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Old 12th June 2019, 06:10 AM   #1
Beelzebuddy
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Is there a term for the gradual deterioration of quality?

You've seen this before: a new thing comes out, it's great, everyone loves it. But as time goes on the new thing is dialed back. It becomes a little smaller, it doesn't come with the same stuff, the stuff it does come with is cheaper, it costs a little more, until the thing really just isn't any good. I have in mind a rice bowl option at my workplace eatery, which used to be a gem, with veggies and toppings and sauces, but by degrees has become a scoop of overpriced chicken cubes on rice.

Is there a word that represents this kind of deterioration? "Decadence" captures the general trajectory, but it's the other way around, with things collapsing in on their own filigree instead of being trimmed down to generic mundanity.
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Old 12th June 2019, 06:47 AM   #2
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"Decline" maybe?
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Old 12th June 2019, 06:48 AM   #3
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In business I've heard the euphemisms: "rationalization" and "value engineering" used. I prefer the more honest: "slacking off".
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Old 12th June 2019, 06:51 AM   #4
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'degradation'?

'declension' comes to mind, but I suspect that's pretty rarely used these days.
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Old 12th June 2019, 07:01 AM   #5
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Entropy


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Old 12th June 2019, 07:06 AM   #6
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I don't know of a current word for it, but the self-referential word "Deteriation" would be an ideal term to adopt.

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Old 12th June 2019, 07:09 AM   #7
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Writing down for tax purposes?
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Old 12th June 2019, 08:23 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
In business I've heard the euphemisms: "rationalization" and "value engineering" used. I prefer the more honest: "slacking off".
I think "value engineering" is probably more honest, actually. In the sense of being more accurate, at least.

As the global standard of living rises, and working conditions even in cheap labor regions improve, manufacturing costs go up. Perhaps it was previously cost-effective to make a higher quality product at a particular price. But over time, the manufacturer finds that the cost of manufacture is going up, but the customers are not interested in paying more. So quality goes down, in order to deliver the same product at the same price.

It's actually not quite the same product, of course, since the quality is lower, but what are you going to do?

With food, I think that cost and quality are extremely variable due to seasonal variations, bad harvests, fluctuations in the commodities market, etc.

My neighborhood bar just ran a week's worth of really amazing beef dishes, nice cuts of wagyu beef at low prices. This happened because the cook for the bar is also the buyer for the owner's restaurant across town. The restaurant just opened, and the beef supplier gave them a one-time discount as a new customer. So the cook bought as much top quailty beef as he could, and brought the leftovers to the bar for a week of high quality low cost meals. It can't last, though. He can't afford to buy tons of wagyu beef every week at normal prices.

I expect the same thing happens at industrial scales, across the entire global commodities market, all the time. You get good quality at a good price for a while, then a crop gets blighted, or the futures options finally come due, or that particular cheap source is running dry, and bam. End of an era.

And that's not even getting into regulatory fluctuation. New regulations may price your favorite maker out of affordable quality product.

There's a particular brand of tuna-and-crackers - you know what I mean? A single-serving can of tuna mayonnaise or tuna salad, and a small packet of butter crackers. Good snack, if you like that sort of thing. Anyway, this brand has *the best* crackers. Just the right amount of flaky crispness. Or crispy flakiness. Whatever, it's magical. I know that someday, for some reason, they're going to have to change the formula. One of the ingredients will become too expensive, or something, and they'll have to make a substitution.

McDonald's french fries used to be the best around. Now they're just another bland starch-stick. They changed the fry oil, I think. Backlash against lard? And the McRib comes out any time pork prices drop to below the break-even point for that product.

---

One reason I like the term "value engineering" is because of this story:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/25/1...licated-juicer

The Juicero juicer was a stupid product anyway. But what made it even stupider was that the product was ridiculously over-engineered. Certainly of the highest quality, but literally ridiculous. That degree of quality engineering was far in excess of the actual requirements and value of the product. It made the juicer way more expensive than it needed to be. Even for a prototype, it was over-engineered.

Aside from needing to be slapped upside the head for thinking people needed such a product at all, Juicero really needed someone early in the design and manufacturing process who understood the importance of engineering it for the actual value it provided, rather than for maximum quality regardless of cost.

---

I think "slacking off" is really only a "more honest" description in cases where the manufacturer can and should produce better quality than they are actually producing at that price point. If they promise you a high quality product, and charge you accordingly, but don't bother to deliver that quality, that's slacking off. I think what Beelzebuddy is referring to is something else.

Last edited by theprestige; 12th June 2019 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 12th June 2019, 08:31 AM   #9
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Sometimes it swings the other way, too.

McDonald's chicken nuggets got better, due to challenges from competitors like Chick-Fil-A who weren't afraid to deliver higher quality at a higher price, and due to public perception influenced by things like the "pink slime" "expose". So McNuggets are now higher quality than they used to be. Did the price go up? I don't know. But even if McDonald's found a way to keep the price while increasing the quality, I don't think I'd call it "slacking off" the way they were doing it before.
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Old 12th June 2019, 08:33 AM   #10
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What prestige said about value engineering.
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Old 12th June 2019, 12:32 PM   #11
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Tuna in a can could be yellowfin in a meat identified form or a watery mush that tasted like tuna but actually contains a % of soy in tuna bits. One is at the unchanged price from before the backlash on tuna fishing and the other has tripled.
I was fooled for a bit but reading ingredients in the can revealed all. Wal-Mart found a producer that could meet price point with a mostly passable product.


I cannot find jeans of the same quality of cloth in the same brands I have been buying for decades. The Israeli made one's came closest but not available now. So slowly looking for that next option began.


I expect products to evolve with.use of recycle materials being cheap and available, designs changed to speed up production or reduce costs.

I bought a water pump today, 900p for copper wound motor with overheat protection or 400p for alu wound, cheaper bearings and less than half rated run time.

We got the good one. Ten years ago that cheapo option would not have been five out of six options in the catalog.


Some things you just shouldn't go with the lessor options.
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Old 12th June 2019, 12:39 PM   #12
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You could take one out of the Victorian playbook and call it "consumption".
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Old 12th June 2019, 01:42 PM   #13
theprestige
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Originally Posted by Elagabalus View Post
You could take one out of the Victorian playbook and call it "consumption".
I think that doesn't really work. Neither as a pun nor as an accurate assessment of the phenomenon.
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Old 12th June 2019, 01:53 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I think that doesn't really work. Neither as a pun nor as an accurate assessment of the phenomenon.
Sure it does. Everyone consumed it to the point where the product began to consume itself - starting with all the good bits.
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Old 12th June 2019, 01:57 PM   #15
theprestige
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Originally Posted by Elagabalus View Post
Sure it does. Everyone consumed it to the point where the product began to consume itself - starting with all the good bits.
But that's not what actually happens, I don't think.
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Old 12th June 2019, 02:20 PM   #16
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How about "decontenting"?

I seem to remember that Nokia, back when the were the colossus of phones, used to introduce a new halo model which would be really well engineered but then follow up with several models which had the same innovative features, sometimes with incremental improvements on paper, but were pared down, flimsier and cheaper to manufacture.
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Old 12th June 2019, 02:26 PM   #17
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Is there a term for the gradual deterioration of quality? I'm afraid so. It's called "aging".
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Old 12th June 2019, 02:33 PM   #18
Elagabalus
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
How about "decontenting"?

I seem to remember that Nokia, back when the were the colossus of phones, used to introduce a new halo model which would be really well engineered but then follow up with several models which had the same innovative features, sometimes with incremental improvements on paper, but were pared down, flimsier and cheaper to manufacture.
I like it.
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Old 12th June 2019, 02:46 PM   #19
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There used to be a business-school phrase called "The Sausage Game." It described how a business would establish a brand with a high quality product (sausage, in the canonical example) to attract customers and build a brand reputation, but progressively decrease quality (add more filler to the sausage) to maximize profits and rely more on advertising to maintain the brand. That phrase with that particular meaning appears to be nearly unknown on the Internet. But here's a book page that refers to it.

Any present-day phrase with the equivalent meaning would likely refer to Walmart in some way.
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Old 12th June 2019, 04:01 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
How about "decontenting"?

I seem to remember that Nokia, back when the were the colossus of phones, used to introduce a new halo model which would be really well engineered but then follow up with several models which had the same innovative features, sometimes with incremental improvements on paper, but were pared down, flimsier and cheaper to manufacture.
Ah. The 6310i. Possibly the best phone ever. So good that there are still people using it today. IIRC, some Chinese company aims to bring it back to market, it was so indestructible.

I liked that phone so much that I had a full on car kit installed THREE times as I changed car. The fourth time there was a cradle already installed because the 6310i was ubiquitous. Happy times for the installers. What are they doing now?

Of course that vanished pronto when car manufacturers started putting Bluetooth in cars as standard. These days, pair your device and presto.

Not complaining as such, but I could drop my Nokia and not be concerned. These days, if you drop your phone one must become Gollum with the ring. "Are you hurt my precious?" and then worry about the cost of repair because a feather landed on it and it shattered.
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Old 12th June 2019, 06:00 PM   #21
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Rust.
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Old 12th June 2019, 07:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
Ah. The 6310i. Possibly the best phone ever. So good that there are still people using it today. IIRC, some Chinese company aims to bring it back to market, it was so indestructible.
I couldn't tell you the number of times mine got knocked off the desk, or fell out of my pocket onto the garage floor, or had something dropped on it. A couple of times, it even fell the roof of the car onto the road as I drove away.

Finally, FINALLY I had to replace it when some of the keypad buttons stopped working.
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Old 12th June 2019, 07:25 PM   #23
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Is there a term? Why yes, there is: "Corporate Management".
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Old 12th June 2019, 07:44 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
You've seen this before: a new thing comes out, it's great, everyone loves it. But as time goes on the new thing is dialed back. It becomes a little smaller, it doesn't come with the same stuff, the stuff it does come with is cheaper, it costs a little more, until the thing really just isn't any good. I have in mind a rice bowl option at my workplace eatery, which used to be a gem, with veggies and toppings and sauces, but by degrees has become a scoop of overpriced chicken cubes on rice.

Is there a word that represents this kind of deterioration? "Decadence" captures the general trajectory, but it's the other way around, with things collapsing in on their own filigree instead of being trimmed down to generic mundanity.
Yes, Trumpostacy…….
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Old 12th June 2019, 07:50 PM   #25
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Or, mayhaps, malign trumpstodorostomy!!!!!


Note, last I checked "mayhaps " was an actual and real English language word and correctly used in the post here, yet autocorrect is underlining it(red) on this post. Both placements!!!!
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Old 12th June 2019, 08:31 PM   #26
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I think "Gradual Decline" is best, but if the decline is PLANNED that does not describe it fully.
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Old 12th June 2019, 10:03 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Ron Swanson View Post
I think "Gradual Decline" is best, but if the decline is PLANNED that does not describe it fully.
Bait & Switch?
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Old 13th June 2019, 03:37 PM   #28
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One day and 27 posts and no one brings up the phrase downsizing?


The industry term "downsizing" does not simply refer to the practice of making the weight smaller while keeping the same size package. It has grown to include all similarly sneaky methods of increasing profits. Downsizing certain ingredients only. Or downsizing the quality of certain ingredients. Changing the formula. Etc.

Not to be confused with downsizing a labor force.
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Old 13th June 2019, 03:41 PM   #29
theprestige
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Originally Posted by This is The End View Post
One day and 27 posts and no one brings up the phrase downsizing?





The industry term "downsizing" does not simply refer to the practice of making the weight smaller while keeping the same size package. It has grown to include all similarly sneaky methods of increasing profits. Downsizing certain ingredients only. Or downsizing the quality of certain ingredients. Changing the formula. Etc.



Not to be confused with downsizing a labor force.
I'm a collector of specialist jargon. Do you have a cite for this usage of downsizing? I'd like to add it to my collection.
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Old 14th June 2019, 12:48 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
There used to be a business-school phrase called "The Sausage Game." It described how a business would establish a brand with a high quality product (sausage, in the canonical example) to attract customers and build a brand reputation, but progressively decrease quality (add more filler to the sausage) to maximize profits and rely more on advertising to maintain the brand. That phrase with that particular meaning appears to be nearly unknown on the Internet. But here's a book page that refers to it.

Any present-day phrase with the equivalent meaning would likely refer to Walmart in some way.

I think this is it.

It's difficult to become established as a new player in a market, so you need to have something that sets your apart, and a high quality product is at least one way of doing that. But having become established you may not lose very many customers if your quality declines (but can potentially save a lot of money).

Starting with low quality you probably end up going out of business. Start with high quality, establish a customer base, and then let the quality decline and you may end up more profitable than if you kept the quality high.

"May" here is obviously meant as exactly that. It's a strategy that might work and might not depending on the circumstances, including what your competitors are doing.
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Old 14th June 2019, 05:59 AM   #31
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I would just call it capitalism. And it's a long tradition:

Quote:
In every country in which the capitalist mode of production reigns, it is the custom not to pay for labour-power before it has been exercised for the period fixed by the contract, as for example, the end of each week. In all cases, therefore, the use-value of the labour-power is advanced to the capitalist: the labourer allows the buyer to consume it before he receives payment of the price; he everywhere gives credit to the capitalist. That this credit is no mere fiction, is shown not only by the occasional loss of wages on the bankruptcy of the capitalist, but also by a series of more enduring consequences. [14]

14. One example. In London there are two sorts of bakers, the “full priced,” who sell bread at its full value, and the “undersellers,” who sell it under its value. The latter class comprises more than three-fourths of the total number of bakers. (p. xxxii in the Report of H. S. Tremenheere, commissioner to examine into “the grievances complained of by the journeymen bakers,” &c., Lond. 1862.) The undersellers, almost without exception, sell bread adulterated with alum, soap, pearl ashes, chalk, Derbyshire stone-dust, and such like agreeable nourishing and wholesome ingredients. (See the above cited Blue book, as also the report of “the committee of 1855 on the adulteration of bread,” and Dr. Hassall’s “Adulterations Detected,” 2nd Ed. Lond. 1861.) Sir John Gordon stated before the committee of 1855, that “in consequence of these adulterations, the poor man, who lives on two pounds of bread a day, does not now get one fourth part of nourishing matter, let alone the deleterious effects on his health.” Tremenheere states (l.c., p. xlviii), as the reason, why a very large part of the working-class, although well aware of this adulteration, nevertheless accept the alum, stone-dust, &c., as part of their purchase: that it is for them “a matter of necessity to take from their baker or from the chandler’s shop, such bread as they choose to supply.” As they are not paid their wages before the end of the week, they in their turn are unable “to pay for the bread consumed by their families, during the week, before the end of the week,” and Tremenheere adds on the evidence of witnesses, “it is notorious that bread composed of those mixtures, is made expressly for sale in this manner.”
Chapter Six: The Buying and Selling of Labour-Power (Karl Marx: Capital, Vol. 1, Ch. 6, 1867)
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Old 14th June 2019, 06:52 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by This is The End View Post
One day and 27 posts and no one brings up the phrase downsizing?


The industry term "downsizing" does not simply refer to the practice of making the weight smaller while keeping the same size package. It has grown to include all similarly sneaky methods of increasing profits. Downsizing certain ingredients only. Or downsizing the quality of certain ingredients. Changing the formula. Etc.

Not to be confused with downsizing a labor force.
I think certain industries are prone to upsizing. Thinking of an air freshener pod that measures about 1x1x3 inches, and it's packaged in a 6x2x2 container.
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Old 14th June 2019, 10:09 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm a collector of specialist jargon. Do you have a cite for this usage of downsizing? I'd like to add it to my collection.

Do you mean downsizing food products in general, or ingredients specifically?

https://www.foodincanada.com/features/downsized/
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Old 14th June 2019, 10:44 AM   #34
theprestige
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Originally Posted by This is The End View Post
Do you mean downsizing food products in general, or ingredients specifically?

https://www.foodincanada.com/features/downsized/
I didn't realize there was a distinction. What did you mean when you used the term?

ETA: I see from the link that even though you characterized "downsizing" as "all similarly sneaky methods of increasing profits", the term also refers to efforts to maintain profits by controlling rising costs.

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Old 14th June 2019, 12:15 PM   #35
Pope130
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Adulteration with inferior ingredients? Or more clearly, watering the whiskey.
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Old 16th June 2019, 08:56 AM   #36
Wudang
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Shrinkflation? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrinkflation
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Old 20th June 2019, 08:04 AM   #37
dann
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Substandardize?
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"Stupidity renders itself invisible by assuming very large proportions. Completely unreasonable claims are irrefutable. Ni-en-leh pointed out that a philosopher might get into trouble by claiming that two times two makes five, but he does not risk much by claiming that two times two makes shoe polish." B. Brecht
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions." K. Marx
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Old 22nd June 2019, 09:24 AM   #38
figarot
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Planned obsolescence?
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Old 11th July 2019, 10:45 AM   #39
blutoski
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Originally Posted by Wudang View Post
Consumer Reports describes the trade practice of reducing a food product weight (eg: changing a candy bar from 50g to 45g but retaining the same package size and price) as "Shink Ray." Reducing the number of feet in a toilet paper roll. Fewer tissues in a kleenex box.

I think it could apply to some other products, such as mobile phone subscription plans. You get the $60/mo (month to month, uncontracted) unlimited minutes and 5GB data deal; fifteen months later a note buried in your statement tells you it's 800 minutes and 1GB starting next bill cycle.



Another strategy is to get people to use up the same amount faster. Wash, Rinse, [i]repeat[/]. I recall a few years ago laundry pods that became individually larger, in a box of identical weight, so it had 50 instead of 60 - same price per gram, but you go through them faster.



And some of it is just management being out of touch numbers people who compete with sales, "penny wise pound foolish" maybe? "Right hand - left hand?" Not sure what a good name for it is. I recall a few years ago, Darden food group was rationalizing their stores, trying to figure out why return visits were declining in their Italian food chains. Core reason: food didn't taste as good. Investigation found chefs had been told they would be fired if they put salt in the pasta water before cooking. Apparently it reduced the lifespan of the pots by 5%. So some executive decreed no salted pasta water overruling the chefs' judgement about... product quality. I'm sure the executive retired years before this finding, with a fat bonus cheque for meeting his cost-control targets.
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Old 11th July 2019, 10:00 PM   #40
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I drink instant coffee at home. I'm so sorry.
Beginning of last year some time I noticed that my Nescafe Classic seemed weaker and I was compensating by using more for a cup. I was going through a jar in record time. Only then did I notice the little addition to the label. It's now double filtered for improved flavor.
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