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Don’t buy without checking the weight

April 10, 2008

The packet of Britannia Marie that I bought last week seemed shrunken. When I checked the weight I found that the quantity had been reduced. I wondered if this was happening with other products, but didn’t check. The thought slipped from my mind. I was reminded of it yesterday by this Hindustan Times article. It’s not just biscuits, but many other products, ranging from instant noodles and soaps to tea and detergents which have reduced pack quantities.

NoodlesMaggi noodles, which always came in the familiar 100 gram pack, have gotten lighter by 5 grams. A 250 g pack of Red Label tea has slimmed down to 245 g. In both cases, prices have remained the same: Rs 10 for the noodles, Rs 52 for the tea… For some products, the difference is not so minor. Unilever’s Wheel washing powder has cut 200 g from its 1 kg pack to keep the old price of Rs 21. But mostly, the cuts are small enough for you to miss. You no longer get 100 g of Good Day biscuits for Rs 10 — you only get 92 g.

A new strategy
I talked to someone in the food industry and they told me that industry had been petitioning the government to relax the stringent rules in the Weights & Measures Act for years. The rules specified certain weights (and their multiples) for packs depending on the product. For example a company was allowed to sell biscuits in a 100 gm pack but not a 94 gm pack. That’s changed now. At one time cooking oil could only be sold by volume (litre) but now it’s allowed to be sold by weight…this happened quite a few years back. Marie

Er…you might also notice that the taste of Britannia Marie has changed. Well, the company (in the HT article) admitted that they had to “refine recipes” !!

Well, we complained about the taste of the biscuits to the company. In fact I had a long chat with the company spokesman. He said very sorry ma’am and it must be a batch problem. He was quite eager to deliver several packs of biscuits free of cost to my house. I said no thanks, I don’t like Britannia Marie anymore.

Why did the government bow down to industry demand?
I can only think of three reasons:

  • The government realised that Indian consumers are smart enough to read the weights on packs 😐
  • The government believes we should go the global way where any weight is allowed. I wonder if we will go the global way and cut the requirement for MRP (Maximum Retail Price) next 😕
  • The government succumbed to pressure from industry 😮

So is this daylight robbery?
Consumer organisations are calling this an unfair trade practice but let us see why companies are doing it. If you take the biscuit industry, it is facing a cost crunch. There has been an increase in prices of raw materials like wheat flour and vegetable oil. It is the small and medium sized industries which are facing the biggest problem as about 40 percent of the biscuit industry lies in the unorganized sector. Biscuits are price sensitive and margins on this product are fairly low in India and therefore any rise in price affects profits. VAT which has been recently introduced has been an additional burden. The industry is begging the state governments to reduce VAT to 4 percent as biscuits are a mass consumption item. So far nothing and finally the consumer has to bear the brunt. Poorer quality and lesser quantities for the same price.

We are used to it aren’t we!
We have to admit that we are all used to traders and manufacturers shortchanging us and at least these companies are writing the weight on the packs. In fact most of us are quite alert when it comes to dealing with shop-keepers and vendors. Whether it’s the next door kirana who sells adulterated stuff or quietly pockets the free gift or the raddi wallah who has a defective scale or the petrol pump attendant who forgets to set the petrol pump board display reading to zero, we know it happens all too frequently.

Petrol pumps cheatmen at petrol pump
In fact stories of petrol pumps cheating consumers by giving them less petrol are rife, and it is recommended that one should buy petrol from company owned petrol pumps to reduce the chances of this happening. Petrol pumps slyly filling in less petrol is far more common than them selling adulterated petrol. This shortchanging happens as petrol is another low profit margin (less than 2 percent) product. This makes traders feel justified in cheating. In fact petrol pumps very often sell you about 0.3 percent to 2 percent less in metros, and up to 5 percent less in smaller cities. The differences are so tiny that buyers don’t notice. Well, not ordinary buyers…rickshaw and cab drivers are very alert to this sort of thing. This shortchanging at petrol pumps is downright cheating as there is no way of knowing that it has happened.

Just by the way, Reliance is now out of the petrol selling business. It isn’t profitable enough for them what with the rising prices of crude and without subsidies that the public sector gets from the government.

(All the pictures accompanying this article are have been taken by me and are copyrighted. the second pic is of a pack of Parle Marie and not Britannia)

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2008 11:11 am

    About Biscuits and other products, I noticed it immediately because of my habit of always looking at Weight, Mfg Date and Expiry date. But I ignored it. If company has decided to increase the cost by a little margin then what we are going to do? They do it because they know there is no possible legal action to prevent it.
    Or is there anything we can do to prevent them? You know?

    Petrol: You didn’t tell possible ways by we get cheated. Do they make changes to machines internally?
    As far I have seen, now a days, most of vehicle holders are aware about it. They monitor and insist on filling the full amount of petrol they are paying for.

    Well, not ordinary buyers…rickshaw and cab drivers are very alert to this sort of thing.

    In Pune, you know, ordinary people also never leave a penny extra anywhere. If cost is Rs.13.50 then Punekar will get 50 paise back at ANY COST 😀

  2. April 10, 2008 11:16 am

    Thanks Suda.
    You are right, I don’t think we can do anything about the mfers raising costs and I feel they are justified too. Also they cannot be expected to advertise it, so can’t blame them here either.
    About petrol, I believe the electronic meters cannot be tampered with easily. From what I know after reading the Rediff article to which I have given the link to, the vendors do it, but how it is not given. It’s worth reading that Rediff article as they have given detailed information on this subject and it is written by someone from the industry.
    And about cab drivers I meant they are more savvy. They are so used to the ways of the vendors that they can catch the cheats easier. In fact this guy in the Rediff article says that one should frequent the petrol bunks which are frequented by the rick and cab wallahs as they are more honest!

  3. April 10, 2008 11:24 am

    Yes I know. I have seen Rickshaw drivers more closely than any other person. I know many persons at my town who are now doing driving for sake of bread and butter. And yes, they are really honest ( exceptions are everywhere) . Drivers are conscious about things because they can not afford a single Rupee to waste or their Roji-Roti will get affected by it.

    Off Topic: Have you ever observed life of rickshaw and cab drivers? If no, then try it once, and then you will get to know many things which happen behind the scenes!!! May be you will get a good topic to write briefly about!

  4. April 10, 2008 12:13 pm

    Well, I do chat with rick drivers whenever I can. In Mumbai they are mostly north indians who live without their families and eke out a living working 18 hours a day. They have a hard life but mostly they are good and honest. In Pune too I have talked to quite a few of them. Mostly I feel they are not as honest as they were once. even in mumbai there are plenty of cheats. many rick drivers run 2-3 ricks on one permit. there was a huge scandal but the RTO is on it.
    About writing, usually I write if I have something original to say. Generally I avoid writing about the life of a particular community unless it is linked to some current news. Even then I need to have something original to say, or I should feel I am adding value by aggregating info and providing some conclusion.

  5. April 10, 2008 12:21 pm

    Yes, I know, you think before writing anything. I am thinking of writing about bloggers I know in future. May be you will find out some things about you even you dont know yourself. :-p

  6. April 10, 2008 12:51 pm

    I have noticed reduction of quantity, in volume based fixed price shampoo packets. Without increasing the price for sometime they either reduce the quantity or dilute the shampoo. Later they increase the price also.

  7. April 10, 2008 2:14 pm

    oh. i never noticed it 😦
    I think one of the reasons they do this would be to keep selling it to customers like me (who care more about the price). Cos if they wud have sold the maggi for 12 Rs, honestly I would be like “oh they increased the price, lets get Top Ramen”
    This is a very good strategy for the companies to cheat the unsuspecting consumers.
    Also companies give less option to customers (who do check weight ) to compare different products. Like for eg, if maggi is selling noodles 96gms for 10Rs (just an eg) and top ramen, 85g for 9Rs, we wud have to take a calculator to the shop to decide on one of them. 😦

  8. April 10, 2008 2:59 pm

    Hey Nita, I think I put “,” at wrong place. Actually I meant to say “You always think before writing and its very good thing to learn from you”.
    Damn comma made the meaning different. Did I cause any misunderstanding? 😛 If yes then find me and hit me hard on… well…. wherever you like 😀

  9. April 10, 2008 3:01 pm

    Nita, you are talking about the legal route. The LPG cylinder supplied to me today was 5 kg less than the prescribed weight. My domestic help is very fussy, he weighed the cylinder and got it exchanged.If he hadn’t observed it I would be cheated .
    About rick drivers, you are welcome to Delhi. I am told you are lucky if you find an honest one in Delhi .

  10. April 10, 2008 3:22 pm

    I concur with pr3rna on rick drivers….that petrol scam is going on for a long time now…everyone nows it..but somehow no one cares…the most we can do is to check the reading..what if the meter has been callibrated wrongly….a regular inspection has to done.

  11. April 10, 2008 4:57 pm

    u cant really blame the cos
    The govt expects everyone to cut prices on one hand and increases costs through the tax raj and overtaxation
    they get 100 pay increase, big houses free telephone free everything … and are isolated from the poor mans woes
    i had said that the budget would be inflationary
    well here we are – results are for all to see

    on adultrated oil – the structure of subsidy and the passing of burden due to diktat raj from the north block to oil cos whose shares are at all time lows also causes this
    as much as lower pay./ accountability for staff and low margins to pvt pumps and easy availability of additives like naptha from the industry(very well known and very very rich co).

    my blog article

  12. April 10, 2008 5:09 pm

    There are ioc etc officers who have made tonnes of money
    and the corruption is so well entrenched that water instead of oil gets sent to kargil that too when the current army chief was heading the northern command and as we all know
    an honest engineer ends up dead
    indian express
    deadly devil

  13. April 10, 2008 5:24 pm

    some cab guys are honest , but most downright cons
    when i bluntly asked one about how much he sped his meter he said 15%
    my friend observed that the cabs/rics issued andheri rto permit are the worst as they speed the meter 20%+ as it is lax and they manage to get their settings done

    everyone has fixed costs and they have jumped
    the toast sandwichwala near the house hasincreased prices from 9 to 10 to 12 to 15/20 and why – cost increase – of vegis and more essentially haftas to bmc and cops and bcause of getting caught in a bmc raid

  14. April 10, 2008 7:15 pm

    well petrol i have a couple of times…but if you are smart enough or buy the same qty everythime you will notice…

    ha…so there is the catch in cookies…no wonder they seem to get over faster….i thought there was something say crumbly…

  15. April 10, 2008 8:09 pm

    this was a good thing to know..just recently saw that maggi noodles have reduced both in size and weight..just wondering who is to blame here., I mean its printed on the cover..and it was me who did not read that in its is wrong that I felt cheated

  16. April 10, 2008 9:40 pm

    Regarding food products, if people tell the shopkeeper/manager of their complaint (do it within earshot of other customers), and refuse to buy the product, and if they hear the same complaint from many people, maybe it will trickle back to the suppliers and the manufacturers.

  17. April 11, 2008 7:14 am

    Suda, You didn’t cause any misunderstanding. 🙂

    Amit, that is a good point. I have seen that shopkeepers hate it when you complain in front of others.

    Rambler, I guess that’s true. It is up to us to read the labels carefully. Though anyone can make this mistake. It’s difficult to be alert at all times.

    yeah, the best way is to frequent the same place regularly, get to know the shop-keeper and then he is less likely to cheat you! That is why I feel the malls are a godsend. I can go to any mall and do not feel the need to strike up a relationship with the staff. The prices are fixed and they don’t cheat.

    Rahul, if we suspect that the charges on a meter are too high, we can always take the number down and complain to the RTO. Even if nothing happens, at least we can feel satisfied that we complained.

    overall I have had a good experience with cabs but if I use them it’s only short distances and that too in South Mumbai. Overall I find rickshaws and cabs pretty safe and well, I assume their meter is working right. But I am not an expert.
    Yes, I have heard of the corruption in the OIL companies. Sad! That case of the murdered engineer is very tragic. I think they have punished the murderers now. Your analysis of the way the govt works and the oil companies is bang on. Thanks. Will surely check out your link stoday, but since last afternoon have been out and couldn’t manage it.

    Prerna, you are lucky you have someone who checks the weight of the cylinder. You are right, one should do it everytime but mostly we don’t bother. I wonder how many times we have got the wrong weight too. If they reduce a couple of kgs we won’t even know!

    Xylene, I agree it’s not possible to calculate everytime. But if one is buying an expensive item regularly say tea of coffee, then it’s worth making that calculation.

  18. vimal jain permalink
    May 3, 2008 11:44 am

    i wants to know why anybody not taking any action regarding hindustan petroleum pump in delhi giving less petrol.

    You need to make a police complaint and follow it up. – Nita.

  19. subhash jain permalink
    December 26, 2009 4:25 pm


    Today i bought a Britannia Bread from a shopkeeper in Rohini, Delhi showing weight 430 gm but actual weight of the bread is 410 gm lodged the complaint with
    Britannia Industries phone No.30788045 A representative visited and found that there were 5 breads having less weight out of total 7 breads with the shopkeeper. Britannia is selling lacks of breads daily in delhi and cheating the people in crors of Rupees annually.

  20. Yujin permalink
    November 14, 2014 9:06 pm

    Don’t buy packages without checking the weight.

    I recently purchased 3 packages of 200 g Britannia Maska rusk from a super market in Kerala. Alas, it was short weight. When I weighed the rusk, it was only 185 g. Popular brands are selling lakhs of deceptive packages and cheating their loyal customers !.

    The Legal Metrology (Pasckaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 gives the maximum permissible error for 100 to 200 g package as 4.5 % of the Net weight, thus 9 g.

    Packing/selling short weight packages is a violation of Sec 18(1) and is punishable under Sec 36(2) of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 with a fine of Rs 50 000.

    Still Market leaders are prefer to sell short weight packages, because the money earned is very much higher to the penalty.

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