April 29, 2008

The "2x4" Shrink Ray Strikes the "Half-Gallon" Ice Cream Container

Measured the so-called 2x4 at a Home Depot lately? Have you even eye-balled one? Either way you know that there is no way either dimension reaches 2 inches or 4 inches. Nope, the "2x4" was struck long ago by the shadowy "shrink ray" of modern manufacturers who daily prove the rule that, "No matter how shoddy and cheap a product is, there is always some business somewhere that can make the same thing shoddier and cheaper."

The details of are The Incredible Shrinking 2x4 are:

The measurements you quoted have been the norm for several years. Yes they shorted the 2x4 years ago to 3 1/2 x 1 1/2" then again they shrunk them by about 1/16th inch more.

Figure the profit of 1/16" from a log. 16 - 2x4s and you have one extra 2x4 one way only. Double that the other way. Now every log 26" across adds one free 2x4 side to side. Same applies edge to edge 3 1/2 way only a long being 58" across. This adds up to a log 26" x 58" gives the wholesaler 2 extra 2x4s.

Of course, the shrink ray knows no boundaries when it comes to scamming the populace.

One of the most prevalent uses of the ray recently has been "your office." This has been shrunk to "your cubical," or as one wag has put it, "Once we got them to accept cubicles we knew anything was possible."

And indeed it is. The Consumerist, which tracks such things, today notes that the slow-death of the "half-gallon" of ice-cream is well advanced: Grocery Shrink Ray Hits Edy's Ice Cream


Why do these craven capitalists resort to the shrink ray? Because they fear having to increase prices more than anything else on Earth. An increase in price might, just might, cause a downspin in purchases. After all, do you really need that half-gallon of Chubby Hubby?

Of course, with much of the food that makes for milk that makes for ice cream being diverted to the tank of your car so you can pay more for both gas and ice cream, prices will be going up even more. Which means that soon you'll probably buy a half-gallon container of ice cream that contains a pint container inside it. But don't worry, both containers will be fully Green, made from the sawdust spun off from trimming down those "2x4s."

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Posted by Vanderleun at April 29, 2008 11:03 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Totally correct. Up here in Canada my favourite pricing "scam" is the pop (soda). Used to be able to buy a case of 24 355 ml cans for $5.99. Also used to sell 6-packs and 12-packs.

Now they sell 6-packs, 12-packs, and 18-packs but no 24-packs.

They sell one 12-pack for $3.99. No word that there was a price increase though.

The other scams are with toilet paper and paper towels. All different roll counts. All different sheet sizes. All different prices.

Why not sell things by standard weight or volume? Ooops. That would make it too easy for buyers to know the real price.

I also think retailers know that average math skills do not include the ability to manipulate prices, units and other information easily.

I take my calculator along.

Buyer beware.

Posted by: mistersurefire at April 29, 2008 12:52 PM

Nothing personal, but I'm always amazed at how the first thing that enters everybody's mind in any situation is that some sort of fix is in because you really don't know much about the topic.

A 2x4 is a "nominal" measurement. It is the size that a 2x4 is in the rough, before it is dried,(it shrinks when the water is removed, usually in a kiln, but sometimes by air drying) and it is "dressed" by planing. It was 2" by 4" when they started. The reason that it's smaller than it was 100 years ago is that we're cutting trees that were planted when you were in high school to get them now, and fast growing trees shrink a little more than old-growth wood used to. If the humidity goes from 20 to 60 percent , a 2x4 will change dimension a sixteenth of an inch right on the rack in the store.

Carpenters buy "board-feet" of lumber, for instance. That would be one foot square by one inch thick. But that's "in the rough." A board-foot of dressed 1x12 is 11-1/4" wide by 3/4" thick.

I buy wood in the rough and plane and joint it myself all the time. So I'll confuse the matter further by telling you a 2x4 in the rough would actually be called 8/4 by 4 by ** specify length in feet** And it would be 2 inches thick, I assure you.

A 1x6 is 3/4" by 5-1/2" wide, but a 1x8 is 3/4" by 7-1/4" You have to know these sorts of things or you'll always think you're getting less stuff than you ordered.

Knowing all this stuff is why you used to pay carpenters to make things. And the first thing any carpenter who knows his ass from his elbow will tell you is that only a fool would buy framing lumber at Home Depot anyway.

Half of the plywood is actually in metric now, which I hate. But I can assure you you're not getting cheated because 1/4" luaun ply isn't 1/4" anymore, either. It's 5.5 mm.

Do me a favor and tell me you were joking, even if you weren't. I'll feel better.

Posted by: sippican cottage at April 29, 2008 3:24 PM

I was going to straighten you out on the "shrinking 2X4" story but I see sippian cottage - another blog that I admire greatly - has beaten me to the punch. Actually this has been standard for quite a number of years as my early 1920's bungalow had 2X4s that were 1 3/4" X 3 5/8". Keep up the excellent work.

Posted by: Pico at April 29, 2008 5:57 PM

No, sippican, alas I was not joking but I am now better informed thanks to your explication. And I be humbled. But the frigging ice-cream is still short counted!

Then again it seems to me that the solution to the shrinking freshly planted 2x4s is to HARVEST OLD GROWTH TREES NOW!

However, I must note that the number of carpenters that know ass from elbow must be decreasing to critical levels since I see carpenters at Home Depot all the time buying everything from framing lumber to Mexican day laborers.

As for the deeper metrics of this discussion, I shall leave that to those masters of metric, the French.

About which I *am* joking.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 29, 2008 6:06 PM

And I must say that I simply don't understand why my constant readers would want to let a few unfortunate facts spoil a perfectly good rant.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 29, 2008 6:12 PM

"And I must say that I simply don't understand why my constant readers would want to let a few unfortunate facts spoil a perfectly good rant."


Posted by: sippican cottage at April 29, 2008 6:35 PM

What the fuck happened to the Sippican I used to know? Where's the spirit, where's the foot-pumped lathe, where's the Amish nail gun, where's the hand-crafted Shaker style toilet plunger? Where's the Apple Corps dual-control old-growth redwood dildo? Where's the lobster guts-based linseed-oil Shinola shitpolish for the fine fit and finish of a Chrysler K-Car, huh?

"Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Gerard, we might get in trouble for not having the fucking lumberyard facts straight."

Well just kiss my keyboarding ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this carping about facts and fucking board feet -- with metric no less! Sippican, he's a dead man! Pico, dead! Those gun crazed hunters from Maggie's Farm...

Posted by: vanderleun at April 29, 2008 6:56 PM

Hmmmm. That nominal size has been around approximately 50 years or so. A 2x4 was 2" x 4" and I can recall the new nominal size becoming common in the 50's or 60's.

Any how, the instructions on the diatomaceous earth pool filter media still says to use a one pound coffee can as a measuring device. Heh, heh.

And what about Drakes Devil Dogs? How about airline seats, I haven't gained that much weight!

Posted by: Dennis at April 29, 2008 10:25 PM

Last night, at Walmart, now the First Temple of Earth Worship, I noticed that the sizes of detergent,always shrinking anyway, is now even smaller, with the bonus of being twice as powerful...another bs moment as well, since they went ULTRA about ten years ago.

Posted by: Jewel at April 30, 2008 6:36 AM

Jewel: "...the sizes of detergent,always shrinking anyway, is now even smaller, with the bonus of being twice as powerful..."

+1. And every detergent manufacturer has managed to accomplish this transition virtually at the same time. The cut the volume of detergent in 1/2, added the "2X as strong" to the label and did not change the price. Every one.

How does that work?

Posted by: paul a'barge at April 30, 2008 12:35 PM

All of this reminds me of a slightly off-color joke. I'm sure it does for you, too, even if it's a different joke.

Posted by: Attila (Pillage Idiot) at April 30, 2008 12:52 PM

I suspect your ice cream will return to it's original half gallon size in a year or two. It will be billed as the 'new larger size' and come with perhaps a 20% increase in price. This strategy was employed over and over back in the 70s. First hold the line on price by reducing content, then return to original size with hefty price increase, all the while telling the consumer what a good deal they are getting.

Posted by: feeblemind at April 30, 2008 3:09 PM

Mr. a'barge:

The manufacturers are simply responding to customer demand. Once upon a time, there was pressure to make larger and larger packs of detergent at the same price; and they managed that by padding the product out with cheap fillers. Now, people (at least some people) are beginning to notice that ploy, and become averse to unnecessarily large packages that cost money and fuel to ship for no benefit.

So the manufacturers respond to that market force by taking out the fillers that weren't needed in the first place except as a marketing ploy, and telling the consumers the truth; that you need half as much of the stuff to get the job done. And this is a good thing - unless you think that wasting fuel, cardboard and road space is actually a good thing in itself. Unfortunately, some people, including Mr. Van der Leun and many commenters on this site, appear to think just that.

Of course, there will be some people who don't read the instructions and use the same amount of of the new stuff. That's hardly the manufacturers' fault.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at May 7, 2008 2:01 AM

Bringing up Detergent is interesting.

One of my best friends now makes soap for a living.

It's very interesting talking to him and about the feedback/pressure/industry "norms" are. Especially since his is a family-run business where everybody has a hard-science degree and there are no "professional" marketers anywhere to be seen.

I've successfully sold many a person on their soap via word of mouth, and what I'm almost always asked is "Why does this work so much better than [the "big" brands]?"

And it's because they're not (as) worried about their "image" or trying to force a sort of impulse buy - they just make soap that, amazingly enough, *cleans well*.

http://charliesoap.com/ - Minor plug, if you don't mind. Tell 'em I sent ya.

Kind of in contrast to what I told a airline pilot friend of mine the other day. He doesn't understand my utter revulsion at the TSA's "Mother-may-I" and "Simon Says" playtime in the name of saving my life. We were discussing the whole airline industry and I told him something, kind of off the cuff, that I think is really important, a subliminal realization.

"The problem is, you guys have lost sight of *what your job is*, that is, to get people from Place A to Place B, at Time C. Your "improvement programs" are worrying about details that are tangential at best to what your *main job* should be, and as a result, they bear no fruit. Your customers are mad not because they can't get peanuts anymore, but because *they can't trust you to get them where they want to go when you promised them they'd be there*."

Another friend who spent 1/2 his career in retail says derisively "People won't pay for quality." I argue that we *will*, but we've gotten so used to being "marketed to" (and who admits to poor quality), and "spun" that it's hard, especially in electronics, where companies build products and change product lines relatively quickly, to have any sort of baseline. Many times I've bought a later product because the one(s) I had before were excellent, only to find that the newer one I bought was in no way as well built or as high of quality as the previous ones. Plus, in fact, often the crappier product wins out. Iomega built really crappy products, and beat out Syquest, who were building far superior similar products. (For only 1 example.)

Posted by: Unix-jedi at May 8, 2008 10:40 AM

All great comments. Bottom line...shop wiser..they'll get the message..once sales figures drop, they'll change their ways. I vote with my dollar and how I spend it!!

Posted by: Fred at May 15, 2008 5:46 AM

And don't forget the coffee cans!!! When's the last time you purchased a pound of coffee? The one pound cans are now 12 oz.

Posted by: remenecker at June 8, 2008 8:33 PM
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