This Pepper Stinks

Same Size Can but with More Profit
So, with costs going up and profits going down, what does a food manufacturer do? Simple, trick consumers into thinking they are getting just as much today as they did yesterday when they go to the grocery store. But how do we do it, asks the CEO, CFO and the Board of Directors? Well, says a voice in the back of the room, how about we just put less pepper in the package? Genius, shouts the entire room, s they envision their next bonus payment!

And so it goes. Profits stay high, the fat guys get fatter, and the everyday folks in the grocery store don't even realize what is happening to them. At least maybe not until every food product starts doing it. And now they are.

All of this came to the forefront (again) in a front page article in the Business section of the June 12 Wall Street Journal. The entire article is well worth the read, so you don't waste your money on big business rip offs. Consumer Reports reported on its investigation of these deceptive practices a few years ago but obviously things have only gotten worse as Big Business has continued to find ways to sneak around the law's prohibitions.

You need to be aware of this grocery store deception and to be ready to do something about it too.

We don't know where it started but McCormick's pepper tins are among the latest to take the weight out of their same-size tin package so they can keep their profits high. Same size tin on the shelf at your grocery store. Just a lot less pepper inside. One fourth of the original content has been cut out and in tiny print on the bottom edge of the can the new much-less content amount is printed, 3 ounces now where it was 4.

It's like a 25% price increase that you didn't even know you were paying. In the food packaging business this deception is called "weight-out" or "slack fill" apparently by those who are beginning to do it regularly. We call it cheating.

News programs noticed the narrowing of toilet paper rolls, followed by the shrinking size of some cereal boxes, but up to now there was usually some noticeable size difference in the package itself that would tip off the consumer that they were getting less than when they shopped yesterday. Now we are seeing some food companies getting deceptive by simply keeping the food container-package the same size and just cut back on how much product is put on it.

Well it turns out the Federal Trade Commission has some federal regulations that makes deceptive packaging illegal and there are only a couple ways around deceptive packaging laws. One is the unavoidable settling of the food items into the bottom of the package - think crackers in a box for example. Another is to protect the food from damage in transit - think chips for example.

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Is Big Business Cheating You at the Grocery Store?
And then there are those companies who do it just to protect their profit in a way the consume has less chance of finding out about. Feel like complaining to McCormick about this? Click here and do it! Maybe it will make them think twice before doing it to their other grocery store products.

Better yet, the FTC is looking at rewriting its packaging regulations and is inviting you to tell it what you think - you can do that by clicking here - so give them a piece of your mind if you want to stop this kind of consumer fraud.

Time did a nice article online about the ten common ways that companies trick you into spending more on their products.

So what can you do? You can stop them. You can let them know you don't appreciate being ripped off by sneaky sales gimmicks that are designed to see if you are being careful every time you go to the grocery store.

Every state has a "Udap" law that makes it illegal for any company, anywhere, to do anything that is unfair or deceptive to a consumer - and that includes the use of deceptive advertising and sales gimmicks that can rip you off. And, best of all, many of these Udap laws say that a violation of the federal law against unfair and deceptive acts is also a violation of the state law. So if you see an unfair or deceptive sales tactic that costs you money, these laws not only give you the right to stop it, but most of them give you the right to make the company pay you for doing so and, on top of that, they can be liable for any attorney fees too.

Big Business will be fair and honest, it seems, when you make it less profitable for them to be unfair and deceptive. So when you go shopping, be careful and don't let them trick you into wasting your money.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Everyday, Since 1978

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Known nationwide as a leading Lemon Law attorney, Ronald L. Burdge has represented literally thousands of consumers in "lemon" lawsuits and actively co-counsels and coaches other Consumer Law attorneys. From 2005 through 2018, attorney Ronald L. Burdge has been named as the only Lemon Law Ohio Super Lawyer by Law and Politics magazine and Thomson Reuters Corp., Professional Division. Burdge restricts his practice to Lemon Law and Consumer Law cases. The Ohio Super Lawyer results are published annually in the January issue of Cincinnati Magazine. Ronald L. Burdge was named Consumer Law Trial Lawyer of the Year 2004 by the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the nation's largest organization of consumer law private and government attorneys. "Your impact on the auto industry has been magnified many times over because of the trail you blazed for others," stated NACA's Executive Director, Will Ogburn. Burdge has represented thousands of consumers in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere since 1978 and is a frequent lecturer to national, state and local Bar Associations and Judicial organizations. Burdge is admitted to Ohio's state and federal courts, Kentucky's state courts, and Indiana's federal courts. Other court admissions are on a "pro hac" temporary, case by cases basis.