Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ice Cream and Soap

If you've recently visited the grocery store, you might be fooled into thinking that prices aren't rising very much - even with all the talk of recession (or should that be Recession?). But if you take a closer look at the packaging you'll notice that you're getting less for your money.

Take ice cream: I got two cartons of Breyers lactose-free vanilla ice cream yesterday from the local Lucky grocery store in Oakland -- the only store around here that seems to carry it. Each carton was on sale for $4.99, 80 cents off the regular price of $5.79. I noticed the cartons looked a little different from the last time I bought this ice cream. They had a sort of trapezoidal shape -- the sides sloped inward because the bottom of the carton wasn't the same width as the top.

When I got home, I checked the old carton from the last time I bought this ice cream a couple months ago. The old carton contained 1.75 quarts of ice cream. The new cartons only had 1.5 quarts each! We were getting less for roughly the same price. A few years ago you could get two cartons of Breyers ice cream for the on-sale price of $5 or $6. Sales aren't what they used to be.

Also that day I got some Dial bar soap from the drugstore and when I unwrapped one of the bars, I noticed that the bar wasn't as thick as it used to be. The bottom of the soap now curves inward. I suppose you could say that it helps the soap dry out so air can circulate underneath. But it's less soap than a couple months ago.

We're going to see more of these changes to packaging and design, especially as gas prices continue to rise, increasing the cost of transporting goods. And unfortunately, we'll be paying more for less. Welcome to stagflation 2008 (the last time the United States faced stagflation -- in the economy was in the 1970s. The term refers to inflation combined with stagnation--slow or no economic growth, unemployment, etc.)....