October 16, 2011


Hey, Catelli: How stupid do you think I am?

I buy that Catelli Smart pasta. You know, the stuff in the purple boxes. It says it is a high source of fibre; higher than normal white pasta, though not as high as whole wheat pasta. I would buy only whole wheat pasta but the boys say it's like eating cardboard, and there they drew the line in the whole wheat sand at our house. Fine.

I like when the purple boxes go on sale. We use an entire box for a meal. It's not enough for leftovers, especially after Ari has come back after dinner and snagged the stragglers to eat cold, but it doesn't get wasted. Yesterday, I saw the sale sign on the purple boxes. Yay for me, I thought. I grabbed a bunch and flung them in the cart. That is how I shop: I fling. I despise shopping.

I got home and realized something was wrong. The box I usually buy of rotini (which we call roller coasters; penne are whistles; don't ask, it goes back to when the boys were really little) is 454 grams. The new box? Which isn't marked 'new' or 'different' or 'rip off'? 375 grams. Piss off, Catelli.

This has been going on for years, and is nothing new. The first product I noticed doing it was Crest, which is Proctor & Gamble. They shrunk the tubes of toothpaste and kept the price the same. That made me angry, especially when they jacked the price, anyway. Because I have a love-hate relationship with Proctor & Gamble (I love Pantene shampoo; I hate their vice-grip relationship with Wal-Mart), I just started buying Colgate stuff. And of course they all started mucking with the sizes.

Never have I watched manufacturers have so much disdain for their customers. Surreptitiously shrinking sizes instead of raising prices (if a cost goes up, just say so), I lived through a period of time where I thought I was growing. Everything felt smaller in my hand, like Gulliver must have thought when he asked some Lilliputian in the shower to pass him the Irish Spring. I'm sorry. I just started laughing at the visual of Gulliver showering with Lilliputians.

We already don't believe much of what you tell us (manufacturers, not Gulliver. I believe Gulliver; he has that honest look about him). I look at the label of detergent bottles that say '525 loads', supposedly coming out of a bottle the size of my cup of tea sitting right here. I am very aware of how much detergent I use, and I have front-loaders that require less, and I read that piece in the NYT about how to stop using so much dish and laundry detergent. By ignoring the recommended amounts that manufacturers say. I did that. The repair guy was right. They count on two things: that we will just slop in the amount we watched our mom use, and that we will never remember by the end of the bottle how many times we've opened it.

But this time, Catelli, the magic number is *one*. I use *one* box of rollercoasters when I make my world famous tomato-and-sausage pasta. Guess what? I can count to one, every time. Only now, for THE SAME PRICE EACH, I will have to open *two*. I can also count to two, but I will not do it because I will be forced to do one of two things: make too much, or put part of a box back into the cupboard where it will be passed over again and again as the boys reach for a new box, because everybody knows there is not enough in a half empty box to actually do anything with. And there it will sit until there are a bunch of orphan half empty boxes, and I will finally jam them together, regardless of what kind of pasta it is, and Ari will look at me and say "Is this like that time when we were little and you said we were having a fun surprise dinner, but it was really you just trying to use stuff up?".

I'm tired. I don't need 47 different choices of deodorant. I've actually stood in the aisle at Shopper's with my sons, as they try to tell the difference between having armpits that smell like Ocean Mist or Fresh Breeze. They're teenage boys: they mostly smell like camouflaged bog. Just call it Better Then You Smell Without It. I don't need an array of air freshners - just call it Better Than What You're Trying to Cover Up.

I buy those party packs of gum, because it's cheaper to buy that in the grocery aisles then the boys buying individual packs. Way cheaper. I toss in any and all somethingmint, because nobody cares when they're digging for a piece of gum down the seat of the car and they're desperate. If it would be cheaper to simply give us less options, THEN HERE'S THE PERMISSION TO NARROW DOWN THE FIELD. Guess what? The auto industry figured it out; surely you can too.

I thought about just calling the 800 number on the box to bitch. But you know what will happen? They'll send me coupons. I don't want coupons. I want transparency and fairness for consumers. I don't want to be patted on the head and sent away with hush pasta.

Companies spend a fortune on focus groups and marketing and panels and trade shows. You know what? Just stop ripping me off.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous buzzwhack said...

"just stop ripping me off..." it'll never happen in a million wash cycles, Lorraine. Nothing this profitable ever dies. In Europe they print expiry dates on tires now because of the mountain of evidence showing 5 year plus rubber is dangerous. USA? Nope, not an issue, tire wear? old rubber/ use tire dressing, I don't hear you...la dee daahhh.
If enough people complain and vote with their pocketbook, something might happen but I don't think it'd be waht you hoped for.

October 16, 2011 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Zena said...

What more can anyone add to this (except for an extended shopping list of "less is more" product packaging - Classico pasta sauce and any brand of cheese comes immediately to mind...)?

Pass that Irish Spring, Lorraine...

(OwMyGawd: "camouflaged bog!" I've been trying for years to adequately describe that eye-watering waft. You've just made my day!)

October 16, 2011 2:41 PM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Frozen vegetables.

Shampoo.

Potato chips. I swear I'm buying a bag of air (for the kids, of course. Not for me.)

I'm waiting for eggs to come in 10s, just to see if we'll notice.

October 16, 2011 5:04 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

I read that United Airlines just had it's first Boeing 787 roll off the assembly line to much fanfare, and wringing of hands, and glee. Now they just have to add the engines and the interior and a few extra baubles and bangles and it'll be ready to fly.

It's the 700 gram airplane that is now only 500 grams. If you want the extra 200 grams you have to pay $50 million and wait three months.

It's an epidemic!!!

My word is "phorinex". Yesterday it was "sixinex". See what I mean??? An epidemic!!!

October 16, 2011 7:59 PM  

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