As I write this, my 100th blog, I hope my readers will permit me to have a Malcolm Tucker meltdown and a centenary rant.
This week the Guardian ran an article about an apparently new economic phenomenon: “Skimpflation, the curse of 2022”, June 28. In it, Zoe Wood argues that “Reluctant to raise prices, refusing to sacrifice profits, travel companies, retailers and restaurateurs are cutting corners wherever they can, usually without telling their customers.”
My beef with Ms Woods is not the recognition of the phenomenon. I am sure all my readers are experiencing the skimpflation effect, possibly even on a daily basis. Slower, less reliable delivery times of online purchases, longer holding times for customer services (if customer services even exist!), reduced choice and out-of-stock issues to cut the cost of holding inventory, smaller portions of all kinds of things but for the same price and generally a decline in quality and quantity of consumables and services. And this is not confined to the hospitality and travel sectors.
Where I take issue with Ms Wood is the claim that this is new. It is not. In fact, it is as old as the hills.
Having now had my rant, I can confirm that my rightful claim to fame is that, back in 1970s and 80s, my Aunt Bunny was the Queen of skimpflation. She ran a small catering business and her crowning, cost-cutting ploy was her chocolate cake. It looked like a chocolate cake – right colour cake and icing. However, unlike the identification of a duck by its waddle and quacking, this was no chocolate cake. Since cocoa powder and chocolate were expensive, Aunt Bunny added brown food colouring to plain vanilla cake and butter icing. The disappointment on the tongue was absolute. The upshot is that you cannot fool your customers and by yielding to the vagaries of skimpflation, retailers seriously run the risk of permanently damaging their brands for what might yield apparent short-term gain. This is a potentially lethal mistake that Southdown Duvets will not make.