Grocery Shrink Ray Hits Faultless Spray Starch

Mark says he’s found fault with Faultless spray starch. The bottle shrunk by two ounces and is being sold for the same price, another victim of the Grocery Shrink Ray. Compare the products here and here. What’s interesting is that when he called his mom, she said she had a different brand of starch spray. It too had shrunk by two ounces. Could manufacturers be colluding together to all decrease their products by the same amount at the same time? I’ve heard of price-fixing, but what about the legality of size-fixing? In any event, Mark emailed customer service about the new package. Their cheery reply, inside…

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your recent email regarding your experience with our new packaging for our Faultless Heavy Starch. We always welcome consumer and industry feedback, positive or negative, as we continually strive to improve our products.

We appreciate you letting us know your concerns about the new aerosol can we are using. We realize it is a significant change. The can we used previously was a 22 ounce, three piece can, with a welded seam. Because of how it is made, the old can uses significantly more steel and is more suspect to leaking along the seam if stored for a long period of time. Though the new two piece can does not come in a 22 ounce size, it has numerous other advantages over the three piece can.

By using less steel, the new can is more environmentally sustainable and reduces carbon dioxide emissions associated with the manufacture and distribution of our products. In addition to creating less waste, the new can has a longer shelf life, smaller diameter for better handling, and a more ergonomic design with a cap which is easier to remove.

For over 120 years, Faultless Starch/Bon Ami Company has taken great pride in providing the highest quality products. We hope you appreciate our efforts to be environmentally proactive while preserving an economical way to aid ironing and wrinkle removal by not raising our prices and passing on raw material increases to our valued customers.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We would like to extend an offer of a few coupons as a thank you for your loyalty and support of our products and company. Please advise if this would be acceptable and provide a mailing address for the coupons.

Respectfully,

Annie Blackman
Consumer Specialist

Comments

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  1. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    So, naturally since the new can uses less steel and is easier to handle, the price should go down!

    Or maybe I need to go buy a clue. Preferably not a shrunken one.

  2. jscott73 says:

    They are using less steel so the cans are cheaper and they are giving you less starch so the contents are cheaper yet the price is the same, but they feel they deserve to be commended for their enviornmental efforts. Talk about spin city…

  3. It’s too bad you can’t toss a handful of glitter into an email, as that would distract and amuse anyone unable to process all this doublespeak.

  4. timmus says:

    So I don’t get it. Does it still have the same amount of product inside? Did the can shed 2 ounces of steel?

  5. NotATool says:

    Anyone have a shovel? I’m stuck knee-deep in this PR BS and can’t seem to get out. Crap, I think I just lost a boot…

  6. ChuckECheese says:

    This product is mostly water, with a bit of starch or cellulose, preservative and perfume. There isn’t a lot of anything inside one of these cans to increase in price.

  7. CrazyMann says:

    Lets see:
    We have 2oz less —–> Less Product needed.
    Less Steel – Lighter —-> Less cost to transport and buy
    No welded seam —-> Out of work Welder Machine operator
    Same Price —–> Increase in Profit!!!!!

  8. DWalk says:

    Wow – greenwashing at its best…

  9. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I want Annie Blackman’s e-mail. This is so condescending and slimy I just have to tell her she’s at least not fooling me.

  10. sean77 says:

    @CrazyMann:

    Skyrocketing Inflation —> you have to cut costs.

  11. FrankTheTank says:

    Could manufacturers be colluding together to all decrease their products by the same amount at the same time? I’ve heard of price-fixing, but what about the legality of size-fixing?

    This is one of the stupidest thing I have read on Consumerist. Really? Size-fixing? That’s like claiming “price fixing” because Coke costs the same as Pepsi. Come on, dude…

    Clearly, somewhere just above 10% is the zone in which most consumers notice a size decrease. Manufacturers stay below that limit so that consumers are less likely to notice. Not rocket science, not collusion.

    Occum’s Razor, my friend.

  12. Hawk07 says:

    “By using less steel, the new can is more environmentally sustainable and reduces carbon dioxide emissions associated with the manufacture and distribution of our products. In addition to creating less waste, the new can has a longer shelf life, smaller diameter for better handling, and a more ergonomic design with a cap which is easier to remove.”

    Blah, blah, blah, blah…

    I go through starch like crack and it doesn’t matter to me that it lasts longer in this new can or is more environmentally friendly.

    The product was reduced by 10% and the price should be reduced by 10% as well.

  13. tweemo says:

    Spray starch? It exists?

  14. TVarmy says:

    @tweemo: Yeah. It helps stiffen clothes when you iron.

  15. ElizabethD says:

    The bottle shrank. It too had shrunk.

    /grammar lesson

    Who uses spray starch, anyway?

  16. McKay says:

    Could manufacturers be colluding together to all decrease their products by the same amount at the same time? I’ve heard of price-fixing, but what about the legality of size-fixing?

    As FrankTheTank points out, this is unlikely. But if it were true – that is, if both companies had agreed that they would no longer sell the larger size – that sounds an awful lot like an agreement between competitors to restrict output. I hear the government doesn’t like that a whole lot.

  17. nsv says:

    It may be that the can has shrunk, but the two items pictured are not the same thing. One is light starch. The other is “Professional Fabric Finish – More sizing solids than retail formulas for quicker application, finishing; Use where Starch is not applicable.”

    It’s been a long time since I starched anything (hell, I don’t even know where my iron is,) but if I remember correctly, you can only use starch on natural fabrics. You have to use spray sizing (a different product) on synthetics. And the above “Fabric Finish” is a “professional” formula, and might be more concentrated than the retail version. Concentrated = use less.

    It’s been ages since I worried about this stuff, so I might be talking out my Wal*Mart logo, but that’s my best guess.

  18. repub_consumer says:

    Every time I go the grocery store, there are several items that have gone up in price and down in size. Has anyone seen the size the Chips-A-Hoy lately-half as big as they used to be. Even Ralph’s here in LA, CA stopped doubling coupons. The audacity of this “Consumer Specialist” to suggest the reasons are for a greener community and for ease of the consumer. Does anyone feel ease when they’re getting the shrink-ray shaft?

  19. Dervish says:

    @CrazyMann: Skyrocketing steel costs + skyrocketing plastic costs + skyrocketing fuel costs = increased cost to make product. Manufacturers of, well, everything have been absorbing cost increases for a couple of years now (offset mainly by shrinking profits and internal cost savings) and now it’s reached a tipping point. Get used to the fact that you’ll be paying more – or, in this case, the same for less.

    Markets outside the US have already felt the pinch for awhile – now we’re feeling it too. Get used to it.

    I really wish they hadn’t couched it in such condescending language, but I spose that’s their job.

  20. jpcarterisme says:

    My mom works for Faultless Bon Ami. They are headquartered in K.C., MO. I have left a message for her to let her know the all-seeing-eye of the Consumerist has found Faultless and it’s related products. They also sell the Garden Weasel(odd). I can vouch for the can shrinking, however this process has been going on for some time prior to the oil crunch. I also told her that Annie’s explanation is being held up to the light and it is weak. I follow up when I hear from her. Maybe Faultless will respond.

  21. mike says:

    I wonder what they would say if you told them that you hated the environment? Could you demand that they pollute more?

    Your PR story…I’m not buying it.

  22. ZekeSulastin says:

    Ya know, the environmental bullcrap often attached to these stories is just that, crap, but such things as the falling dollar and rising other costs can only logically lead to unit price of an item going up. They just choose to implement it in a fashion that impacts people with no observational talent.

    Or is the Good Company Standard on Consumerist supposed to be committing business suicide by not compensating for costs while maintaining an overall competitive appearance?

  23. Gev says:

    @FrankTheTank: Sometimes it really seems to me that the Consumerist writers just pick the most sensationalist sounding angle to a story and run with it, no matter how implausible it might be.

    This is such an example.

  24. mobilene says:

    @ElizabethD: I use spray starch. Well, spray sizing, but it’s similar. Some of my shirts just won’t get crisp without it.

  25. markrubi says:

    @nsv:

    The reference to the items pictured being different does not matter. They have started using the new can on all their starch products. The whole point of this was to point out these companies are hiding the fact. When emailed with responses about making the product last longer or less waste is a total cover up. They just need to be honest. We either shrink the product to keep prices same in most cases. Or keep the product the same and raise the price. The way companies are doing this makes it seem they are trying to hide the truth. We all know everything is going up period. Just don’t take the public for being too stupid to realize it by trying to use lame excuses for giving less product for the same money or in some cases more. The response given was kind of insulting if you ask me.

  26. Dervish says:

    @markrubi: Exactly. I appreciate that they can’t go into detail about the company’s finances, but what does it hurt to say, “You know, the price of manufacturing/shipping has gone up and we finally can’t absorb it anymore.”

    Hellmann’s did almost two years ago and it was much less insulting than this response. [consumerist.com]

  27. Haltingpoint says:

    They have a handy form on their website you can submit a message to. Mine was as follows:
    —–

    Congrats, you’re now in the Consumerist spotlight! ([consumerist.com])

    I’m writing to inquire how lowering your packaging costs (and in turn decreasing the amount of product by 2oz) to avoid having to pass on increased materials costs somehow ends up with the consumer paying more for less in the form of an unchanged price for less product.

    This is factually incorrect as there are costs being passed along because value to the consumer decreased. As you’ll see from the article, the consumer response is overwhelmingly negative to the PR spin that was put on the issue. We are intelligent people who would appreciate a straight business answer such as “yes, due to rising oil and materials costs, we needed to increase revenue and one method of doing that was by implementing a price increase in the form of reducing the amount of product while maintaining the same price point.”

    The response Annie gave is both insulting to the intelligence of consumers and at the same time gives cause for Faultless to possibly reconsidering their company name and what it stands for.

  28. nsv says:

    @markrubi: If we are comparing different items, it does matter.

    If you’re telling me that ice cream has been hit by the shrink ray, don’t show me photos of frozen vegetables.

    Not only that, but the response from the company says that he wrote them about a third product: heavy starch. This is different from either of the two photos. Now we have three different products in play.

    It may be that all three products have shrunk in size by two ounces and that the prices have not changed. It may also be that Mark wanted to buy light starch and instead bought the more expensive professional spray sizing. Until I see before and after photos of the same product with pricing information, I can’t know that for sure.

    Believe it or not, I actually do get the grocery shrink ray problem. There have been a few articles here (just one or two, you know,) which have explained it quite adequately. And strange as it may seem, I really do go grocery shopping, and do notice these things when they happen.

    And yes, I do find the company’s response to be deceptive. They give the reasons for the new can without addressing the customer’s concern about the cost and size of the can. Perhaps they are under orders to not discuss this hidden price increase. Maybe they don’t want to admit that their costs have increased, and think they can redirect the customer away from the subject. Maybe Mark wrote to them about the wrong product. Whatever their reasons, if they are avoiding discussing a price increase, I find it to be underhanded and sneaky.

    But none of this changes the fact that the Consumerist is comparing two different products. Telling me that Product A has shrunk and showing me a photo of Product Q doesn’t prove a thing.

  29. markrubi says:

    @nsv:

    I did not write them about the wrong product.

    I did not have an old can to snap a pic of. I bought the exact same type/brand of starch I had run out of. The photos shown above where put up by the editors here at the consumerist. I tried to find a good picture of the older style can which shows clearly the volume contained. I was not able to find a clear picture. If you go to http://www.faultless.com you will see its the entire starch line.

    Quote “But none of this changes the fact that the Consumerist is comparing two different products. Telling me that Product A has shrunk and showing me a photo of Product Q doesn’t prove a thing.”

    The pictures are for reference only. The old can style vs. the new can.

    They did in fact shrink the product I purchased along with the others. They admit it. I even looked for an older can on the shelf at the store. Didn’t find one or I would have snapped pictures right there of both of them sitting on the shelf.

  30. FrankTheTank says:

    @McKay: How about they no longer sell larger packages because consumers don’t want to pay higher prices (per item, as opposed to per oz.)? If consumers really wanted more product, there would be lines of “Original Size” products, touting un-changed sizes for products, at a higher price of course. (Seriously, do you think that would sell better?)

    Do I think EVERYONE realizes they’re paying the same for less? No. But I suspect if they did, they would still buy the cheaper PER ITEM product.

  31. Pennsylvanian123 says:

    Good time to up the profit margin. I believe that dry cleaning business drops and spray starch sales rise in times of recession. Grocery shrink ray is the double or nothing bonus!

  32. Thassodar says:

    LIES! I have a 8 year old can of faultless in my closet and it has NEVER, EVER leaked! They fib! I’ll provide pics of the “manufactured on” label if you want!

  33. McKay says:

    @FrankTheTank: Absolutely. That is by far the most likely explanation. I was responding to the Consumerist writer’s question about the legality of an agreement, if there were one.

  34. hoverkind says:

    I too emailed Faultless about their new smaller size and received the same EXACT letter that Mark received at the top of this discussion. Needless to say, I was very disappointed that it is a form letter designed to deflect further inquiry without addressing the real issue-corporate greed!
    They talk concern of environmental issues yet they produce more waste with the new smaller can. We’ll see if that holds up.
    Let’s use an example of 22 million ounces of starch sold. In the old 22 ounce can, that would be 1 million cans. In the new 20 ounce can they would have to produce 1million 1 hundred thousand cans to sell the same amunt of product. Where is the advantage to the environment there? We all know that most of the cans will wind up in the landfill so how is it that they have helped the environment? Not to mention the extra cardboard for the shipping of 12 cans per case. That’s 8,333 more cases! Extra fuel to ship the extra cases…it goes on and on.
    And, have you noticed the new nozzle sprays out more than the old one did? We have gone through the smaller can even quicker.
    To tell us that the price is the same is just a flat out lie. I may have been born yesterday but I stayed up all night.

  35. hoverkind says:

    I too received an email from Annie after my complain about the new smaller size-it is a form letter-mine read exactly the same as Mark’s at the top of this discussion! And I thought she liked me.
    Besides lying about the price not changing she brings up all these environmental concerns as if they are doing their part. Does a new smaller can really help the environment?
    Let’s use an example of 22 million ounces of starch sold. In the old 22 ounce can, that would be 1 million cans. In the new 20 ounce can you would have to produce 1 hundred thousand MORE cans to sell the same amount of product. Where is the advantage to the environment there? We all know that most of the cans will wind up in the landfill so how is it that they have helped the environment?
    Not to mention the extra cardboard for the shipping of 12 cans per case. That’s 8,333 more cases! Extra fuel to ship the extra cases…it goes on and on.
    And, have you noticed the new nozzle sprays out more than the old one did? We have gone through the smaller can even quicker?

  36. hoverkind says:

    Sorry for the double post; I thought the first didn’t go through.