Tag Archives: The Graduate

Deception Engineering

I wonder how long it will be before MIT, Caltech, and other engineering schools add a new degree to their curricula, BSDE (Bachelor of Science in Deception Engineering), right along with their highly respected programs in mechanical, electronic, computer and chemical engineering.

Granted, the program will probably have a friendlier title, such as “Product Engineering”, or it will be a concentration within their Industrial Engineering programs. Some schools might already be offering courses in this technology, because there is certainly a demand for workers skilled in this field.

If you haven’t noticed, consumer product manufacturers are using every trick they can come up with to hide the fact that you are paying more for less. My guess is that there are entire departments at some companies that research how to avoid or minimize consumer perception of shrinking products, whether through creative marketing, deceptive packaging, or playing games with package weights or product quantities. If you walked through their corporate offices, I don’t think you’ll find a door that says “DECEPTION ENGINEERING LAB”, but you can be certain it’s there somewhere, in some form.

Here’s just a few examples I’ve noted within the last few years…

Ice cream: The standard half gallon (that’s a two quart) ice cream container has been downsized by nearly all brands to between 1.5 and 1.75 quarts. It seems that manufacturers have resorted to several new package shapes to try and camouflage the fact that you are getting less product.

Soda: The 2 liter soda bottle has shrunk to 1.5 liters in many cases. Brands like Coca-Cola have come up with interesting names for their new packaging, like “Smooth Serve”, and introduced different bottle shapes. But less is less, no matter how you slice it.

Paper products: Even though they aren’t sold by weight, have you noticed how packages of toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are getting lighter and lighter, and run out sooner and sooner? No, it’s not your imagination. Mr. Whipple must be turning over in his grave. Take Scott toilet tissue, a brand that I feel is still one of the better values out there. Their flagship product has always been 1000 sheets per roll, and it still is. But the size of those sheets has shrunk substantially in both width and length (and some would argue, in quality and strength) over the last few years. Yet they still advertise “1000 sheets per roll”. That’s sort of like saying a loaf of bread is still a full pound, but redefining a pound as being 13 ounces. It’s deceptive marketing, pure and simple. And I’m sick and tired of having to clean myself up after sneezing into tissues. Lint and bits of paper all over my shirt, because the tissues disintegrate when you sneeze into them.

Snack foods: Ever wonder why your bag of potato or corn chips, cheese doodles, etc. is two-thirds empty when you open it? I have too. An example… that 8 ounce bag of chips and other snacks have pretty much universally shrunk to 5 ounces, 4.5 ounces, 4.25 ounces, and even less. That’s about half as much for the same or higher price. At least air has zero grams of trans-fat, and zero calories per serving.

Candy: I’m a chocoholic. I love Hershey’s chocolate, but that 1 pound bag of Hershey’s chocolates has been shrinking and shrinking over the last couple of years. Most of their products I see in the supermarket are now down to between 10 and 11 ounces. And no, it’s not just Hershey’s chocolates that are shrinking, but they are my favorite.

Yogurt: The 8 ounce container was the standard for as long as I can remember. Try to find it today. Almost all brands have switched to 6 ounce containers, with some as light as 4 ounces. Most interesting to me is the lengths some brands have gone to in an attempt to make their containers look bigger, such as false bottoms, cups big enough to hold 8 ounces , but which contain only 6 ounces, tapered cups, etc.

Cheese: I’ve noticed that most brands of prepackaged, sliced cheeses (Munster, Swiss, Provolone, etc.) that used to be sold in 8 ounce packages have shrunk to 6 ounces lately.

Canned vegetables: Just try and find a 16 ounce (one pound) can of anything anymore.

The above examples only scratch the surface. It’s not limited to one category of food or other product, or to one brand. Shrinking products are everywhere. It’s an epidemic.

In searching for other websites that document shrinking or downsized products, I stumbled upon mouseprint.org. It’s a wonderful site, especially their food /groceries category. Check it out !

And forget the advice about “Plastics” given to Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, in Mike Nichols’ 1967 film “The Graduate”. My advice, Benjamin, is “Deception Engineering”.

The impact of deception engineering on everyday life, and on our shopping habits is becoming so great that RoutingByRumor has started a Shrinking Products category on this blog, where we will spotlight some of the best examples (or maybe that’s the worst examples) of shrinking products and how manufacturers are trying to deceive consumers.

I did a few web searches for “deception engineering”, but didn’t find anything. Perhaps this will be my claim to fame… having coined that phrase. Maybe some engineering school will honor me by creating the RoutingbyRumor School of Deception Engineering.

Ya never know.

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