Grocery Store Blues: Less is More

Normally I don’t get too worked up over 29 cents or 20 calories in the grocery store. I do like to think I’m getting the best price on some of the staples I fancy — milk, eggs, cornflakes and, of course, wine.

Two recent sightings would get my dander up if I had any dander to rise up in revolt. Both go to a theory I started hatching a couple years ago which essentially says “yes” = “no.” That is, we’re more and more seeing instances where marketers simply out and out lie…with the exact opposite of what their words say.

Two quick examples:

A letter arrives in the mail saying “Urgent: dated material, open at once.” (Translation: not urgent, not dated)

An e-mail arrives with the latest urban legend and the note opens with “This has been verified by Snopes.” (Translation: not verified with Snopes at all.)

So I’m making an early morning OJ bike run to Food City and I start to grab my usual Donald Duck brand orange juice (the same as Dole, actually). Now, I’ve been buying OJ at Food City for quite a while and the price has regularly been $2.50 for a half gallon for at least the past year. But today there’s a little sign announcing “Reduced price: $2.79.”

Since when is a 29 cent price increase considered a reduction?

Clearly what they’ve done is cranked the price back to their 2007 level and then taken the discount on that. Tsk.

Meanwhile, over at Fresh & Easy the house brand corn flakes are not what they seem. I should point out that I’m a fan of F & E generally — I like the concept of a small, neighborhood store with low prices, fast checkout and that doesn’t need to take up real estate with 30 varieties of toothpaste.

In this case though, I’m afraid F & E is perpetrating Cereal Fraud.

Consider: a normal serving of corn flakes, be they General Foods or Food Club has about 100 calories, 0 fat, 200 mg. of salt and 2 grams of protein. A “serving” is defined for most cereals (corn flakes anyway) as 1 cup.

The F & E brand has 120 calories (worse), 0.5 g. of fat (worse), 240 mg. of salt (worse) and 1 g. of protein (worse).

In other words, in each category, the F & E brand specs are not as good — high on calories, fat and salt, low on protein.

Now, get this: the F & E brand defines their serving as 2/3 cup. So not only are their corn flakes inferior on a straight line-item basis, but they’ve actually fudged the serving size, apparently to mask or minimize the difference.


I suppose we can’t really count the F & E cereal fraud as the same kind of lie as the Food City lie.

In these difficult economic times, shouldn’t storekeepers — all of us, really — be looking for straightforward, legitimate ways to present the value of products? If not, is it any different in essence from Nigerian money schemes or a good old fashioned pigeon drop?

Dirty politics aside, why don’t we focus on increasing the amount of reliable information in the world rather than decreasing it?


2 comments on “Grocery Store Blues: Less is More

  1. El Kabong says:

    Vive la Corn Flakes! (Or is it le Corn Flakes?)

  2. becomebetty says:

    I think the last bag of potato chips I opened were more air than chips.

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