Joe Ambrosio weighed in on a trend economists calls "shrinkflation" after...

Joe Ambrosio weighed in on a trend economists calls "shrinkflation" after doing his grocery shopping on Sunday in Bethpage. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Terry Mitchell said as he was leaving Stop & Shop in Hicksville, after finishing shopping Sunday for his family of four, that he’s noticed a lot of products are a little smaller than they used to be.

Dish detergent bottles are one example and chips are another, the Westbury resident said.

“They’re putting air in the bag,” Mitchell added. “The bag is half full, and then days later I have to go back. They’re cheating the people.”

Economists call this “shrinkflation”: It's when you pay the same for the product at checkout as you did last year, but you get less of it. There just aren’t as many squares on that toilet paper roll as there used to be.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • President Joe Biden recently called attention to a trend economists call “shrinkflation.”

  • It's when consumers pay the same price for a product but get less of it.

  • A Pennsylvania senator has introduced legislation that would classify package downsizing as an unfair or deceptive practice.

Terry Mitchell, of Westbury, talks about the "shrinkflation" trend on...

Terry Mitchell, of Westbury, talks about the "shrinkflation" trend on Sunday in Hicksville. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Mitchell and some other Long Island shoppers sounded off Sunday in Newsday interviews, saying they don't like the business strategy and they won't be tricked by it.

The diminished proportions of grocery items have become a theme for President Joe Biden recently.

In an ad released Super Bowl Sunday, Biden noted some snack packages are noticeably smaller, though the prices haven't fallen.

“It’s a rip-off,” Biden said. “Some companies are trying to pull a fast one by shrinking the products little by little and hoping you won’t notice. Give me a break.”

In his State of the Union address on Thursday, Biden called out corporations that “raise prices to pad their profits, charging more and more for less and less.”

Republicans have blamed Biden for rising prices.

Patricia Bulerin, who on Sunday was overseeing a Girl Scout troop selling cookies in front of Stop & Shop in Hicksville, said she buys groceries for her three teenage daughters and her parents and “absolutely” has noticed there's now less in the same food packages.

Boxes of Frosted Flakes, a favorite of her daughters, look the same but there’s not as much in the box, she said.  

“It's a bit misleading,” added Bulerin, who lives in Hicksville. “A lot of our community members are struggling. They have to spend more money for less.”

Patricia Bulerin, of Hicksville, spoke about the "shrinkflation" trend on...

Patricia Bulerin, of Hicksville, spoke about the "shrinkflation" trend on Sunday. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Shrinkflation is often a companion to what some critics call “greedflation” — when companies use the cover of inflation to hike prices higher than is strictly warranted by their own rising costs.

Wantagh resident Joe Ambrosio said Sunday, while pushing a full cart of groceries in the Bethpage ShopRite parking lot, that shrinking packages accompanied by rising prices seems especially egregious.

He said he understands companies may need to raise prices or reduce sizes — but “not when it’s both ends.”

There’s data to back up these consumers’ observations and the president’s laments. According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of household paper products increased 35% between January 2019 and October 2023, and 10% of that increase is attributable to shrinkflation.

The statistics also showed the cost of ice cream increased more than 21% over that period, and a third of that, 7%, can be blamed on smaller packaging. Candy, snacks such as chips, frozen prepared foods and cleaning products also diminished notably in recent years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released that data last year to Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, who last month introduced a bill that would classify package downsizing as an unfair or deceptive practice and allow the Federal Trade Commission to penalize companies for such downscaling.

A report from Casey in December specifically called out smaller “family size” Wheat Thins, Doritos, Gatorade, Charmin Ultra Soft and Kleenex Ultra Soft.

“Charging families the same price — or an even higher one — for smaller products should be illegal,” Lindsay Owens, executive director of the liberal economic advocacy nonprofit Groundwork Collaborative, said in a statement when Casey's bill was introduced. “And the Shrinkflation Prevention Act is a first step to putting a stop to this deceptive practice once and for all.”

Shopper Sibrina Flanagan said Sunday in Bethpage that a trend...

Shopper Sibrina Flanagan said Sunday in Bethpage that a trend economists call "shrinkflation" is "a little bit dishonest," adding: "Give us what we are paying for." Credit: Rick Kopstein

Mitchell, for one, said he would support such a law.  

Back at ShopRite in Bethpage, shopper Sibrina Flanagan said Sunday as she headed to her car that some products — rice and oil came to mind — have “drastically minimized quantity.”

“It’s a little bit dishonest,” the Seaford resident added. “Give us what we are paying for.”

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