Maybe It’s Mars That’s Shrinking?

Posted on June 19, 2010


The relative change in size of the Earth and a typical candy bar since 2004.

They say the world’s getting smaller. They’ve been saying it for years, but I don’t know. We flew from Rome to New York a few months ago and it took twelve hours. I’ve taken that trip before and don’t remember the flight being that long. I think maybe the world’s getting bigger.

I’ll tell you what is getting smaller: the candy bar. Have you noticed? Maybe you haven’t, because they sneak it by you when you’re not paying attention. I like candy bars, though, so I’ve been paying attention enough for the both of us. Here’s what I’ve seen. You have your Milky Way or Snickers and it’s been the same size and the same price forever. Then suddenly, the candy bar company starts feeling generous and they make the bars bigger, but they don’t raise the price. It’s the new king size or giant size or mega-something. And we are delighted. We don’t call the toll-free number on the back of the wrapper to let the company know, but quietly, we are somewhat giddy. More chocolate, more peanuts, more caramel, more whatever that stuff is inside a Three Musketeers, and all for the same price. This is progress!

But then something happens. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, they start raising the price. You may not see it or you may not care. After all, it’s still a gigantic candy bar and a company has to make a profit, doesn’t it? When they’ve pushed the price up as far as they think we’ll tolerate, they leave it there for a while. We get used to the higher price. Then, when we’ve stopped paying attention again, what do they do? They shrink the candy bar back down to its original size. Or even smaller. Now we’re paying more money for less candy. But we don’t see it. There’s trouble in the Middle East, or some governor gets caught doing something embarrassing, or a famous actress gains a lot of weight, and we’re caught napping again.

Once you notice this candy bar phenomenon, you soon realize it’s happening all over the place with other stuff. Ice cream at the supermarket. The prices were ridiculous a few months ago. I mean, I stopped buying it. But then, just as quickly as the prices had risen, they dropped. A lot! In the excitement, I didn’t notice that they had made the cartons smaller. Maybe it all happened too fast. I don’t know. But now when I step back and really look at the ice cream section of my grocery store, what I see is that all of the manufacturers have reduced the size of their product. All at the same time. Collusion, I think. Same with doughnuts and Tootsie Pops and Ring Dings and so many of the other nutritious foods I consume on a weekly basis.

And what’s this with the smaller laundry detergent bottles? Now they’re all bragging that they have less water. I don’t remember Tide or Gain or Purex ever admitting that they were mostly water before. Do you? They always had more cleaning power, the kind of power that could get out tough, ground-in stains like grass and ketchup and even blood. Now they’re saying, guess what: We were selling you a lot of expensive water before. But look at us now! We’re helping you save the planet with smaller bottles, because less water means less weight, so we use less fuel in our trucks and there’s less plastic going into the landfills! And like a lot of people, I bought into this concept. In fact, I was genuinely happy about it. Smaller is better!

I just wonder if they could put some of that water back into the candy bars.

Posted in: Mildly Annoying