About once a week I go food shopping for my mom. Without a doubt, ice cream is the No. 1 item she requests. Bread, milk and chocolate syrup are also high on her list.
I noticed something the other day as I was maneuvering my shopping cart from aisle to aisle. The container of orange juice I had just picked up felt different — the size seemed to be slightly smaller. Sure enough the weight on the container read, “59 FL OZ.”
What happened to the other 5 ounces? The price on the container was the same but the amount of juice and size of the container was ever-so-slightly smaller than the traditional 64 ounces that I grew up with.
My first thought was, “trompe l’oeil,” pronounced “trum ploy.” The French word means to deceive or trick the eye.
I was not a great student of the French language but I remember that word because I used it several times upon receiving my final grades for the semester. I would tell my dad it only looks like a “D,” it’s really an “A.” Somehow that never seemed to fly with dad. Obviously he didn’t care that our name, DeLong, is of French origin.
Trompe l’oeil is used more commonly to discuss the artistic effect of illusions in paintings. A mural that achieves the sense of being three dimensional, as in the painting of a doorway that leads outside to a garden, is a good example. Too bad I can’t paint.
As I continued to shop, I kept wondering about the OJ container. What other items have been given the trompe l’oeil effect? To my surprise the answer is many.
Think about it. When’s the last time you opened a bag of potato chips? We’re now paying for the air inside that bag, too. Ask any mom shopping for her baby and she’ll tell you she runs out of wipes and diapers faster than she used to. Why? Because there are less wipes and diapers in the same size packaging.
Subtly downsizing the container or packaging while maintaining the price is sneaky in my book. Next thing you know, they’ll start using less cardboard in the middle of my roll of toilet paper.
There’s a whole list of items that are being packaged in slightly smaller quantities without the price going down. Tuna fish, candy bars, pasta, coffee, yogurt, cereal, soda pop, ketchup, paper towels, sugar, canned vegetables, crackers and chips, just to name a few. And what about that half-gallon of coffee ice cream my mom loves so much? You guessed it. It’s only 1 ½ quarts now. And all this time I thought she was eating larger servings ... sorry Mom.
I did some research and discovered this has been going on for several years now. I guess I need to pay more attention when shopping. Of course there are some benefits associated with the downsizing of packaging. Things fit better in my refrigerator. Many items are easier to carry. And most food items will have fewer calories and fat because there is less to eat.
So why am I still gaining weight? Part of the problem could be that Baker’s Pride still gives you 13 doughnuts when you order a dozen. Now that’s what I call a good trompe l’oeil.
Rich DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Contact him at 912-531-7867 or visit him on the web at www.thesuitesatstationexchange.com.