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Scotty Ranking’s TP story, some more supermarket surprises and shrinkflation

There’s a coalpot somewhere in my storeroom. And I own a bicycle. 

Truth is, I down here long. So I don’t need any advice from any MP about how to prepare for what’s coming. I really down here too long fuh that.

And after reading Scotty Ranking’s recent piece on his toilet paper concerns—including the comments—I feel compelled to add a little something about shrinkflation.

Photo: Wait a minute…

Scott seems to think it’s something new. Well, follow me back to the Tunapuna of the mid-1960s and you’ll see it’s not. True, the word dates from the Oughts but the concept is much older than that.

Sixty years ago, the southern boundary of the Tunapuna constituency was the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway. So, as it was drawn on the electoral map, the constituency was far from being anything like marginal then.

Albert Gomes’ POPPG was already history. Still much too young to vote in ’56 and ’61, as a child, I’d contributed to the cutarse the PNM’s Learie Constantine put on their candidate. 

“Violet Thorpe,” my sisters and I had sung lustily every chance we got during those election campaigns, “Constantine on yuh belly. PNM, PNM.”

But neither Constantine nor Thorpe headlined the ballot paper in 1966. For the PNM, businessman Alfredo Bermudez was carrying the balisier flag. For the DLP—now boasting its own PhD leader, Dr Rudranath Capildeo—well-known radio announcer Leo De Leon was the man carrying the flaming torch.

Photo: PNM supporters celebrate their 2007 General Elections victory.
(Copyright Pedro Rey/ AFP 2015)

Picong is a necessary part of the political candidate’s armoury. De Leon knew that. But radio personality that he was, he simply couldn’t bring himself to descend into the dialect in the public space.

During a public campaign meeting one evening, he held up a salt biscuit for all to see.

“Still three for one cent, isn’t it?” he asked rhetorically. “And all of you think you’re getting full value for your money?”

The small, partisan, largely PNM crowd—there more to heckle than to hear—roared its full-throated assent. 

In the language of today’s hustings, his next statement would probably have come out as, “Blasted setta PNM tief!” 

But neither the relative gentility of the political age nor the broughtupcy of the speaker favoured it.

Photo: The vital supplies…

“Typical PNM dishonesty!” De Leon roared back through the PA system, raising the biscuit high above his head. 

“Last month,” he continued, “a single Crix biscuit used to have just 14 holes. Fourteen!” 

Pausing for greater effect, he turned to face the separate sections of the sparse crowd to the north, the west and the south. He raised his biscuit up high over his head so they could see it clearly. He wanted them to see through it! 

“Now, today,” he exclaimed, “without so much as a ‘by your leave’, the same Crix biscuit has twice as many holes, 28!”

Unike the coalpot man, De Leon was no politician—he just happen to take a lil ten days in the politics and then he lorse dat wuk. But I still not putting my head on no block fuh he. 

So I’m not saying that his Crix story was true. The reason I relate it here is simply to underline that what Scott presents as a phenomenon of relatively recent origin is not at all.

Is not today, Mr Scott, that big business digging out, if not we Crix, at least we eye. Is long time!

Photo: A chocolate snack undergoes some changes over time…

A few more examples to add to the toilet paper steal and the Dixie biscuit case cited in the first comment appended to the story.

I have been buying the same brand of soap for years. Everywhere and all year round, not just in Ireland in the spring. Nowadays, there’s a new noise whenever I pick up a new box. Clackatack, clackatack.

Why? Well, the size of the packaging remains unchanged but the wrapped soap itself is measurably smaller. It now moves around freely in the box, whence the clackatack clackatack.

Are you one of those who have a frequent cuppa? Have you noticed? Not so long ago, there used to be 25 tea bags in every box. Nowadays, the price is either holding steady or steadily rising. But for the most part, the most you’re still getting in a box is 20 bags. 

Struggling for market share, Tipson’s new pompously styled Organic Matcha Tea Infusions still offer in each box “25 enveloped tea bags,” net weight 37.5g. Lipton, Twinings and Tetley—around much longer, methinks—give the customer just 20. 

And Bigelow unabashedly advertises a mere 18 bags, with a 32g net weight. 

Photo: Hungry?

I am particularly partial to Earl Grey and Spicy Indian Chai. But should the need arise, I am not averse to going, like the calypsonian Rio, back to basics, back to the old days. It wouldn’t take much for me to again start drying orange peel. Or to go into the backyard and find some shining bush or verveine. 

Or to jump on my bike and ride down to my sister’s house and grab a few soursop leaves. 

And when I get back home, to put a tan cup of water on my coalpot to boil.

I don’t know if what the tea big names are doing qualifies as sneaky. The onus is on the “always right” customer. Caveat emptor, Scott reminds us. But what Brunswick is doing is definitely fishy. 

And it’s no consolation that the action poses no threat to the accuracy of our language! Which of us has not at some time talked about people packed into some place “like sardines in a tin”? 

Ehhehn? Run a check. 

Photo: Packed like sardines… Or maybe not.

Whereas Brunswick have squeezed four little headless fishes into their cans since Noah let the dove out the ark, nowadays there’re only three.

But did sardines get bigger when Putin annexed Crimea? Or when he invaded Ukraine? I seriously doubt that. Still, today’s three are no less tightly packed in than yesteryear’s four. That means, I conclude without Scott’s measurements or calculations to support the claim, that the size of the can has shrunk.

Classic shrinkflation! Profit maximisation by any means necessary.

Rajiv Diptee, do you have a comment? 

Or, asking for a friend in Scotland, a coalpot?

About Early Bird

Early Bird
Columns that say that, after Covid has done its worst, we’re grateful to be still here and be able to get out of bed early to heed the poet’s Carpe diem injunction and, savouring all the day’s blessings, mine those banal, random, ordinary, routine, unspectacular, run-of-the-mill, early-morning thoughts and conversations we often engage in.

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