Photo Credit: Mouse Print*
One of the great hoaxes of the past few years is that the annual inflation rate has been low (1). It has not been - it's an illusion. The average Consumer Price Index for a given calendar year represents changes in prices of tens of thousands of goods and services purchased for consumption by urban households. The problem is that the goods we purchase each year actually shrinks while prices remain the same.
Take for example toilet paper. Back in 2010 my wife asked me to fix the toilet paper holder because it wouldn't hold a roll of toilet paper anymore. When I investigated I noticed that the holder was screwed into the wall to hold a roll of paper 4.5 inches wide but that the Scott Tissue 1,000 sheet roll had shrunk to 4.1 inches wide; that is, a 9% decrease in the amount of square footage for the same price. That's something you don't want to sit still for.
I believe most companies have been loath to raise prices these past few years because of the bad economy, so shampoo companies add a little more water, chocolate companies shrink their bars (2), cookie companies cut back a few cookies or fill them with less cream, all the while keeping prices the same or only slightly higher masking the true inflation rate.
So when workers for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics go to supermarkets and bodegas to get the current price of a roll of toilet paper, or a package of Oreos, or bar of chocolate, they don't notice any increase of price. What they should do is count or weigh the cookies, check the ingredient mix on the shampoo, calculate the square footage of paper, and drain the water from the can of tuna [remember when cans of tuna went from 7 to 6 and finally to 5 oz cans?]; otherwise it will falsely appear as if we are paying the same amount of money for the same shopping cart full of groceries.
Hundreds of other products have had similar shrinkage during the past few years. So while the reported inflation rate was under 2% for 2010, consumers actually spent many times more than that for their household products. Unless there is a miracle, I fear there will be a day of reckoning regarding the value of our dollar.
US Inflation Calculator, Current US Inflation Rates: 2003-2013
The chart, graph and table of US inflation rates displays annual rates from 2003-2013. Rates of inflation are calculated using the Current Consumer Price Index published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Annual Inflation Rates Chart (2003-2013)
Telegraph, 13 Nov 2012, Chocolate bars shrink as makers cut costs
Cadbury recently decreased the weight of its Dairy Milk chocolate bar from 49g to 45g while continuing to charge 59p.
It reduced the size in the wake of rising fuel and cocoa prices.
A 205g bag of Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles Sharing Bag reduced to 170g, a 175g Smarties bag is now 147g and Nestle's Munchies Pouch dropped from 150g to 126g.
The shrinkage has been attributed to the rising cost of production and seems to have centred on family pack sizes, which are easier to alter than the single bars.
A spokesman for consumer magazine Which? said shrinking products could be an underhand way of inflating prices and called for pricing to be clearer and the food companies to make any changes obvious to their customers.