Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

Product downsizing is a topic I’ve tackled many times over the years in this column. When the raw costs to manufacture a product increase, companies are faced with two options: Either raise the price consumers pay for the product, or keep the price the same and make the product smaller.

Many people have written to me over the years stating that they would prefer a product’s price go up a little bit instead of seeing the size of the product go down. (When multiple brands of cake mixes were downsized to remove three ounces of mix, I received lots of email from readers who noticed their cakes were no longer filling a standard pan.)

What shoppers say they’ll do is not what they actually do when the prices go up on their favorite products. Brands have done the research on this, and multiple studies have shown that a majority of shoppers retaliate against a price increase, opting to buy a competing brand’s product.

Because of this, it appears that product downsizing is unfortunately here to stay. However, it’s frustrating when an already small product’s size continues to get smaller and smaller:

Dear Jill,

I am fed up with companies who keep on downsizing items we have bought for many years. I have been a loyal customer of a major brand of dish detergent (we hand wash our dishes.) The small bottles go on sale for .99 rather frequently.

These bottles used to be 10 ounces. Then, they went down to nine ounces.

Then, the same brand downsized to eight ounces. Losing two ounces of detergent irked me as it marked a loss of 1/5th of the detergent. However, with a coupon, I could often buy it for around .75 a bottle.

I was browsing my store’s circular and saw that this brand of detergent is now being advertised as a seven-ounce bottle! I actually thought, ‘Is this a joke?’ How much smaller can it possibly get? I feel I am finally reaching the point where I will look at buying a different brand. In the same circular, another well-known brand of dish detergent is .99 for a 20-ounce bottle. That’s nearly three times as much detergent for the same price.

Raina H.

One of the benefits of capitalism is that we, as shoppers, have many options to choose from when we head to the store. If your previous brand feels the effects of other shoppers opting to purchase a different brand, there is always a chance that they will change their product, prices, or marketing strategies too.

“Dear Jill,

I am very frugal and I like to calculate exactly how much something costs us per use.

When I buy laundry detergent, I like to pay around .10 per load if possible. I am writing to point out how much more expensive the single use packs of laundry detergent are versus buying a liquid. A name brand of laundry detergent is on sale this week for $4.94. You can either choose the 22-load liquid or the 13-count single use packs for that price. There is a $2.00 coupon for this detergent that drops the price to $2.94.

While you pay the same for either one, the liquid will cost about .13 per load, but the packs will cost about .23 per load! I do not understand why these packs are so popular because people are paying almost twice as much per load so that they don’t have to measure a capful of detergent!

Amber B.

It’s true that people will pay for convenience, and the popularity of laundry detergent packs prove this. Consider that people doing laundry at a laundromat or public laundry room likely enjoy the ease of carrying and using a single load of detergent to the washer. At times, though, I’ve seen higher-dollar coupon value for the packs versus the liquid detergents, which just may even out the price discrepancy during a good sale.

It’s always a good idea to look at the end price of what you’re buying and make sure you’re maximizing your dollars.

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