Return of the Ridiculous Shrinkage Stories


No topic that I’ve written about in this column has generated more reader responses than the topic of product shrinkage. While I primarily focus on coupon savings, product shrinkage is also of concern to any shopper that wants to maximize her dollars. So, if you’ll indulge me for yet another column devoted to products getting smaller while the price stays the same, here’s another round of stories from the front lines of a supermarket near you.

It’s increasingly common to see new product features roll out at the same time a product is downsized. This, of course, is to draw shoppers’ attention to the new features and away from the smaller size. But reader Brian isn’t falling for it.

“Dear Jill,

We like microwave popcorn but I noticed something sneaky about the brand we buy most often. They came out with a bowl-shaped bag, which is convenient as you tear the side of the bag off and shape it into a bowl. Well, the bowl-bag has a price, and it’s almost a half-ounce less popcorn than the regular style bags used to have. Any ideas for saving on microwave popcorn? I’m done buying this!

Brian D.”

Actually, I have a great idea for saving on microwave popcorn, which I’ll save for the end of this week’s column. But first, I’ve got to share what I believe is the most ridiculous product-shrinkage email I’ve received to date. Those of you that love to report on shrinking products, get ready for a whopper of a letter.

“Dear Jill,

I read your article in Saturday's paper about smaller products. My husband e-mailed a well-known manufacturer of toilet paper about this, and we received this response. Thought it was a bit comical!

Les T.”

Les forwarded the following email, which indeed is very humorous, even though it likely was not likely intended to be:

“I’m so sorry you’re disappointed … You’re correct that we slightly decreased the width of our rolls. Although the sheet is narrower, this change allowed us to invest in some additional features and upgrades: We added some fibers back into each sheet – so you have more fibers per square inch in the center ‘performance zone’ where you need them most to get the job done. The reduced width improves the flushability because being slightly narrower allows the tissue to clear the bowl and drain lines more easily. The wet strength technology ensures the same wet strength as before but allows the tissue to decay faster after flushing.

“It’s important to know that delivering value is one of our highest priorities, and we work hard to provide the quality and innovation our consumers have come to expect.”

Of all of the mail I’ve received on the topic of product shrink, this one had me rolling with laughter! I have to say, while I’ve noticed the width of bath tissue rolls getting narrower, I’ve never noticed the sheet’s center “performance zone” being thicker than the rest of the roll. And arguing that the narrower sheets are now easier to flush? I’ve never heard from a shopper who wished their bath tissue sheets were smaller, either. But remember – new “features” often disguise smaller product sizes.

Smart Living Tip: When your favorite products downsize, you can choose to purchase another brand that gives you more value for your dollars. Or, if the product in question is something you can make yourself, you’ll save too. I promised a cheap and easy way to make microwave popcorn, and here it is! Get a new, clean brown paper lunch sack, which are usually sold in 100-packs for $1 or $2. Purchase a bag of popcorn kernels – a one-pound bag sells for around $2. Scoop a half-cup of popcorn kernels in the paper bag, then make a 1/2” fold at the top of the bag, folding it over three times. (Do not staple the bag!) Stand the bag up on its flat bottom, then microwave as usual, approximately three minutes or until the kernels stop popping. Enjoy!

© CTW Features


Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, Email your own couponing victories and questions to