Monday, February 20, 2012

Death By A Thousand Cuts

Death By A Thousand Cuts can refer to:

- Creeping normalcy, the way a major negative change, which happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable

- Slow slicing, a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China
~ Source: Wikipedia

Pictured above are two spent cardboard toilet paper tubes; you will notice that one is a bit smaller than the other. My wife is an avid recycler; she retrieves these tubes from our bathroom trash were I toss them and adds them to our household recycling. She noticed that the latest batch of toilet tissue was now being produced in a smaller width. The same number of plies, the same number of rolls per package, and at the SAME PRICE… everything the same with the exception that the customer now get 12% LESS product for their money.

This is not a new tactic in the never ending assault of commercial interests to tap a much of our dwindling consumer dollars as feasible. For example, cereal boxes on the grocery shelf appear to have the same height and width, but the packaging is not as deep; a nuance not readily visible as one browses the grocery aisle. Plastic containers have been redesigned to increase the size of the bottom “dimple” lowering the volume of products by 2 or 3 ounces though the container appears to remain the familiar size. A 6 ounce can of tuna today contains 5 ounces of product.

However this marketing tactic is not reserved only for consumer products. Our health insurance premiums had been increasing steadily at the rate of 11 to 15% each year over the previous years. So we were pleasantly surprised (initially) to find that our cost of our health insurance, which had been $1,150 per month last year, would remain this same amount again this year. Instead the insurance company has increased the costs of deductibles, co-payments and fees for special surgical procedures. We will now be required to pick up the first $1050 in medical expenses before the insurance company pays a cent of our medical bills. The premium has remained unchanged but the additional cost in the not-so-obvious charges essentially results in a 7.6% increase in our costs for insurance over last year.

The trend is clear, we consumers will be expected to pay more for less at every turn… and a great majority of the population will never even notice. I confess that I certainly would not have noticed how we are being gypped on toilet tissue had not my diligent little recycler lady noticed the change.

More than ever the rule of Caveat emptor applies– the trend toward redistribution of the wealth will continue, but not quite in the manner in which the Republicans like to frame the issue.

33 comments:

Rain Trueax said...

I've seen the same thing. And now they are smirking over $5 a gallon gasoline by summer as though that will finish off Obama. People are nothing to corporate interests and they figure we are easily manipulated and duped. Too often they are right.

Those captchas are getting harder and harder to read. Not only computers can't read them but half the time I can't either...

Rubye Jack said...

What is most crazy making to me is how stores like Safeway and now Walmart pack the shelves with their own brands, sell them cheaper, put them on sale and yet increase the price of the brand names and never place them on sale. I don't like the store generics and so am forced to pay even prices for the items I like. I just find this so incredibly sleazy and would shop elsewhere but in a rural area there is little choice, and they know that.

DJan said...

My guy pointed out the same thing to me the other day with our rolls of paper towels we get at Costco. Same price, but smaller and narrower. Humph! It's easy to miss these things, and I am glad that somebody else is noticing. Good post. Health care in this country is becoming a bad joke.

Kay Dennison said...

I've noticed this, too -- what galls me most is that they are raising the prices terribly.

Antares Cryptos said...

Most consumers have noticed the recent "less is more" tactic.
Quality of products has been declining as well.
I tried to fight one of the increases that showed up without reason. First time that I was unsuccessful, even though I know that their profit margins are increasing.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain People are so torn and distracted, there is too much to be vigilant about and things fly under our radar all the time. We are forced to pick our few battles. [Yes, the word validation has gotten more difficult]

Rubye I agree, and for some things like napkins the quality doesn't really matter to me. What I have found is that when I try to use coupons, often the store brand is still cheaper than the name brand WITH the coupon. Then about a third of the time the store doesn't even carry the coupon brand!

DJan Indeed, they are nickle-and-dimeing us to extreme. Everyone wants their cut of our limited income. I like to point out that the $13,800 we pay in health insurance are dollars that are NOT spent in the local economy; small business. Multiply me by the thousands of premium payers and that is a huge negative effect on the local economy.

Kay Yes, for example the airlines put "fuel surcharges" on tickets when petroleum prices went up. But did they remove those charges when the cost of fuel dropped? You can probably guess the answer.

Cryptos Quality decline, probably due to overseas manufacture, is a problem. Textiles that fade, plastic that breaks, products tainted with who-knows-what. You might think there could be a whole resurgence of "Made In America" promotion to be made just from addressing quality issues alone. [I say that but I am driving my 5th Toyota]

Tommykey said...

I remember noticing years ago that Devil Dogs and Yankee Doodles were getting smaller.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Tommykey Yeah, the little cardboard in candy bars to make the package look larger than the candy bar. There is no end to the tricks.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Consumer Reports often features articles on this very issue. The same-size packaging for less product bothers me mostly for environmental reasons.

chlost said...

How does a shorter roll fit in the dispenser? I know---that is just how my brain works.
But I have seen this same trend. It makes me wonder even more how many people seem to think that business and corporations need fewer (or no) regulation because the "market forces" will keep them on good behavior. B.S.
BTW-word id won't recognize me....without my google account. So, I am f/k/a "alwaysinthebackrow"

Kleinste Motte said...

That we are being tricked has been noticed by me for years now. And gradually we are being guided by advertisers and the media to try new products that cost more but are good for our health.
The insurance issue is not only in health care. We are also seeing large annual increases in car and house insurance for no apparent reason.
The bottom line will turn red in time because eventually the current system will no longer function. To have sales consumers are needed. Consumers need capital to spend.
Greed is altering the the pendulum too much to one side and the profit end will collapse. But that may not do anything to help the consumer.

Antares Cryptos said...

We're on the same page. While usually optimistic, my generation will is facing a tough decade.

billy pilgrim said...

downsizing products has been going on for decades. maybe we should become as frugal as our parents who lived through the depression.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent A agree, I hate it when I purchase some small part and have to use sizzors or a knife to extract it from it's packaging.

BackRow Actually, I noticed that it is easier to get the roll on the holder now... so a benefit maybe??!!

KleinstMotte I just found out that our hazard insurance company applies an "automatic increase" in property values of 8% each year. Maybe people "under water" would be better off buring their houses down and having a new one built?

Cryptos I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it ain't gonna end in a decade. The lifestyle the Baby Boomers enjoyed will pass into history. I didn't believe that a decade ago myself, but now I am convinced. It's why I keep saying over and over that I believe our generation has lived in the best times man has ever had, and ever will have, on this planet.

Billy I think frugal living is going to be imposed on us as we enter the "new Depression".

daxkitten said...

Robert, re: your response to Kay...In the past as taxes have gone up and up, my comment has been, "Once they get their hand in your pocket, they never take it out."

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kitten Well the fuel charge could be considered a "tax" but it was imposed by private industry, not government. Corporate taxes were actually reduced in 1979, again in 1987 and yet again in 1993. Individual income tax rates have never gone above the 22% rate in the 1950's and are down to 10% today. Sales taxes, property taxes, etc. have probably have gone up depending on location, but then the costs of goods, services, labor, rise accordingly. We would all like our salaries to go up and the costs of everything else to go down, but is that practical or realistic?

Wow, that was awkward said...

Sweet. So I can change my advertising services to offer less and charge more?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Awkward Precisely, or you could also ...

Paul said...

Obama is the President and who else can citizens hold to account .Corporate interests don't care what the public says unless it impacts their bottom line - making money. I would say the same thing if a Republican were President.
While we are at it Robert and you probably don't want to hear it - there is too damn much government regulation. That with corporate greed, a bad economy and store bought politicians it's no wonder people are starting to get upset. It's about damn time !
And I say to the people who want the federal government to usurp more of our freedoms - you are getting what you want !

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul Yeah, I know. People are already blaming Obama for gas prices rising, and Newt has promised to lower them to back to $2.50 a gallon. The truth is that petroleum prices at the barrel is 100% controlled by private commodity traders, government has NO input into fuel prices beyond assessing taxes at the pump. These markets are completely unregulated.

Regulations are not generated out of thin air by Government bureaucrats, they are demanded by the PEOPLE to ask their government to intercede in their/our behalf when businesses favor their self-interests and profits over the health, welfare and safety of the public. Regulations are the traffic signs and the "rules" set in place to ensure businesses do no run roughshod over the rights of individuals AND other businesses. Yes... regulations protect business interests also from unfair competition! Hey, how about we get government regulation out of the Patent and Trade Mark business? That would generate some exciting "free markets" wouldn't it!

People demand their government step in when corporate interests pollute our water and air, their products make us ill or exploit their market at the expense of consumers. Regulations are the laws and rules that keep greed from harming those do not have the power to individually protect themselves.

I worked in Banking during a time when it began being deregulated. I personally witnessed The lifting of regulations which allowed the previous rules and standards to be bent. Usury laws became obsolete, reserve requirements and lending rules were gutted or outright eliminated. People who would not have ordinarily qualified for credit had it advanced to them. Look at the nightmare legacy we are suffering from that today.

People are always decrying that government is usurping our "freedoms"... freedom to do what? To gut working people of their declining incomes, freedom to make unfathomable profits with no responsibility for the systems and structure that ALLOWS them to make those profits? Freedom to pollute and damage and harm with impunity for profit? I don't think those "freedoms" are among the core values that most Americans hold dear. In my opinion current businesses don't have enough regulation imposed on them, and until they drop the greed position of profit over people, they should be regulated back to the Stone Age.

Antares Cryptos said...

I'm looking into the advantages of living in denial.;)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Cryptos There is significantly less stress associated with that strategy.

Murr Brewster said...

A few years ago everyone quit selling half-gallons of ice cream and substituted quart-and-a-halfs. You think we wouldn't notice something like that? It's ICE CREAM!

Entre Nous said...

Anyone else noticed the oz. in plastic containers is retreating? Evidently the plastic bottles are made with drastically recessed finger grips, hence less product.

Paul said...

Robert, the government hasn'i asked me about what regulations I may want or may not want. It's too big to really care about the little guy. Spme bureaucrat in Washington doesn't know me from Adam's house cat !

And the average citizen doesn't have much power compared to the power of the federal government. However, I am glad that John Q. Public is beginning to wake up and not just folks on the Right. Some Lefties are getting pissed too with the way government is trying to dictate our that we live our lives.

There is a book entitled "Three Felonies a Day" by a Liberal Lawyer named Harvey Silverglate that documents how Big Brother - oops our federal government finds legal ways to dance to their tune. I doubt that you will read it, but at least you cannot call Silverglate a Tea Partyer or Right wing nut !

Robert the Skeptic said...

Murr Donno about you but a majority of my cognitive abilities shut down when I am confronted with ice cream.

Entre Nois This trend is EVERYWHERE, sell us less for more. It is insidious and, frankly, it requires too much effort to inspect every product to see if you are getting ripped off. The Corporations have clearly won this one.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul You are being silly when you said: "...the government hasn't asked me about what regulations I may want or may not want". What I said was "...the PEOPLE to ask their government to intercede in their/our behalf when businesses favor their self-interests"..., which is the way it is supposed to work. And actually the government DOES come to you regularly to specifically ask your opinion on regulations in the form of ballot initiatives.

The point of my post was that, it's not the government that is picking our pockets, it's corporations... who have too much influence on our government. So you should therefore be totally on board with signing the petition to amend the Constitution to change the Supreme Court ruling declaring corporations as having the same rights as individuals.

Paul said...

Silly ? I may be, but I still have my doubts about the government's "good" intentions on my behalf. I do not trust blindly. Corporations aren't people I agree, but shareholders in their stock are people. I think Big Government and Corporations basically run the country and dictate to the populi. The Constitution mentions "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, For the life of me I cannot fin where it says it will take care of me from the cradle to the grave. I always remember what a wise old lady - my Grandmother - once told me. "the hand that feeds you can take it away."

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul Bouahhhaaaaaaaaaaa, be afraid, be very afraid... Lock up your women, hide your children, the GOVERNMENT is coming to get you with nasty big pointy teeth....

So it's true what I have read, Conservative ideology is based primarily on fear. But you know what your biggest fear is, the one that keeps you guys gnashing your teeth and rummaging for your torches and pitchforks? You are terrified that somebody will get something they don't deserve, that they haven't earned in your eyes. If that happens it brings us one more step closer to the brink of Socialism.... oh god help us!

Give me a list of all the "freedoms" you have had taken away from you. Tell me you all aren't accepting social security, that you are refusing Medicare and self-paying your medical. Rail on about the Government while private business, unfettered by any rules, picks our pockets incessently. Oh yes, wait a minute, I forgot... you are angry about the taxes you have to pay, or as I call them, the "dues" we all pay to live in a free society.

I'll stop here before this comment turns into a blog entry itself.

Kay Dennison said...

Yotu really nailed it, Robert!!! Count a standing ovation from Ohio!!!

Heidrun Khokhar said...

Robert I hope the part about burning down a house was not intended to be hurtful. Our house that burned down was fully paid for and we lost a lot because the insurance company lawyers and ares are still fighting.
The stress of that has been with us for 4 years this March.
We sold the place as is for 1/4 of it's value because we could not go through the stress of reconstruction.
To date the house fixed and up for sale but the agent who rebuilt now has the internet pointing to a fire at that location and that is slowing his resale.
The world has changed a lot.

Heidrun Khokhar said...

Burn a house? Build a new one?
Really? OUCH!!
It's been 4 years since our house fire and we still have no insurance settlement.
We had no debt on the home. We were forced to sell the place as is for 1/4 of it's value because we were not in any position to reconstruct. STRESS was way too high for us to manage it.
Now the poor agent who rebuilt it is stuck selling it at a fair price because the internet point out that there was a fire at that location.
Today we were to meet with our lawyer again as we struggle to get some closure but the app't was cancelled just as we were ready to go. And that continues.
Nothing fair in any of this.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Heidrun No, surviving the loss of a home through fire is traumatic enough without having to brave more adversity just trying to retrieve what is due to you.