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Opinion
Virginia Postrel

Sneaky Shrinkflation Is Driving People Crazy

Packaging less stuff for the same price doesn’t fool consumers or economists. But diminishing quality imposes equally maddening extra costs that are almost impossible to measure.

Same Kleenex, fewer tissues.

Same Kleenex, fewer tissues.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Corrected

Shrinkflation doesn’t fool consumers for long. People notice when their stuff runs out faster.

When a 22-pound bag of dog food bag replaces a 30-pound bag, Buddy’s appetite doesn’t shrink accordingly. If the 12-pack of K-cups becomes a 10-pack, coffee drinkers have to replenish supplies more often to keep the caffeine coming. When tomato cans go from 32 ounces to 28 ounces, sauces no longer match up with one-pound pasta boxes. Even inattentive shoppers quickly notice they’re getting less for their money.