Are Companies Shorting You In Bags of Potato Chips?

Last week there was a news story about people filing a lawsuit against Wise Foods, claiming that the company is basically being deceitful and tricking customers into purchasing what they think is a large amount of potato chips.

Perhaps the real question here is, How much empty space is acceptable in a bag of potato chips?

We all know that bags of potato chips are never filled to the top of the bag.  First, the air in the bag acts as a cushion and helps prevent the chips from being crushed.  And second, chips settle and sink to the bottom of the bag, whether it happens at the food production plant, or during any phase of transportation all the way to your home.  The more that you move and shake the bag, the further that the chips will settle towards the bottom.

Still, despite knowing that, it’s disappointing opening a large bag of chips only to see that more than half of the bag appears to be empty.  This is a common problem with almost all manufacturers of chips, though some companies are worse with this problem than others.

Wise Foods

We, the consumers, want to have an amount of chips in the bag that clearly reflects the bag’s size.  So why is this such a problem today?

INFLATION / HIGHER TAXES

My theory is that companies are using smaller portions within larger containers to mask the inflation taking place in today’s economy, as well as covering increased taxes and other costs associated with staying in business.

Instead of raising prices to match the inflation and greater costs of doing business (and scaring away customers when they notice the price increase), it’s a lot safer (although sneakier) to simply reduce the amount of product in the container.  The company can then save money and still keep its prices in line with the competition, and it’s doubtful that customers will notice the difference, especially if it’s adjusted slowly.

Remember that when the companies have to spend more money to create products, transport products, pay its workers, pay higher taxes, and everything else, virtually ALL of those extra costs are passed on to the consumer.  The two most common ways to offset those extra expenses are to, A) increase the cost of your product (and risk losing customers, as mentioned earlier), or B) reduce the size of your product while keeping its price the same.

In this case, it’s very easy for a company to continue using a large bag and then simply putting a smaller amount of product inside of it.  Then print new health information and a new weight on the bag (most people don’t pay attention to that stuff), and there you go.  When people complain about how the bags look empty, simply say that the contents settle during shipping.

 

HOW DOES SOMEBODY STAY AHEAD OF THIS TREND?

Since we know that you cannot trust the size of a bag of potato chips, you have to pay attention to its weight instead.

If you want to save money, then you have to be a smart shopper in the grocery store.  This means comparing products not necessarily by brand name, but rather by the weight of the product.  Fortunately, many stores (including Walmart and Kroger) list the price per ounce right there on the price tag on the edge of the shelf, making it very easy to compare and see which items are better deals.

Use coupons, pay attention to sales, compare the weight between products, and don’t be afraid to purchase the dreaded “store brand”.  Also make yourself a shopping list and try to avoid impulse purchases.

NEVER forget the biggest rule of them all —- NEVER GO GROCERY SHOPPING WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY!

In the end, it’s still up to you to make the decision about which product you want to purchase.  If you want high quality, then spend more money and go for it.  If you want something cheaper, then that option is yours as well.

My wife and I really like the Kroger store brand potato chips, especially the BBQ as well as sour cream & onion flavors.  They are great when you have those snacking urges for something salty and crunchy.

Better Made

However, when visiting the relatives up in Michigan, I make sure to stock up on Better Made chips.  It’s a local product (gotta love that aspect!) and the BBQ flavor is freaking outstanding.

WHAT ABOUT THAT LAWSUIT AGAINST WISE FOODS?

If anything, Wise Foods might switch to using smaller bags, but that’s going to be about it.  This lawsuit mainly comes down to consumers not paying attention to what they’re really purchasing.  It’s comparable to people not reading the fine print (whether it’s for a contest, sale, promotion, etc.) and then complaining when things don’t go their way.

It’s not like the company is being accused of not putting enough product into the bag to match the weight.  Remember a few years ago when Subway was being accused of having their “footlong” sub sandwiches measuring around ten inches and not twelve?  That’s a whole different ballgame (and a public relations nightmare) when it looks like the company is deliberately cheating its customers.

In this case, as long as the product matches the weight printed on the container, then technically the company isn’t doing anything wrong.

Is it deceiving?

That depends on how you look at it.  Many people will say yes, and others will disagree.

In the end, I don’t like the practice of companies using larger containers than necessary, but it’s very common.  That’s just part of a gray area where the marketers will try techniques to get your attention and make their products look appealing.

It’s up to you though, the smart shopper, to take the extra time to accurately compare products before making a purchase.

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