Cheat sheet: How to deal with cheating manufacturers!

Published: December 28, 2012
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Chocolate manufacturers have raised the prices of their chocolate bars to combat inflation, making the shrinking of the chocolate bars completely unjustifiable. PHOTO: REUTERS

We have all come across the famous ‘Lays’ jokes on social media, where jibes are made about the manufacturers of the chips brand only putting a handful of chips and filling up the rest of the bag with air. But an empty bag of chips isn’t the only way that manufacturers cut corners.

Here’s a list of the top 10 reasons why we are really paying more than we should for certain products:

  1. Bags of chips and biscuits that are only 1/4 full of their intended product. Technically, a certain amount of air, known as the ‘slack fill’, needs to be left inside the bag or box of chips or biscuits to maintain the crispiness. Government bodies, such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in the United States allow slack fill to protect the contents or to allow for settling. However, their guidelines leave quite a lot of wiggle room. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest even submitted a petition to the FDA to take action against ‘violators’ for ‘misleading’ the public through ‘creative’ packaging techniques. One local violator is a leading foreign brand of chips.
  1. Inward dimple in jam jars, through which the consumer gets up to two ounces less per bottle. Manufacturers try to tell you that the dimple helps the bottle to balance properly and fits into your hand just perfectly, but that is not true. When you fill up your flat-based glass with water and place it on the table, does it topple? See what I mean?
  1. Shampoo bottles saying “For best results, repeat”. In truth, the actual amount of shampoo required to wash a head of hair is only the size of a small coin, and once is enough – an overdose of shampoo only strips your hair of its natural oils. Leading dermatologists and health experts also advise against washing hair daily, according to health website WebMD.
  1. Shrinking chocolate bars. In some cases, chocolate bars are up to 10% smaller. Chocolate manufacturers have raised the prices of their chocolate bars to combat inflation, making this shrinkage completely unjustifiable.
  1. Smaller or thinner sheets of toilet paper or tissue paper, even though the total number of sheets remains the same as before. According to ABC News, even a little paper trimmed off each square of toilet paper may mean 42 less square feet of paper in every four-pack.
  1. Charging more for a higher SPF of sun-screen even though it actually costs the same to make. This has caused one leading British retailer to eliminate price differences between sun screen lotions. MSNBC also reports that higher SPFs do not necessarily guarantee proportionately higher protection, so there is really no need to pay a higher price at all.
  1. Charging more for “whipped” bakery items, when all the whipping does is just adding more free air. Some manufacturers take it a tad further: In the case of “whipped” dairy products you might find that you’re actually getting less of the product and more ‘air’ that is occupying the container.
  1. Skimping on the quantity of food in cans. When food is sold in a can, normally some amount of liquid is added for protection. Even in a first world country such as the United States, the law only requires disclosure of the ‘net’ weight (inclusive of the weight of the liquid) on the label, rather than the ‘drained’ weight (without the liquid), so that there is no way of knowing how much food there is until the can is opened. If that is the case in the USA, one can only imagine the situation for Pakistan.
  1. Plumping’ meat by injecting saltwater. A standard practice in the fresh meat industry, plumping adds to the weight, so much so that up to 15% of your fresh chicken may actually be only saltwater – so that you only get 850 grams of actual chicken per kg.
  1. Expiration dates. Manufacturers encourage you to throw out products which have crossed their expiry date, in the hope that you will buy replacements. The truth is that despite the expiry date on the packaging, food items are good as long as they look, smell and taste fine, or as long as nasty things have not grown on them. The United States Department of Food and Agriculture advises that storing food items appropriately can extend their life for a few days more. However, caution is advised if fridges and freezers have been off for extended periods of time due to load shedding.

As a consumer, what can you do?

The simple solution is to switch to brands that do not indulge in these practices. The other solution is to register a complaint with the concerned company. If enough customers raise their voice, there is a good chance that someone will take notice.

Read more by Sufia here, or follow her on Twitter @sufiazamir

Sufia Zamir

Sufia Zamir

A marketing communication planner, blogger, creative content writer, and a part time Urdu translator, Sufia blogs at www.sufiazamir.com and tweets as @sufiazamir twitter.com/sufiazamir

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.