Monday, June 27, 2011

If you happily buy a 48-oz "half-gallon" of ice cream, you may well be persuadable that global warming is some harebrained theory


Thanks to modern technological miracles of miniaturization, the half-gallon of ice cream, which had previously been shrunk to 1¾ quarts, as seen here (that's 56 instead of 64 ounces), has now been shrunk to a breathtaking 48 ounces, which is to say 1½ quarts. You can't stop the march of science. (Or can you?)

by Ken

One morning last week on NPR's Morning Edition I heard a promo for a piece coming up in half an hour about how fewer Americans believe in global warming now than believed in . . . well, I don't know how long ago. I realized later that I had managed to not hear the piece, and while I made a stab at finding it on the website, I didn't. (It occurred to me that I don't know whether it was a story from NPR or from the local WNYC news desk.) I know I should go searching for links to whatever study or poll was being reported here, but for the time being I'll settle for the basic information I got from that promo.

Does anyone have a hard time believing that it's so, that Americans -- awash in a relentless campaign of lies and obfuscation by the Far Right (for once in total sync with its corporate overseers) -- have strayed even farther from reality than they were back whenever? Of course we have to be careful about this "having a hard time believing," because it can sound like the process whereby those under the sway of Far Right "thinking" now process reality: It's whatever makes me feel best to believe. So let me b e clear: I'm not saying that the report is true because I can believe it's true. I'm just saying that, assuming it is true, I for one could hardly be less surprised. After all, as I keep pointing out, did anyone really imagine there would be no awkward consequences from allowing an entire political party and movement to lie absolutely at will?

I thought about this last night when I allowed myself to buy some ice cream. I normally don't, because the only concept of "portion control" I'm able to enforce personally is "Portion Size = 1 Container," which is not a beneficial approach when it comes to ice cream or cookies or whatever. The only counterstrategy I've developed is just not to have the stuff in the house. But for some combination of reasons which probably wouldn't be of interest to you, last night I proposed and ratified a one-night-only Ice Cream Purchase Exception.

I was already aware that the ice-cream makers, possibly in response to my "Serving Size = 1 Container" principle, have done their share, maybe more than their share, to assist me with my portion-control deficiency, by shrinking the containers. I knew that the old half-gallon of ice cream had shrunk from 64 to, like, 59 ounces. (Oh, they don't call it a "half-gallon" anymore. That would be fraudulent packaging. But to a lot of us older folk, the container we're talking about is "the one that used to be a half-gallon.") I did, however, do a double take when I noticed that the special I was eyeing in my supermarket flier, which I was judging reasonably enough priced to continue with this authorized ice cream purchase, was for a 48-ounce container. 48 ounces? That's a friggin' quart and a half!

This form of downsizing is hardly confined to ice cream, and is hardly new. Packaged-goods packagers have known this trick for, well, as long as there have been packaged goods. Only now it has become standard marketing practice. The half-gallon of orange juice, the pound of coffee, the 12-ounce package of chocolate chips -- all historical artifacts, by merchandisers who would rather shrink their packages than raise the per-package price, though I suspect that plenty of them are doing both.

I always wonder if the marketers really think consumers don't notice. Or is it just that as long as all the marketers do it, what are consumers gonna do about it?

Still, they seem to think they're fooling us. Whenever I've seen a marketing person asked about a product downsize, the answer has been a self-righteous, what-else-can-we-do declaration along the lines: "It's our only alternative to increasing the price." Suggesting that they really believe it won't occur to their customers that paying the same amount for less ice cream, OJ, or coffee is a price increase. And an increase for which we consumers actually have to pay, since we're the ones who have to pay the manufacturers' costs for producing resized packaging and retooling their production process to package the revised quantity.

My favorite creative approach to product downsizing was that of a cutting-edge orange-juice maker that was the first I noticed to shrink its erstwhile half-gallon from 64 ounces to (as I recall) 59, and in the process festooned the new carton with the bold declaration: "NEW EASIER-TO-HANDLE CARTON." And it was true, the carton was definitely a little easier to handle -- because it was smaller!!! Shrink it to a pint and you could hold it in the palm of your hand. Were customers fooled? A certain number of them were, I'll bet.

It's worth remembering that the modern approach to selling political candidates more or less like packaged goods was pioneered by the people who were on the cutting edge of marketing packaged goods, the kind of people who might actually think you could shrink a half-gallon of ice cream to a quart and a half and consumers wouldn't notice.

I'm guessing the people who bought the new OJ container and were pleased that it really was easier to handle are also the people who turn thumbs-up on the right-wing lies and obfuscations about climate change. Hey, if the globe is getting warmer, why am I shoveling so damn much snow?

Well, we'll need more research before drawing any conclusions. (That's a joke. Not necessarily a funny joke, but a joke.)

UPDATE (4/24/2012):

Some 10 months after this post appeared, we got the following notification from our bloghost:
We have received a DMCA complaint for your blog, DownWithTyranny!. An e-mail with the details of the complaint was sent to you on Apr 9, 2012, and we reset the post status to "Draft"; you can edit it here. You may republish the post with the offending content and/or link(s) removed. If you believe you have the rights to post this content, you can file a counter-claim with us. For more on our DMCA policy, please click here. Thank you for your prompt attention. [Links not included. -- Ed.]

As it happens, I've never seen the e-mail in question, but since there were just these two online-"borrowed" images -- i.e, the photo of the Breyer's ice-cream carton and the stock image of the orange-juice carton -- and as far as I can tell no online text borrowings whatsoever, I have to assume it's one of those two images for which some scum-sucking imbecile went to the trouble of filing this dreaded DMCA complaint. So in the interest of DMCA compliance I've deleted both images. I will spare you any further thoughts on the mental capacity of the complainer, as well as my fond wishes for him/her and his/her family and acquaintances.

I certainly hope I haven't broken any more rules.


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At 6:47 AM, Blogger Cirze said...

And I'm laughing.

Thanks for the dark humor on this bright day.

We need more of this!

At 8:52 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, Suzan!

I'm pleased to report that the morning after, there's still some ice cream left in the 48-oz container. OK, that's pathetically little to brag about, but sometimes you have to celebrate the little things.


At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buy ice cream bars like Dove bars. 3 to the package. You can have your IC and eat it too!

So far as Global Warming, I don't suppose there are too many deniers in the SW, and certainly around Los Alamos, N.M.

Pick your poison!

At 9:51 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, Anon, I do consider the packaged-pop solution, but my unshakable "serving size = 1 container" still applies, and (for example) three Dove Bars later I would feel just as defeated.


At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

48oz half gallon of ice cream
11oz pound of coffee
5oz 1/2lb can of tuna.
11oz twin bag of potato chip.
etc, etc.
So how come americans are still getting fatter ?

At 4:06 AM, Blogger John Gaskill said...

They do it because the consumers buy it.
You bought a container.
You have reinforced their business model.
Rather silly of you to then complain about it.

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Chanel said...

LMAO! I'm looking up how many ounces is in a half gallon and lo and behold this is the info I got. Right at the top of the list. Thanks for the entertainment Ken. My first REAL laugh of the day.

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you blame this on the far right? It's the Liberals, and the Democrats that are concerned about portion control. You can't buy a 32 ounce sugary drink in New York City, they pull out soft-drink machines and candy bar machines out of high schools. That's not the far right doing that that's the the left.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Cirze said...

Portion control?

How about health care control?

Diabetes control?

Yes, that insurance you bought is getting stricter every day.

But what did you think? They aren't giving away good health care.

Or cheap insurance.

Certainly neither the right or the left.

They are in this plucking together.


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