Tips For Spotting ‘Sneaky’ Product Price Increases

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Manufacturers are shrinking certain products as a way to raise the price without you noticing. It is a continuing trend that some consumers are calling misleading and deceitful. CBS 11 News uncovered new details about what product-makers are doing, and how you can spot it on store shelves.

Look at this picture of a box of Kleenex (CLICK HERE TO VIEW). Can you tell a difference between the two?

Now look at this picture (CLICK HERE TO VIEW). It’s the same brand and same product. The difference is the size, but we found them on the same shelf for the same price.

Over the last two months, CBS 11 News has uncovered many shrinking products that are costing you more. “You’re paying the same, but you’re getting less, and that’s really a backdoor price increase,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of — an online consumer resource guide. He has been following the downsizing trend for years. “It’s a sneaky way to pass on a price increase,” he said.

Dworsky said that, in most downsizing cases, the container size stays the same, but the amount of product inside will change. He said that it typically happens after the price at the pump goes up. “We’ve just come into a new cycle of it, because a few months back gasoline was about $4.00 a gallon, raw material costs had gone up,” he said. “All those things contribute to higher costs for manufacturers.”

Dworsky said that when gas prices go up, watch for downsized products to hit the store shelves a few months later. That is when, he said, you should look for new packaging designs and key words like ‘New Look.’ “It says ‘New Look, Same Great Taste.’ But down here, it’s only 14 ounces,” Dworsky explained about one product. “Just before this, it was a full pound at 16 ounces.”

Other changes are harder to spot. Dawn dish soap, which was once 10 ounces, is now nine ounces. Hebrew National Hotdogs downsized one ounce, from 12 ounces to 11 ounces. Dworsky said that the best way to know if your favorite products are downsizing is to be familiar with their sizes — both in weight and in quantity.

To make sure that you are getting the most for your money, Dworsky said, compare the unit prices of similar products. “If a big brand downsizes, see if a competitor is still the same size,” he said. In fact, a competitor may even use its unchanged size as a way to get your attention. We found a peanut butter maker touting its product as “still 18 ounces,” compared to its 16-ounce competition.

There is a way to get some relief, but you have to work for it a little bit. If you contact a company’s customer service and tell them that you are not pleased with the downsized product, chances are good that they will send you some discount coupons, which will help save you money.

CBS 11 News should also note that a few products that have actually upsized, but it is a trend that experts do not expect to grow, as gas prices remain high.

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  • Chris Hoffman

    You said to compare the unit price of similar products to find the better deal. It seems to be a common practice to make this impossible on some products without a calculator. I consistently find one product unit price listed as ‘price per ounce’ and the same thing in a different size listed as ‘price per pound’ or ‘price per unit’. This has been a source of irritation for quite some time. Please investigate this as well, my wife will appreciate not having to hear me complain about it all the time.

  • larry easterlin

    Chris, I represent a manufacturer and the main reason we have had to downsize is the retailers will not take any price increases. The only way we can maintain the same cost to them is to make the product smaller. Believe me we would love to keep the same size but with all the raw material cost increases this past year the only way to do that is get a cost increase from our customers which is not happening. Please do not represent this as deceptive marketing.

    • Armin

      Larry, I agree completely. What is a merchant to do when your costs increase? If you do not want to layoff staff then you have to cut costs somewhere else or increase prices. For example, what do you do when healthcare costs increase? Has Ginger ever run a business? As a consumer, I am glad that I can still make purchases at the same prices. If I can afford more then I can buy the next size.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Hi Larry, thanks for responding. I think my complaint has been misunderstood. I realize that the cost of virtually everything in increasing and that manufacturers must raise prices to stay in business. Here is an example of what I have a problem with: Let’s compare two sizes of Brand X coffee. The shelf tag for a 42oz can lists the unit price as $6.00 per pound and the shelf tag for a 28oz can lists the unit price as 37.5¢ per ounce. Now, without a calculator, how can you compare the price of these two items to find the better deal?

  • Anita

    I’ve been buying Total Finish from Merle Norman for many years. It generally last a long time, the net weight was .80 oz. (22G). Well, last purchase, 10/8/11,
    didn’t notice the new weight, now .55 oz, (16G0) but same price. Different packaging to make it appear you’re getting a good deal – but you’re not. I tried to write them at their corporate offices, though only place I could do anything was in their prospective franchisee, and still nothing back to me at all. Basically you get half the product for same price, and it’s only 11/8/11 and I can even see the bottom. More than likely if price went up with it being a great product, would have paid a higher cost. Now, larger packaging, harder to fit when traveling and half the product. Just doesn’t seem right, but that’s the way they do it, like the report I saw, you just don’t get what you are paying for and don’t even notice. Pretty bad and I’m not happy about it.

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