Sold by weight, not by volume

Stan Geiger pops open a bag and is unhappy with what he sees:

I don’t usually buy potato chips. I mean crap like that has no food value, and it is way yonder overpriced. But I had a coupon, so I decided to indulge. I paid $1.88 for a bag of potato chips. Even with the coupon, I’d say I probably paid about four times what the bag was worth.

I popped the bag open today. An optimist would say it was half full. I’d say it was half empty.

All the talk is about being green these days. Maybe we should start with a federal law that says any container in a grocery store has to be full.

Which would be tricky in the matter of potato chips, since they tend toward fragility — if they didn’t, you probably wouldn’t want to eat them — and the more you cram, the more you break.

Still, the alternative is worse: Pringles, a compressed-floor-sweepings product of Procter & Gamble (!) that fits in a cardboard can, or Stax, Frito-Lay’s answer to Pringles, which fits in a plastic can.

Aside: P&G got into a legal fuss with the Brits, in fact; potato chips, or “crisps” as they’re known in the UK, are, unlike most foods, subject to the 15-percent VAT, and P&G had argued that Pringles were exempt due to insufficient potato content. A court ruled in their favor, but a higher court sided with Her Majesty’s Government.

This point, however, seems indisputable:

Back in the day, one could go to a neighborhood butcher and buy some meat. The meat would be wrapped in paper. The purchaser took it home and cooked it. On the same day I bought some chips, I bought some sandwich meat. It was wrapped in plastic and encased in a plastic container that was twice the size of the meat packed inside.

Aside from the fact that all this oversized packaging is aimed at screwing people, aimed at making people believe they are getting more for their dollars than they actually are, it’s wasteful. If you want to go green, cool. Let’s look beyond the bags in which the stuff you buy is carried home. Let’s look at the packaging of the stuff you buy.

Package manipulation falls under the deadly beam of what the Consumerist calls the “Grocery Shrink Ray,” a common ploy to give you less for your money without your knowing it.

There are, however, still plenty of supermarkets with actual butchers on hand, and I generally prefer to buy meats and such wrapped in paper, with maybe a thin plastic liner to ward off leakage, rather than the prepack stuff of unknown provenance that comes with a huge plastic tray.

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