I used that opportunity to stop sending them cheques.  And of course, at first they did their utmost to convince me to continue.

And that became a problem.

I understand that charities and organizations who depend on the general public’s generosity struggle a great deal with the financial aspect.  I recognize that it’s not an easy job finding ways to convince people to send more money, or to send money at all.  A lot of them are proud of the fact when they have no government or corporate funding (as this fellow pronounced to me today), and do it all themselves.  And it’s not easy.

But when they continue to call, or send emails or monthly newsletters as if I had a subscription…but ESPECIALLY when they continue to call…they are driving me even further away.  Not only that, but they are spending an awful lot of time and paper, and therefore that money that is so precious to them, on somebody who really is not interested.  Maybe there should be a “best before” date beside the names on their lists.  If the person they’re calling doesn’t change their mind within, say, three or four calls, give it a rest.  And stop sending newsletters that only get immediately thrown in the recycling box.

For the last 3 years, I have had continuous newsletters and phone calls from them.  And what struck me interesting about this conversation today was that this fellow really knew his stuff.  He could discuss issues here where I live (he was calling from across the country), and around the world in many areas of interest.  He knew histories of all kinds of problems, and, according to his monologue, he had actually been to many of these countries himself and witnessed all that he was speaking about.  He was a smart, intelligent man, well spoken and not the least bit provocative in a negative way.  And when he finally took a breath, I had a chance to say that I was no longer interested and had not been interested since I had stopped my payments several years ago, and could he kindly take my name off his list?

He said of course that could be done, and then he did the obvious thing;  he asked me why I had stopped my support in the first place.  So I told him why.  Whereupon he began again to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way.  And the conversation (or should I say monologue) picked up fervor again as he began to list all of the accomplishments, behind the scenes virtues and triumphs of said organization.  I felt myself “um-hmm”ing all over again for another ten minutes.  At one point he was speaking so much and so quickly, that he choked and coughed.

Finally, I was able to get a question in.  “How old are you?”  I asked him.  I knew I’d thrown him and that’s what I needed to do.  “Um…I’m forty.” he said.  “Oh, you sound younger.” I took my opportunity to continue.

“You’re obviously a very intelligent and well spoken person and (insert name of organization) is lucky to have you.  But I’m finished listening, so I’m going to have to hang up now.”  And with that, we ended the conversation.  By this time I was actually feeling a bit of a headache coming on.  I swear that as much as he told me in that 20-25 minutes, much of it I didn’t hear because I was spending a lot of the time trying to figure out how I was going to stop him without being rude.  That’s something a lot of these callers depend on;  your politeness.  So everything he told me, was in fact, falling on deaf ears.  Was it worth the effort?

I’d guess they’ll tell you that it is worth it, because if they can convince one person to part with their money…well, you know the rest.  Sometimes these people treat their causes like religion;  they believe in it so much that they spend all of their time and energy trying to convert everyone else around them, like religious fanatics.  And I don’t know what the answer is when it comes to how they can solicit funds without turning people off.

But it’ll be interesting to see if they ever call again.  And if they do, THEN what do I do??

IJ