Service of Full Measure

August 17th, 2009

Categories: Appreciation, Food, Manipulation, Marketing, Packaging, Quality Control, Retail



Maybe there is the same amount of liquid as always in the cup of coffee I bought this morning but I doubt it. The size of the cup is dramatically smaller than standard takeout and nowhere near as big as the cup I usually get from this vendor. The price is the same.


The coffee industry isn’t the only culprit in flim flammery, but as I walked it back to my office, I immediately thought of the old one pound coffee can trick where the measure of grounds inside continues to shrink to as little as 10.5 ounces while the tin stays the same. Wonder if this visual hyperbole carries over to words at Starbucks where you don’t buy a small cup of coffee–it’s a “tall.”


I’ve purchased boxes of fancy cookies only to find, with company already in the house, that there are embarrassingly few inside. I hate to serve a skimpy plate of anything. Reminds me of folks who buy one chicken and cut it up into a million small pieces for six guests to share, leaving one generous piece that the host, last to be served, takes with a reluctant sigh, “Since nobody else wants it…..” [True story.]  Or the host who buys ¼ lb of sliced smoked salmon for a crowd of brunch guests and comments to his wife, at the end of the party [with some guests still around to hear], “See dear, we had plenty of salmon, there’s some left” which is only true because nobody dared take what little there was. [Also true.]


On the other hand, last weekend, we bought ice cream from a vendor in the Poughkeepsie, NY Galleria. Her “small” portions were so generous that one of our guests asked her to stop as she kept stuffing more into his cone. Milkshakes are all over the map. Some taste like flavored milk while others are too thick to sip through a straw [yum]. Making a profit is crucial to staying in business but so is repeat business.

Shorting the customer to make an extra buck is as old as shopping itself, but does it work in the long run? Maybe? Your thoughts?

2 Responses to “Service of Full Measure”

  1. Jeremiah Said:


    To answer your question: Yes, it does work — in the short run, and all anybody is interested in these days is the short run.

    The shifting from taking a long term view of life and the world, to taking a largely short term view, has been the single most important change in human thinking to have occurred in the last half century. Knowing how and why this change happened is probably the most complicated and unanswerable question going. Anyone who can solve that puzzle has the key to what we can all do to improve the quality of life on earth.

    Meanwhile, we will just have to put up with the disservice of being cheated in life in little ways.



  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Oh my, Jeremiah. What a dismal prognosis, but no doubt, accurate.

    We’ve addressed on this blog the ramifications of businesses eliminating five, 10 and 25 year plans in favor of tomorrow afternoon’s deadlines. I guess shortchanging is one of the outcomes that accompany the attitude “I got your money today and I’ll be out of here the next time you’ll want something, so it’s not my problem.”

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