Sticking with shrinking products adds up over time

Baltimore - It's no secret that some of your favorite brands have been shrinking. From toilet paper to potato chips, you're getting less at the grocery store.

But do you know how to tell which products have been downsized?? is sniffing out the secret to figure out which brands have slimmed down and letting you know why being loyal to them will cost you big.

We clip coupons and scan club cards, trying to shave off dollars and cents at the grocery store. Those are our tricks for cutting costs. But the companies who make the products we're buying have some gimmicks of their own.

According to Sally Greenberg with the National Consumers League, some manufacturers are able to hide the shrinking of their products, "I'm not sure this is a wise business decision and yet it is rampant through the industry."

INTERACTIVE | See a price comparison for popular products

It's a common practice used by tons of large companies. But you may not even know your favorite brands are shrinking. Hamilton's Phyllis Tortoro knows it for sure. She says, "They think people are stupid that they don't notice these things but I do."

Tortoro clearly saw a trend at the grocery store. She's meticulous about her money and noticed her grocery bills stayed the same, even though the products she bought seemed to dwindle faster. It's not her imagination, from peanut butter to ice cream, orange juice and toilet paper, an ABC2 News investigation last spring revealed many items are shrinking.

Tortoro says, "I don't know that we really have a way to fight back. They really have you where they want you. Switching brands doesn't help because they all follow suit."

But our latest investigation found that's not always the case. This time we went aisle by aisle to comparison shop. We wanted to see who downsizes but also who doesn't. And we wanted to figure out how much brand loyalty is really costing you. We've learned that with some products, it's a lot of dough over time.

Let's take cookies as an example. If you go with Keeblers' chocolate chips, you get an 18 ounce package for 3.99 at one store. Competitor Chips Ahoy has a smaller package, just 15.25
ounces for 3.69 at the same store.

It's a lower price, but you're actually paying more than 30 cents more per pound and those pennies add up, although you'd never notice if you're not paying attention to something called unit pricing. It's posted in bright orange labels under every item at the store.

Greenberg says unit pricing is of paramount importance to shoppers. She explains, "That is my tool. That is my weapon as a consumer for comparing products to products."

Greenberg says under Maryland law, unit pricing has to be posted on store shelves, so you can break down exactly what you're spending ounce by ounce.

So once you know what you're spending and whether you've been downsized, then what? Greenberg says you've got to speak up, "Get out there, let the company know you're upset with them,
ask them for coupons, tell them you'd rather pay a few cents more and not have the wool pulled over your eyes."

But Phyllis Tortoro isn't blind to what's happening. She's vocal about paying more and getting less, telling ABC2, "I think the companies should know that people are aware of what they're doing and it does stink."

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