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Tips For Spotting ‘Sneaky’ Product Price Increases

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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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 MousePrint.org — 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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