Clear76° WeatherClear76° Weather

Tropicana slyly juices prices with smaller cartons

Tropicana is cutting its orange juice carton from 64 ounces, left, to 59. Walmart was selling the smaller one for 6 cents more even though both sizes were in the same slot this week.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tropicana is cutting its orange juice carton from 64 ounces, left, to 59. Walmart was selling the smaller one for 6 cents more even though both sizes were in the same slot this week.

Customers at the Walmart on 34th Street S in St. Petersburg who grabbed cartons of Tropicana Original Orange Juice this week might not have noticed a subtle and misleading difference: The price listed was the same ($2.92), but the carton sizes weren't.

Behind the same $2.92 price tag were 64-ounce cartons of Tropicana and 59-ounce cartons of Tropicana — same design and appearance but 5 ounces less.

I grabbed one of each, after hearing from other consumer watchdogs that Tropicana was going smaller.

At the cash register, both cartons rang up with the same code, "004850020102," but the 64-ounce is listed on the receipt as $2.92, while the smaller 59-ounce carton costs more — $2.98.

I know, I can imagine the comments on this column now: "It's 6 cents. Get over it!"

But the whole scenario raises a number of questions, not the least of which is the fact that I'm paying slightly more per ounce.

Multiply that by the millions and millions of cartons Tropicana will sell today alone, and PepsiCo just picked up a real boost for its bottom line.

None of this is new. Everything's shrinking, just look at the Breyer's Ice Cream carton and a bag of chips.

But to stack different size cartons on the same shelf at one price and sell them at two different prices — no matter how small — is, well, a bit greedy on somebody's part.

Tropicana says they announced with fanfare the reduction in the size of the carton back in March.

The change, the company says, was due to the frigid winter temperatures and the smallest Florida crop in 20 years.

(Hmm, never mind that some of the juice comes from Brazil!)

"We did put a lot of thought into this decision," said Jamie Stein, a spokeswoman for Tropicana.

"The suggested retail price is to remain the same. I can't speak to what you saw. ... We were looking to maintain the price but reducing the amount slightly," she said.

Really, it's not so much what I saw as what's on the receipt, which showed the 59 ounce carton costing more.

Walmart did not respond to repeated requests about the orange juice.

So here's the Edge:

• Check it before you buy it. Nowadays you can't trust that the product is the same as the one listed on the shelf. Make sure you're getting what you are paying for. If it's different than what is posted, you are entitled to the price the retailer posts or advertises.

• Check your receipt. The subtle differences in the changes retailers are making can add up in your favor. Don't be afraid to dispute something on the bill and challenge the electronic reader, because sometimes it's wrong.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and find the Consumer's Edge on Facebook.

Tropicana slyly juices prices with smaller cartons 06/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 1:44pm]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...