New from the Money Scoop
If you have noticed that a product that you purchase regularly has a new package, be wary. It could mean that the price has increased and you didn't even notice. That's because of product downsizing.
Product downsizing means just that. Downsizing the amount of product while still charging the same price. For many products, it's better to reduce quantity than raise prices, conclude Harvard Business School marketing professor John Gourville and University of Texas professor Jonathan Koehler.
Have you noticed?
Dairy products went up in price a couple of years ago for various reasons. So products got downsized. Ice cream has shrunk their standard containers to 1.5 quarts from 1.75 quarts, about 1 cup less. The industry downsized from the traditional half-gallon (2 quarts) five years ago. In both cases, only the package shrank, not the price.
"Downsizing is nothing but a sneaky price increase," says Edgar Dworsky, former Massachusetts assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division, now editor of Mouseprint.org, a consumer website. "I'm waiting to open a carton of eggs and see only 11."
Why the downsizing?
Yes, to make it less obvious to you, the consumer, that prices have risen. The cost for food production has gone up as well. Egg prices rose 44.9% from April 2007 through April 2008, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Corn costs rose 69.5%. And wheat rose 96.9%. Energy prices also are up. So are packaging costs.
According to Mouseprint.org,
•Less crunch. Since January, Frito-Lay has cut the number of chips in bags across all brands from Lay's to Doritos, though not all product sizes, spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez says. The biggest cut was to some 12-ounce bags of chips, which are now 10. Some Frito-Lay offerings got higher prices.
"These are common practices," says Gonzalez, who faulted rising costs of commodities, energy, production and distribution. "We determined the best actions based on the products."
•Hold the mayo. A jar of Hellmann's mayonnaise that was 32 ounces is now 30. "The price of our ingredients has gone up dramatically," says Dean Mastrojohn, a Unilever spokesman. "Manufacturing and transportation costs also have increased significantly."
•Spread thinner. Shedd's Spread Country Crock was shrunk from 48 ounces to 45, due to higher commodity and energy costs, Unilever's Mastrojohn says.
•Grain shortage. The price of grains has been rising for a while, in part due to increased demand for corn to produce ethanol. Kellogg downsized Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Mini-Wheats in 2006. Boxes shrank from 24.3 ounces to 24 and from 19 ounces to 18. "I am not aware of consumer issues surrounding this downsizing," spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz says.
General Mills began downsizing cereals last June. Some boxes of Cheerios and Wheaties shrank as much as 1.5 ounces. "Prior to the change, our package sizes were larger, in many cases, than competitors'," spokeswoman Heidi Geller says.
•Slippery soap. Early this year, Henkel of America downsized its Dial soap bath bar from 4.5 ounces to 4, says Scott Moffitt, Dial's Personal Care senior vice president.
The decision was primarily due to the skyrocketing cost of tallow, the natural fat from cattle that's a key ingredient in the soap.
•Less bountiful. This spring, Bounty cut the number of towels on a roll from 60 to 52. Procter & Gamble spokeswoman Celeste Kuta says the reduction was because the sheets are now "improved" and thicker.
What can you do?
Bring your calculator with you when you shop.
Calculate price per unit/use/serving and then compare that to the other products. You may have to convert units of measure (yet, another tactic to stupid us up).
Companies are banking on consumers to not notice or to be too busy with other things to speak up. Complaining to the company may do you some good if there are other irate consumers doing the same.
As the cost of goods increase, manufacturers routinely pass these costs on to consumers through higher prices. A less obvious strategy is to maintain price, but to reduce the size of the product. In many ways, this downsizing should mirror a straight price increase when it comes to consumer behavior. Marketplace and experimental data show this is not the case and that consumers are more sensitive to changes in price than to changes in quantity.There's a science to downsizing products, and few have studied it as closely as John Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School. He studied purchasing patterns for 157 ready-to-eat cereals in 2004 and concluded that consumers are far more sensitive to higher prices than to less product. "People are generally unaware they're getting less," he says. Most of those who are aware say they'd rather get less than pay more.
Several well-known products have gotten smaller recently
Hellmann's mayonnaise 32 oz. 30 oz.
Some Frito-Lay chips 12 oz. 10 oz.
Shedd's Spread Country Crock 48 oz. 45 oz.
Dial soap bath bar 4.5 oz. 4 oz.
Bounty towel roll 60 towels 52 towels
The IRS says it's still trying to reach some 5 million Americans -- primarily seniors and veterans -- who have not filed the tax returns needed to qualify for their stimulus checks.
The IRS is trying to reach people who do not normally file tax returns so they can apply for stimulus checks.
In all, the IRS has sent out more than 76 million stimulus checks, in amounts up to $600 for individuals, $1,200 for married couples and $300 per child for families."
|Last two SSN digits:||Payments will be mailed no later than (and received a few days after):|
|00 through 09||May 16|
|10 through 18||May 23|
19 through 25
|26 through 38||June 6|
|39 through 51||June 13|
|52 through 63||June 20|
|64 through 75||June 27|
|76 through 87||July 4|
|88 through 99||July 11|
People who file a return after April 15 will receive their economic stimulus payment, but probably later than the schedule shows. A return must be filed by October 15 in order to receive a stimulus payment this year. See the online calculator for an estimate of the amount you will receive.
A small percentage of tax returns will require additional time to process and to compute a stimulus payment amount. For these returns, stimulus payments may not be issued in accordance with the schedule above, even if the tax return was processed by April 15.If you have any questions about your payment, please visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center or call the toll-free Rebate Hotline at 1-866-234-2942. A list of all Taxpayer Assistance Centers in your state is available at Contact My Local Office.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters says that Americans Drove 1.4 Billion Fewer Highway Miles in April of 2008 than in April 2007 While Fuel Prices and Transit Ridership Are Both on the Rise.
Sixth Month of Declining Vehicle Miles Traveled Signals Need to Find New Revenue Sources for Highway and Transit Programs, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters Says.
At a time of record-high gas prices and a corresponding surge in transit ridership, Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row, highlighting the need to find a more sustainable and effective way to fund highway construction and maintenance.
Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all public roads for April 2008 fell 1.8 percent as compared with April 2007 travel. This marks a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November.
“We’re burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel efficient vehicles and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax,” Secretary Peters said.
The Secretary said as Americans drive less, the federal Highway Trust Fund receives less revenue from gasoline and diesel sales – 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively.
The Secretary noted that data show midsize SUV sales were down last month 38 percent over May of last year; car sales, which had accounted for less than half of the industry volume in 2007, rose to 57 percent in May. She said past trends have shown Americans will continue to drive despite high gas prices, but will drive more fuel efficient vehicles consuming less fuel. “History shows that we’re going to continue to see congested roads while gas tax revenues decline even further,” she said.
Firefox 3 includes enhancements to help users organize their frequently visited Web sites and block access to sites known to distribute viruses and other malicious software.
Users of Yahoo Inc.'s mail service can also use Firefox 3 to send e-mail by clicking a "mailto" link they might come across clicking on a name or a "contact us" link on a Web page. Previously such links could only open a standalone, desktop e-mail program.
Firefox 3 also offers improvements including in design and speed .
Top New Features
- Password Manager
- Remember site passwords without ever seeing a pop-up.
- One-Click Bookmarking
- Bookmark, search and organize Web sites quickly and easily.Improved Performance
- View Web pages faster, using less of your computer’s memory.
- Find the sites you love in seconds—enter a term for instant matches that make sense.
Firefox 3 protects you from viruses, worms, trojan horses and spyware. If you accidentally access an attack site, you’ll receive a full-sized browser message as a warning. A continuously updated list of attack-sites tells us when to stop you from browsing, so there’s nothing for you to update or maintain.
Enforce parental control settings you’ve entered on Windows Vista with Firefox 3—stop unwanted downloads and more. Firefox’s intuitive design keeps you from second-guessing your setup.
Firefox 3 integrates elegantly with your antivirus software. When you download a file, your computer’s antivirus program automatically checks it to protect you against viruses and other malware, which could otherwise attack your computer.
The sky’s the limit with a growing library of over 5,000 Firefox Add-ons, little extras you choose to download and install for a browser that works your way. Manage online auctions, upload digital photos, see the weather forecast in a glance and listen to music all from the convenience of your browser. There’s no need to open a new window or tab for each task. Discover add-ons that help you streamline coding and Web development, like Firebug, which lets you look deep into the structure of a web page.
Firefox comes from Mozilla, an open-source community in which thousands of people, mostly volunteers, collectively develop free products. Firefox is the No. 2 Web browser behind Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.
Do you have enough insurance to rebuild your home?
Your policy needs to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs in the event that it is destroyed.
Consider the following types of coverage:
- Replacement Cost
Most homeowners policies cover replacement cost for damage to the structure. A replacement cost policy pays for the repair or replacement of damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality.
- Extended Replacement Cost
This type of policy provides additional insurance coverage of 20 percent or more over the limits in your policy, which can be critical if there is a widespread disaster that pushes up the cost of building materials .
- Inflation Guard
This coverage automatically adjusts the rebuilding costs of your home to reflect changes in construction costs.
- Ordinance or Law coverage
If your home is badly damaged, you may be required to rebuild it to meet new, and often stricter, building codes.
- Water Back-Up
Insures your property for damage from sewer or drain back-up. This is offered as an add-on to a standard policy.
- Flood and Earthquake Insurance
Standard homeowners insurance does not include coverage for natural disasters such as flooding and earthquake.
Flood insurance is available through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program as well.
Earthquake coverage is available in the form of an endorsement from private insurance companies. In California, supplemental coverage is also available from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).
Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for your personal possessions for approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home.
The best way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory. A home inventory will detail everything you own and the estimated cost to replace these items if they were to be stolen or destroyed by a disaster.
To make this task simple, the I.I.I. offers free, downloadable software and information on how to create and store your inventory at www.KnowYourStuff.org.
You can insure your possessions in two ways: by their actual cash value or their replacement cost. Make sure you review with your agent or company representative which type of coverage is best for your particular situation.
- Cash Value Policy
This coverage pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation.
- Replacement Cost Policy
This coverage reimburses you for the full current cost of replacing your belongings.
For more information on how to properly insure your home, go to the I.I.I. Web site.
The Insurance Information Institute.
Honda's new zero-emission, hydrogen fuel celled rolled off a Japanese production line and is headed to southern California, where Hollywood is already abuzz over the latest splash in green motoring.
The biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel cell vehicles are cost and the dearth of hydrogen fuel stations. For the Clarity's release in California, Honda said it received 50,000 applications through its Web site but considered only buyers living near hydrogen fuel stations in Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine.
Although Honda Motor Co. (HMC) was the first Japanese automaker to launch a gas-electric hybrid vehicle in the U.S. in 1999, it has been outpaced by the dominance of Toyota's (TM) popular Prius.
Toyota announced in May that it has sold more than 1 million Prius hybrids, while both the Honda Insight and the hybrid Accord have been discontinued due to poor sales.
The FCX Clarity is part of Honda's plan to keep pace with rivals in green technology. It also plans to launch a gas-electric hybrid-only model, as well as hybrid versions of the Civic, the sporty CR-Z and Fit subcompact.
to gasoline. The fuel cell stack in the FCX Clarity converts hydrogen
(H2) and oxygen (O2) into electricity.
work today is probably powered by an engine. The big
difference is that the motor in the FCX Clarity gets its
energy from electricity, instead of from gasoline like most
cars today. So while the FCX Clarity has the power of an engine,
it also offers the uniquely clean, quiet ride of a motor.
All of the advanced components in the FCX Clarity have been fine-tuned for ultimate performance in this Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) of the very near future.
The FCX Clarity, which runs on hydrogen and electricity, emits only water and none of the gases believed to induce global warming. It is also two times more energy efficient than a gas-electric hybrid and three times that of a standard gasoline-powered car, the company says.
Fuel cell vehicles are powered by electricity generated onboard by combining hydrogen with oxygen by the fuel cell stack. From tank to wheel, the FCX Clarity is twice as efficient as a hybrid-electric vehicle and three times more efficient than a conventional gasoline vehicle.
Want cheap Gas? Go to Mexico!.
A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in San Diego retails for an average price of $4.61 a gallon. A few miles south, in Tijuana, it's about $2.54 — even less if you pay in pesos.
More and more people appear to be taking advantage of the lower price.
The lower prices mean a U.S. motorist could save almost $54 filling up a two-year-old Ford F150 pickup with a 26-gallon fuel tank in Mexico.