More Adventures as a Shopping Skeptic
I had two interesting experiences this past week-end as a skeptical shopper. One surprised me. The other did not.
Self-Awareness at Super Walmart
The instant oil change place was closed for the holiday. This caused me to drive to a local Super Walmart. These stores now feature a “Tire and Lube Express” area that tries to compete with the instant oil change businesses. They aren’t there yet (much slower) but it’s faster than doing it yourself.
I walked into the store to kill time while waiting. I probably would not have done that at a regular Walmart store. I find them to be a depressing shopping environment. A Super Walmart is somewhat better, with more stuff displayed and wider aisles.
The first department I walked through was automotive accessories. I like that stuff. As soon as I saw so much of it, I felt a little adrenaline hit. Something internal was pushing me into shopping mode. It’s the same feeling I get at Home Depot or Best Buy. It surprised me. It made me realize how some people can get physiologically attached to the shopping experience. I was glad I was not carrying a shopping basket or pushing a cart. As I wondered the store, something might have found its way into it.
Note to self (and others): If you go into a store to buy one thing (or nothing), don’t push a cart. It could save you from some frivolous spending.
Manipulation on the Popcorn Aisle
My second experience was at the grocery store. On my list was microwave popcorn, a mundane purchase for sure. The shelves were loaded with different brands, varieties, and packaging. This made me think of recent discoveries of how manufactures of ice cream and canned tuna were quietly shrinking weights or volumes in their product offerings. This popcorn display was a prime candidate for similar shenanigans.
Sure enough, upon close inspection, I found that the long-time standard 3.5 ounce bag of microwave popcorn had become a dinosaur. Most packages were now 3.1 oz, 3.0 oz, 2.9 oz, etc. Hardly a 3.5 oz. product to be found.
The store manager happened to be nearby, saw me studying the packages, and nicely asked if he could help me.
I said that he could – by telling these popcorn-makers to stop trying to sneak smaller packages in on unsuspecting consumers. He nodded in agreement, saying that manufacturing costs were increasing but the makers were reluctant to raise prices. So they shrink the size instead. He reminded me that the store provided per-ounce pricing, to help us.
I said thanks but no thanks. First, most consumers are going to assume that what is packaged inside the box is the same as its been for years. After all, the size of the outside package had not changed. Second, many microwaves are pre-programmed to pop 3.5 oz bags. With less popcorn in the bag, the popping outcome could be unpleasant.
I suggested to the manager that he could offer a public service to consumers. All he had to do was post a small sign on the popcorn display, advising consumers that popcorn makers were downsizing what they had been selling for years and that not all of the packages on the shelves were the same weight. At least give us a heads-up. We can take it from there.
I don’t think I will be seeing that sign. Instead, I will just increase my alert level as a skeptical shopper.