The United Arab Emirates Will Not Stand For The Grocery Shrink Ray

When Coke and Pepsi cans sold in the United Arab Emirates were shrink rayed from 355 milliliters (about 12 ounces) to 300 mL (about 10 ounces) while the price remained the same, it wasn’t just customers who complained. The government noticed, too, and is removing the offending cans from store shelves. Those wacky foreigners!

The head of the government’s consumer protection department told Gulf News that the companies broke consumer protection rules when they zapped the cans with the shrink ray and stopped printing prices on the cans.

The two companies requested that they would market their 355 ml size cans with a price printed on them. We were surprised by their move when they reduced the size [of the cans] and took the price tag off the cans.

Pepsi, Coke cans to be taken off UAE shelves [Gulf News] (Thanks, Gary!)

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  1. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    I’m sure the slave labor will appreciate the government protecting low soda prices.

    • shepd says:

      I don’t think UAE has a slave labour problem. Heck, I would think certain places in the UAE put NYC to shame when it comes to regular citizens with money…

      • MutantMonkey says:

        O_o Are you being serious?

        • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

          I couldn’t tell either.

        • shepd says:

          I have have a friend whose wife is from Dubai. He spent many years there. He found the standard of living to be quite good and would be happy to go back. Heck, he’s encouraged us all to take a holiday there. So yeah, I’m serious.

          • MutantMonkey says:

            This isn’t about holidays, this is about the people that are building up the areas so you can enjoy your holidays.

      • zerogspacecow says:

        Umm… No.

        The “slave labor” accusation is ridiculous and exaggerated. But, the idea that “regular citizens” have money is equally ridiculous.

        Here’s rough breakdown of the inhabitants of Dubai:

        Actual natives: Maybe 15% and probably sorta middle class

        Ex-pats: Maybe 20% and usually wealthy

        Poor immigrants: The other 65% and very poor, came from India or Pakistan mostly, and live in crowded apartments in poor neighborhoods. All working in construction, service (if they’re lucky, because then they get tips from rich tourists), or driving taxis.

        • MutantMonkey says:

          http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2006/11/dark_side_of_du/

          See if you can spot the MASSIVE issue with how employment is handled in the UAE.

          • shepd says:

            Jeezus, WTF is wrong with ABC? Wall-o-unparagraphed text anyone? What a mess! Guess they’re trying to make it feel authentically bloggy…

            But hey, here we go:

            >Many work 12 hours a day, six days a week, in extremely hot temperatures that have led to illness and, in some cases, death.

            Happens here too. My dad worked 80 hours a week at an auto plant. He’s had the heart attacks to prove it. It, of course, was hot as hell. They would let the workers out once the humidex hit about 40 celsius. Only because it was law. They didn’t do that 30 years ago, as the older employees there told him.

            >The workers live in crowded camps, with eight or more men sharing one small room

            That’s how the oilsands work.

            >the average migrant worker receives a salary of about $175 a month.

            That wage may or may not suck, I’ll assume it sucks. My dad was very well compensated for his struggles at work, as are oilsands workers, so that’s certainly different.

            >There is no minimum wage in Dubai, and some workers make as little as $8 a day

            Irrelevant unless they are actually slaves. Migrant workers in North America receive less than minimum wage, as permitted by law. They also live in housing provided by the employer. The employer is permitted to deduct for said housing from their already lower than minimum wage wage. I can provide statutes to prove this if you don’t believe me.

            >employers in Dubai routinely abuse workers by withholding their wages for their first two months, along with their passports as “security” to keep them from quitting.

            Employers here withhold pay for 1 month. 2 months might be twice as long, but if that’s abuse, well, we’re only half as abusive in North America. As for the passports, try to get an employer in North America to recommend you get citizenship / a green card instead of having you work as a migrant worker or H1B.

            >But the migrant workers have little freedom to quit since many have borrowed thousands of dollars to get the jobs to begin with, paying “recruiters” visa and travel fees, which under U.A.E. law should be paid by the employers, not the construction workers.

            UAE law sounds better than North America. A co-worker of mine immigrated from South Africa to work here, and of course our employer paid all those things. If he leaves work within 2 years, he is required to pay for it all himself.

            >When workers arrive in Dubai, the construction jobs sometimes pay less than the recruiters originally promised.

            How many employers in North America do that? Almost all of them? It’s been my experience that’s the case.

            >And under U.A.E. law, it is illegal to switch jobs without permission from your employer.

            That certainly *is* a difference. FINALLY! ONE!

            >Unions are illegal, and striking workers have been deported.

            I hate unions. And it’s not really a surprise a string worker would be deported, no?

            >”They are living in fear and in extreme anxiety,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch, adding that some workers, feeling hopeless, have even committed suicide.

            This happens in North America, too.

            >A law was passed to halt construction between 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

            Oh, like here, except this is a guaranteed halt instead of waiting for a humidex alarm. Sounds nice.

            Ah, hell, before you ask for it, because you will, here’s room and board rules:

            http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/minwage.php

            And a list of exemptions, including:

            – ***minimum wage***
            – hours of work and eating periods (i.e., rules about the maximum hours of work per day and per week, daily and weekly rest periods and eating periods don’t apply)
            – overtime pay
            – vacation with pay
            – public holidays

            http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/factsheets/fs_agri.php

        • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

          Actually, the slave labor accusation is spot on.
          A person, forced to work, not even able to leave the country or quit their jobs is in fact a slave, even if you pay them a pittance.

          • ianmac47 says:

            Yes, but you’ve also just described about 99% of working poeple in the world whether they are in the west, middle east, far east or south.

            But agreed: the UAE promotes what western civilization perceives as slavery. After oil, slave labor is probably the most important component to their local economy as well as the economies of provinces in India, China and southeast Asia where these workers originate from.

            But how quick can we be to judge labor conditions in the middle east when we have done nothing about the labor that supplies the vast majority of our consumer goods in the west.

            Sent from my iPhone.

            • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

              I think 99% is a bit large of a number. Poverty does not equal slavery, and while a lot of the world is poor, the majority of the world’s working poor are not, in fact, slaves. Labor conditions are poor is a lot of the world (cough cough Foxcon) but poor labor conditions and slavery are vastly different things.

              Slavery means you can’t quit. Slavery means you have no choice. We’re not talking ‘oh the poor really have no choice, do they?’ lack of choice, but the full on ‘Quit? HAHAHAHA! Don’t make me laugh. Now get on that bus to the construction site or we’ll toss you in the desert to die’ lack of choice.

              • zerogspacecow says:

                Again, I really don’t think that’s accurate. Maybe in some isolated circumstances, but that’s it.

                A) these construction sites aren’t “out in the middle of the desert.” Dubai is, by area, pretty small. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are really the only two places where a lot of construction is going on. That construction is in the city or in the outskirts of the city, so they’re not stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the desert.

                B) You seem to have some picture your head of workers in a building that are all chained together or something like prisoners. Which is, again, not accurate. They work like any other workers. They’re at a job site, they work, they stop to eat at some point, and eventually go home (whether that’s an actual apartment or housing provided by the construction company). If they wanted to walk off the job site, they could.

                • MutantMonkey says:

                  When you go to a country to work and all your papers identifying who you are and where you are from are confiscated until your open-ended contract is up, and I say open ended because you cannot quit or leave until your debt getting you there and the paltry services they give you cost money on top of the cost to leave, what exactly would you call this?

                  • pop top says:

                    Indentured servitude?

                  • zerogspacecow says:

                    That would be (sort of) a form of slavery I suppose.

                    My point is that I don’t think that’s actually happening, at least not on any kind of appreciable scale. Just because a sensationalist news article says that “totally happens like all the time. Like for reals, just trust us on this” that doesn’t mean it’s actual a common issue.

                    Also, even that article you linked to said nothing about being unable to return to their countries. It even goes as far as to say striking workers are deported. So, if they want to go back home, they can just get themselves deported.

                    Yes, they’re paid unfairly low wages and treated poorly. No one is arguing that. What I’m arguing is that they aren’t forced to be there against there will. They choose to go there, and they choose to stay there, because the conditions (as bad as they are) are still better than in their home countries.

                    • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

                      The US Government disagrees with your viewpoint:

                      http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82807.htm

                      Some fun snippets:
                      ‘Although in December 2006 the U.A.E. government passed a comprehensive anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of trafficking, with prescribed penalties ranging from one year to life imprisonment, no other progress was reported in prosecuting and punishing trafficking crimes. The government did not prosecute any cases under this law or any other available law, including statutes against withholding passports, false imprisonment, and kidnapping.’

                      ‘Similarly, men from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan come to the U.A.E. to work in the construction industry, but are often subjected to involuntary servitude and debt bondage as they work to pay off recruitment costs sometimes exceeding two years’ wages.’

                      And this beauty:’Similarly, the U.A.E. does not consider laborers forced into involuntary servitude as trafficking victims if they are over the age of 18 and entered the country voluntarily. ‘

                    • zerogspacecow says:

                      That doesn’t mean a whole lot, especially since it doesn’t address how common the problem is. I’ve never said it doesn’t happen at all, just that it’s certainly not the common place activity you’re describing it as.

                      Furthermore, “involuntary servitude,” which means in this case being essentially manipulating into taking on debt which they then have to work to pay off, is not nearly the same as “slavery.” And it’s drastically cheapens the meaning of actual slavery. There are many people in this world who are actual slaves. They are physically imprisoned using forceful measures. And you don’t have to go far to find it, it’s rampant in Mexico for instance.

                      The working conditions in the UAE, and specifically Dubai (where the conditions and laws are completely different than the other Emirates), are not at all the same thing as slavery. Nobody is arguing that they’re bad, and in some cases exceptionally so.

                      But it’s not the epidemic you’re attempting to describe it as.

                    • MutantMonkey says:

                      Different forms of slavery do not discredit other forms of slavery. There are varying levels to the definition. What you are referring to is racial slavery, a specific form of slavery. We are talking about indentured servitude, which is yet another form of slavery.

              • Solkanar512 says:

                Forcing people to hand over their passports looks like slavery to me.

          • zerogspacecow says:

            I was there about a year ago, and nobody seemed to be “forced” into anything. Yes, they’re poor and maybe can’t afford to leave, but (aside from possible uncommon exceptions) I don’t think the majority of people are being forced to stay. Hell, if they really wanted to go back to their home country, they could just get drunk and public and they’ll be deported.

            • RandomHookup says:

              The “slave labor” component is often hidden and falls mostly into maid/nanny and prostitute ranks — though you can find it in many industries. Even the US has a trafficked people problem with companies bringing in folks (usually illegals) who are forced into work, often making just enough to pay the people who brought them here for food & shelter.

              The trafficker usually uses threats against the family back home to keep people from turning themselves in to authorities to be deported.

  2. madcatcasey says:

    Both Coke and Pepsi did it, at the same time? Either collusion or stupidity…

    • Sneeje says:

      Well, depending on the supply chain, it could have been a distributor.

      • yurei avalon says:

        Maybe not. I don’t know how they source their cans, but I can tell you that Coke has its bottles made specially for them and only for them. Bottles between the two companies vary widely but I think a can is a can is a can usually? Still, knowing Coke’s attitude they probably manage their cans themselves like they do their bottles.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Or two companies reacting to the same market stimuli. No need to fabricate a conspiracy.

  3. nbs2 says:

    Well, if they support something in the ME, that’s the terrorists talking. I’ve noticed that the Consumerist takes a similar anti-shrink ray stance. Why does the CU hate freedom and America? When can I expect Santorum/Gingy to take on this nefarious topic and Napolitano to put Meg, Laura, and Ben on the DHS watch list?

    • scoosdad says:

      Ben’s been excused from the watch list for now since he no longer lives at this address.

      • nbs2 says:

        But, his name is still in the archives – probably a good enough reason for DHS to put him in a watch list (ok, that point I mean earnestly – I really do think that they would go after anybody ever officially affiliated with the site, especially the founder).

    • nicless says:

      I see comments like this sometimes and I wonder to myself, “What would it be like to think like this person for a day?” and I try to imagine doing the simple things in life while crazy. Like, do you not have a cell phone because that is how “the Man” is tracking you? Do you only log on to computers at libraries and never the same one so that they can’t track you by IP? Going through life only wearing clothes you made out of fabrics you wove from cotton you grew so that NOBODY could embed an RFID tag in your shirt? Only eating Cocoa Puffs?

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        Never drinking the kool-aid?

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        I laughed so hard at this comment, I spit coffee onto my monitor. Thank you for the much needed giggle in a tough day.

      • nbs2 says:

        I suspect most of the crazy that fit the type I mention would be the government is protecting us from terror type, not the government is watching me type. That would suggest that they would be fine conducting day-to-day activities.

        The concern for them, I suspect, would be interacting with people outside their comfort zone. They would need to maintain the same small closed circle of friends, Outsiders – not welcome. Friends who bring in outsiders – be wary of the friend until you can confirm that the new guy isn’t a terrorist. In particular for the people with the fear I mention here, I think brown skin would be the alert – any other color would be safe. Even the brown skin guy, once they find out his name is Carlos Hernandez, could be ok.

        • failurate says:

          Carlos Hernandez was pretty adept at gunning people down. Some might even say he was armed with a rocket. Rarely delivered bombs though.

  4. longfeltwant says:

    Soon: zero ounces, same price!

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Sad that the UAE has better consumer protection laws that the U.S. does.

    • Cat says:

      Better consumer protection, yes. But at what cost?

      I think I’ll take a shrinking can of soda vs. being ruled by a monarchy.
      (Although our representative government hasn’t done much better.)

  6. zerogspacecow says:

    The government in the UAE controls everything, and their #1 goal is making people want to be there. That means that in order to make cities like Dubai crime free, crime is very, very severely punished. To make driving safer, traffic violations are severely punished, etc. Even when and where taxis can stop and pick people up are strictly enforced.

    So, it comes as no surprise that they would do something like this, they’re trying to protect the consumerism in the country.

    • Kuri says:

      While in the “United” states, they’re busy trying to protect corporations from consumers, by letting the corporations spend less while charging us the same.

  7. Cicadymn says:

    I feel like the quote was unnecessary and didn’t really bring anything to the article that the first paragraph didn’t cover almost verbatim.

  8. some.nerd says:

    I went to Puerto Rico recently and was greeted by 10-ounce cans of beer. While it made it 1/6 easier to put away a 12-pack of Medalla Light, it was kind of silly to have serving sizes that small.
    Also on the bright side, it saved my beer from getting too warm in the hot tub…

  9. maxamus2 says:

    This really isn’t about the “shrink ray” but more about them not putting the prices on the cans.

  10. Pigfish99 the randomly insane says:

    I wish the USA were better when it came to things like this. But then again, the US has enough freakin’ trouble as it is, this would just add to it.

  11. Joseph S Ragman says:

    Fuck them. They can afford it. They have all the money.