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Country Crock 3-lb Margarine Tubs Stick It to Shoppers

There are certain things we take for granted when it comes to product sizes: a carton of eggs will have a dozen eggs; milk comes in quarts, half gallons, and gallons; and margarine and butter are sold by the pound.

Cross off margarine from that list. These two “3 pound” tubs of Country Crock margarine look identical:

Country Crock

However, checking the net weight statement reveals a surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Country Crock nets

The three pound tub is now three ounces short. Mouse Print* asked the company why they downsized the product. They replied:

Unilever Foods takes great pride in offering the highest quality products at reasonable and fair prices, and we apologize for the inconvenience our recent packaging change has caused.

In order to maintain price, we have reduced the size of the container for several reasons:

– Increased costs of raw materials, including ingredients and packaging materials
– Transition to Trans Fat Free products
– Tamper resistant containers

[In a separate letter, the company added:] A redesign of the product line was undertaken which involved packaging changes that had an impact on the net fill weight of the products. Prior to implementation, the changes were thoroughly tested with consumers to ensure optimal consumer satisfaction.

Of course, I am sure consumers applauded the company for removing three ounces from the container and not calling that fact to their attention. This is how some sneaky manufacturers opt to pass on a hidden price increase by just shrinking the product a little, and keeping the price same.

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Dial Soap: The Incredible Shrinking Bar

Once upon a time “bath size” bars of soap were all five ounces. Most have now been downsized to 4.5 ounces.

The latest move, however, is to go even smaller. Dial for Men is a prime example.

*MOUSE PRINT:  The 4.5 ounce bar is now 4.0 ounces — over 10% smaller.

dial soap small

OLD                                      NEW

So these three packs are 12 ounces instead of the old 13.5 ounces, but still priced the same.[Click picture to view net weight statement.] 

Downsizing is a sneaky way to pass on a price increase because you are getting less for your money but may not catch the change. As is typical for many downsized products, the manufacturer diverts your attention from the net weight statement to something else “new”. In this case, they are calling it a “new grip bar” because ridges have been carved into it.

I suspect it will still slip out of your hand when wet and sudsy, so wouldn’t you rather have that half-ounce back?

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House Paint: Introducing the 116 oz. Gallon*

paint cansWhat could be a more common home improvement purchase than buying a gallon of paint?  You may fuss over the brand, the color, and the luster but you certainly don’t pay attention to the net contents statement on the can. Why should you, after all? A a gallon is a gallon.

An eagle-eyed Mouse Print* reader, however, recently bought a gallon can of Glidden paint and noticed that it was only 124 ounces — four ounces shy of a full gallon.

What’s going on?  Has paint been downsized just the way half gallons of ice cream have?

*MOUSE PRINT: For the past half dozen years or so, according to Glidden, paint cans labeled “base” or “tint base” contain less than one gallon. Why? These are the products to which the colorant of your choice is added when you pick a custom color at the store. If the cans were full to the gallon mark, there would not be enough room to add the color.

Do you actually get a full gallon when the color is added?  According to Glidden, maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on the color you pick. Most bases are white or very light colored, so the darker the custom color you want, the more color they have to add.

paint net weightThere are also “dark bases” that have even less in the can to start with.Sherwin Williams Duration, their most expensive paint, has only 116 ounces in their gallon can. Some Ralph Lauren paints (made by Glidden) have as little as 112 ounces in the gallon can.

Paint that has the color premixed by the manufacturer (rather than paint customized at the store) is still one gallon, and marked as such on the label. Often the packaging of certain whites and base whites is identical except for the word “base” on the label. If you are going to use that white as is, check the label carefully, so you get the full gallon.

The practice of underfilling gallon cans appears to be industry-wide. There is nothing illegal about it (unless you ultimately don’t receive 128 ounces), but as with many products featured in Mouse Print*, the revelation of the facts buried in the fine print can be quite surprising.