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Paying More and Getting Less

Soaring grocery and food prices are making things difficult for families. I can’t believe how difficult it is to be paying more and getting less. The economy is struggling and food costs are skyrocketing. It’s tough to see the prices soar while the portions shrink.

Starbucks, beef prices, pork prices, health care (Obamacare), gas prices… it seems each day a new industry shrugs their shoulders and flippantly spews the company line – “our costs have gone up so we have to raise the prices.”

I’m not trying to feign outrage over every price hike story I see on the news and I’m not going to get political. I know we’re all going through it. But, I am truly surprised at how QUICKLY the prices on seemingly everything has gone up.

When the economy first started going south last decade, I was quick to notice the smaller portion sizes effect. Bottles of shampoo shrank, new rolls of toilet paper had noticeably less sheets etc., etc. Many manufacturers quickly redesigned bottles of products to make it LOOK like they had the same amount of product even though fluid ounces told a different story.

My major concern with the “paying more and getting less” argument is that once it starts, you just get used to it. The prices NEVER come back down and the old portion sizes NEVER return. I remember 2 years ago we had a very dry summer. When cider mill season came about, we scoffed that the price for a gallon apple cider skyrocketed to nearly $10 a gallon (from about $4.75 a gallon in 2011). We were told that, because of the drought, that apples had to be imported from Washington and that was the reason for the dramatic price hike. In 2013, when Michigan enjoyed a bumper crop of apples thanks to cooler temperatures and tons of rain, the cost of cider was STILL nearly $10 a gallon.

I met my husband for lunch after an appointment today at Billy Sims BBQ restaurant in Troy. We first reviewed Billy Sims Barbecue at its grand opening just 13 months ago on OCM. The price for the exact same meal I ordered just 13 months prior had gone up a full $4! To make matters worse, there was a LOT less food on my plate than there was in our initial review (I even compared the pics). I’d love to say this is one example of a restaurant slipping in quality but I’ve noticed the “paying more and getting less” theme has been rampant in all of our recent dining experiences. How quickly our old $20-for-two lunches not even 2 years ago have turned into $30 or $35-for-two lunches. And, like the cider mill anecdote above, I don’t think the prices are coming down (and I certainly don’t envision portion sizes becoming greater). Yesterday’s Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny’s looks more like a Ground Rule Double today – at a way higher price.

I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed this, but the products and services slimming down so businesses can save on their bottom line is affecting consumers’ bottom lines. I understand the need to raise prices. It’s one thing to strategize so you can recover from a downturn, but what chance do consumers get to recover their bottom lines? We’re forced to cut back in areas that affect our family living.

You’ve also got to wonder if long-term use of these cut back methods by businesses will encourage people to make drastic changes in their spending habits. It won’t fare too well for the businesses if people opt out and choose to eat in more often. There has to be a point where this backfires.

So heed the warning, businesses… families keep score.

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