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 Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Big Corporations, Little Ripoffs

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
If you come across a woman sitting there counting the nuts in Rocky Road ice cream, that'd be me. I'm getting cynical about how big food corporations are cutting back to save money. I want to "unfriend" them, same as we do on FaceBook, MySpace, and Twitter, when the social networks are now often used to hawk products, solicit political contributions, and strangers can even stalk you. Since I never invited them to be my friend but they get on anyway, I want to unfriend them. If Ben & Jerry are even one nut short in their ice cream, I'm unfriending them, too.

And I'd like to unfriend some of the corporations that seem to be behaving in a manner that's not consumer-friendly. You could even say they are betraying their own customers. We're the ones who have supported them all these years, and loyally continued buying their products, forgiving them for the occasional price increase, and not minding too much that the price increase probably went for expensive television commercials aimed at seducing us into buying even more. Here are a few companies I once thought of as necessary but if they keep on doing what I suspect they're doing, I'm unfriending them:

DIAL SOAP
I thought I was losing my mind when a bar of Dial soap got finished off more than a week earlier than it used to. I don't keep a graph or anything but I know my soaps. As luck would have it, I suspected the indentation in the bottom of my Dial soap was deeper than usual, leaving a considerably smaller bar of soap that looked the same in the wrapper, but wasn't. So I found an old bar of Dial soap in the pantry and sure enough, there used to be a slight indentation, not such a deep one. Henkel International owns Dial Soap and, since their motto is "A Brand Like a Friend" it should be easy to unfriend them. With all the other products they make (http://www.henkel.com/index.htm) it shouldn't be too difficult to turn that deep Dial dent back into a slight nook instead of a recess you could park your tractor in.

MOTHER'S
With a name like Mother's, you'd expect first-rate treatment, right? I don't know about their other cookies, but I buy their Taffy cookies, the ones they call their "... famous toasted cookie with smooth, sweet creme." Sounds like they're the same cookie as always, but no, a betrayal by my own Mother's. Check out the filling, which once went corner to corner and now is a dollop in the center which has been squished flat and doesn't touch all the edges. The word is "filling," meaning that it's supposed to "fill" the cookie. Thanks, Kellogs. Find another way to satisfy your investors. Take a look at their products: http://www2.kelloggs.com/Product/Product.aspx Yes, you can get coupons, but they must think we won't go to the trouble. Otherwise, they could simply lower their prices. Stop underestimating your customers Mrs. Kellog.

KLEENEX

I buy 3-ply Kleenex by the case to save money and always have enough for the nose-blowing allergics in the family. But lately, only some of the boxes in the case are 3-ply, while others are 2-ply. Now I'm not saying you can't use two 2-ply Kleenex and blow your brains out if you want to. What I am saying is that we're not getting what we wanted, what we ordered, or presumably, what we paid for. Besides, you have to put two 2-ply tissues together for a good blow if there's pollen in the air. It seems deceptive and I don't like it. I'd be lying if I said I understood what their label means when it reads: "Manufactured for / Fabrique pour : Kimberly-Clark Global Sales, LLC...Neenah WI...Made in the USA from domestic and imported material / Fabrique aux E.-U. avec des matieres americaines et importees." Thing is, if they say it's made in the USA, what's with all the French? And how come they put periods after E.-U. for European Union, but no periods in USA? Is there some town in a foreign country that's called "Usa?" and they mean to mislead us? I remember when that was tried before, and failed as soon as the American people realized it was another con.

SUNMAID RAISIN BREAD
Ever since the huge corporation, Sara Lee, took over, I'm sure there are fewer raisins in my favorite bread. Granted, sometimes I luck out and there's an abundance of the little brown critters, but most of the time in the last few years, there are very few per slice or at least nowhere near as many as there once were. I love raisins, and I love Sunmaid, but Sara Lee? Not so much. With a name like that, we picture our grandmother or aunt baking in her kitchen and we get the warm fuzzies. But it is now just a massive conglomerate known as Saralee, and here are just a few of their products: Sara Lee, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Aoste, Douwe Egberts, Hanes, Hanes Her Way, L'eggs, Bali, Playtex, Bimbo, Senseo, Earth Grains, Champion, Coach, Dim, Sanex and Kiwi. For a full list, including shoe care, body care, detergents, air care, meats, beverages, and bakery, most of them familiar names, go to their website: http://www.saralee.com/OurBrands/AllBrands.aspx

PAM COOKING SPRAY
Very useful stuff instead of buying expensive non-stick pans. However, I seem to be going through cans of Pam much faster than I ever did before, and the size of my family is the same. To be on the safe side, I thought I'd check their website to see if Pam's can-content weight has decreased. To my surprise, I found that, even though they maintain a separate website, if you read the itty-bitty print at the bottom, you see they are now owned by ConAgra Foods, which also owns Swiss Miss, Hunts, Wesson Oil, Reddi Whip, Crunch & Munch, Blue Bonnet, Banquet, Hebrew National, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Peter Pan, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher, Chef Boyardee, and a bunch of others. Another big corporation with offices all over the map, and it's not a map of America.

REBATES
Good for them, bad for us. If a product offers a rebate, I ask the seller to apply the rebate to the purchase price, or I won't buy it. When they get tears in their eyes and blubber on about how it's not them, it's the company, I walk away. They invariably go to their supervisor. If they refuse to bypass the rebate and take that amount off the price, I simply say no and leave. We have power in the word "no."

Beware of your old favorite products in new packaging, containers of different shape than before, and weight change. Have you noticed things like these in your daily life, things that seem smaller, bottles narrower, contents lighter? I've seen cereal boxes made larger to disguise that the contents are smaller.

As soon as I finish counting the nuts in this Rocky Road, I'm gonna start counting the nuts in corporate offices.

Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
April 12, 2010 column

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