Supermarket shoppers have accused toilet paper suppliers of "cost-cutting", claiming their products have dramatically changed over the past six months, but all may not be as it seems.
Sharing a photo of two toilet paper rolls from the same supplier on social media, one customer questioned whether Aussies are now paying for smaller products at an increased price.
"Both the same brand, same pack size, the only difference is the roll on the left was purchased six months ago," the shopper wrote alongside an image posted to the Facebook page Markdown Addicts Australia.
The post was flooded with hundreds of comments from people saying they'd recently noticed a similar trend across a range of everyday items. "This is the new world, unfortunately. Anything you bought six months ago, prior to the major inflation, will be better value — both in terms of quantity and cost," one shopper shared. Another added: "I knew it. We have been going through the TP rolls so fast lately. This makes sense."
A group member who claimed to have worked at a toilet paper manufacturing company shot down the accusation, stating companies had long been receiving the same complaint. "There is no difference in the contents of the roll, you are still getting just as much. The paper is just wound tighter in order to help prevent rolls from being squashed when stacked on pallets," the consumer commented. "Toilet paper rarely packs bulk in boxes, it packs bulk in big bags so it gets damaged easily when stacking multiple packets on top of each other."
Another shopper contacted Coles via the supermarket's Facebook page after spotting an apparent size change to the So Soft & Strong Coles brand toilet paper. "Dear Coles, if you're going to shrink the product don't keep calling it double the size!" the outraged customer wrote. "The large pack on the left is the original So Soft double pack and the new improved "double sized" rolls on the right... which look more standard sized with the same old packaging."
It has since been revealed, however, that while there's been no change to the sheets and ply of the Coles product, it is now being wrapped tighter than it used to be, making it appear smaller.
'Shrinkflation' is real
Other shoppers said they'd noticed several products shrinking in size but increasing in cost, including paper towels, pet food, garbage bags, cereal and chocolate. "The cat biscuits I buy have gone from $4.50 for 900 grams to $5.50 for 500 grams in less than a year. Same brand. Now they don't even have the weight on the bag. I had to read the supermarket tag," one Facebook user claimed.
Retail expert Gary Mortimer from Queensland University of Technology says consumers have been experiencing "shrinkflation" — a strategy by which manufacturers reduce the size of products but not the price — for some time now across numerous grocery items.
"In order to maintain profitability manufacturers are faced with two options: they can pass those costs on to a retailer who then passes those costs on to customers or they can put a little bit less in and maintain the same price, it just means the consumer gets a little bit less for the same money they previously paid," he told Yahoo News Australia.
Mr Mortimer said data revealed consumers prefer to pay the same and get a little bit less rather than get the same and pay more because it helps them stick to a budget. "So if your groceries are going to cost $100 a week you can still get the products you want. They may be smaller in volume but we really only talking about five to 15 grams we're not talking about a 50 per cent reduction," he explained.
While we can't accurately predict whether shrinkflation will continue or worsen or improve, Mr Mortimer's advice for shoppers was to always compare prices via the unit price. "Because the retail price will always stay the same and the packet will essentially look the same, the only way to determine if you are getting a little less in the pack is to look at the unit price," he said.
"Data shows that consumers continue to ignore the unit price despite the information being available. But if shoppers actively use the unit price they can make more informed buying decisions and the calculation is already done for them. In research we conducted, we found that families can save about $1,700 a year by simply looking at the unit price."
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