Watch Out for “Overpackaging” This Valentine’s Day

By: Kaydee Ambas · February 14, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Shrinkflation vs. Overpackaging

Shrinkflation is when companies put less product in a package, but keep the price the same. Did you buy a “party-sized” bag of tortilla chips for the Super Bowl, only to find its contents were more accurately “bite-sized”? If so, you experienced shrinkflation.

This strategy, which has become increasingly popular over the past year, is a way for companies to avoid raising prices, while trying to protect their bottom lines from inflation. But shrinkflation now has a new cousin: overpackaging.

Overpackaging is when companies use larger packages to make consumers think they’re getting more product than they are. For example, you might buy your significant other the biggest box of Valentine’s Day chocolates you can find – only to find the box isn’t really filled with chocolate, but rather sparsely populated by it.

An Illegal Practice

In the US, there are strict laws that prevent false advertising. As such, overpackaging is technically illegal, thanks to a federal “slack fill” law. If a company has deliberately misled consumers with an oversized package, then consumers have every right to file a lawsuit.

But chances are that you don’t want to spend Valentine’s Day in court. More likely, you just want to receive your money’s worth: enough sweet treats for your loved one to enjoy and ideally share.

Spotting Overpackaging

There are a few ways to spot overpackaging while shopping.

First, be extra wary when buying household paper products, snacks, or pastries like coffee cakes and donuts. These are the products that are most likely to get downsized, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Also, be sure to check out the net weight of the package you’re considering buying. Comparing it with online listings can be helpful. The net weight of a product will give you a transparent view of how much product you’re actually purchasing, as opposed to just eyeballing the box size.

For consumers, shrinkflation and overpackaging are frustrating practices. But being aware of them can help you avoid falling into these traps. But maybe count your dozen red roses twice while you’re at it.

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