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President Joe Biden Took to social media Sunday ahead of the Super Bowl to lash out at snack companies that are giving consumers less food for their money.
A phenomenon called contraction — where consumer products become smaller in quantity, size or weight while their prices stay the same or rise — is a “rip off,” Biden said.
“Some companies are trying to make products faster by slowly shrinking them and hoping you don’t notice,” said Biden, who called on companies to stop the practice.
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Biden noted that the contraction has been subtle, with sports drinks getting smaller, fewer chips in snack bags and ice cream cartons shrinking in size.
“The American public is tired of playing for suckers,” Biden said.
According to Edgar Dvorsky, a consumer advocate and founder of the website, product downsizing is nothing new and has been around since the 1950s. Consumer world which has raised its voice against contraction for decades.
These tactics become more prevalent in times of high inflation, Dvorsky said.
As prices have risen on grocery store shelves and elsewhere, many consumers are now more sensitive to how much they’re getting for their money.
Contraction videos are trending on TikTok. Meanwhile, a 2022 Morning Consult poll found that 64% of all adults said they were worried about it.
The president is the latest critic in Washington of contraction.
In December, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., spoke against the practice with the publication of a report detailing its effects.
“This corporate greed is one of the reasons Americans are frustrated with high grocery bills,” Casey said in a December statement.
According to Casey’s report, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, household paper products saw the biggest jump, with a 10.3% measured price increase attributed to the contraction.
Post-breakfast was the category, with a 9.8% spike due to contractions; followed by household cleaning products, 7.3%; coffee, 7.2%; and candy and chewing gum, and ice cream and related products, with 7% each.
Dvorsky said he currently has a list of about nine item changes that he has been tracking since December. One of its investigations last year found that consumers were being short-changed on the number of chocolates in Valentine’s Day cardboard heart boxes.
“I’m hoping that the inflation will slow down a little bit that we’ll see fewer examples, but it’s never going to go away,” Dvorsky said.
The best approach consumers can take is to be aware of the issue, Dvorsky said.
For products you buy regularly, monitor the net weight. If a tube of toothpaste changes from 3.9 ounces to 3.5, you might want to consider buying a competing brand that hasn’t downsized yet, Dvorsky said.
Also keep in mind that gravitating toward certain product sizes with names like “fun size” or “family size” may cause you to buy out of habit even after a product has shrunk.
If you write to the manufacturer to complain, it’s unlikely you’ll get them to change back to the old size, he said.
“You might get some coupons in the mail, which is always nice,” Dworsky said.
Still, Dvorsky said he was thrilled when Biden’s video went live Sunday.
“To see the president trying to educate the public about shrinking and calling on manufacturers to voluntarily curtail the practice, who could ask for more?” Dvorsky said.
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