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Shrinkflation and how to spot it; travel agency under fire: CBC's Marketplace cheat sheet

CBC's Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need from the week.

Consumer and health news you need from the week

A shopper spotted this example of what appeared to be shrinkflation at a grocery store in Chilliwack, BC., with one box holding one taquito and 28 grams fewer. (Zack Byrne)

Miss something this week? Don't panic. CBC's Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

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What you need to know about 'shrinkflation' — inflation's 'sneaky cousin'

Do you ever get the feeling there's less inside your favourite box of cereal? Or that, even though you can't quite put a finger on it, you're not getting as much liquid out of each Gatorade you drink?

That feeling isn't always in your head. Sometimes, it's an actual reality.

Shrinking Gatorade bottles and smaller boxes of cereal are just two examples of what's become known as "shrinkflation" — the practice of companies reducing package contents while charging the same prices.

"I've seen it described as this sneaky cousin of inflation," said Matthew Philp, an assistant professor of marketing at Toronto Metropolitan University.

He says companies can make containers smaller or a different shape, or put less product inside. "It's just to hide the fact that their prices are increasing."

For consumers, it can be difficult to spot because stores usually clear out old products before replacing them. Shrinkflation isn't new, but experts say it happens more often in times of high inflation, like now, and impacts almost every kind of packaged product. Read more

Have you noticed any examples of shrinkflation near you? Email us with photos at marketplace@cbc.ca

How shrinkflation affects Canadian consumers

3 months ago
Duration 2:06
To deal with the impact of rising inflation, companies are reducing package sizes while charging the same prices in what’s known as shrinkflation. Experts suggest consumers can avoid shrinkflation by paying attention to the price per unit rather than the total price.

How this man fought for $5,200 after a travel agency spent his airline vouchers — on other clients

Surinderpal Gill trusted the travel agency where he bought tickets for a family trip to India two years ago.

But then he found himself out more than $5,200 and his trust broken. 

Last June, Air Canada sent All Link Travel, based in Toronto, three vouchers to compensate Gill for return flights that were cancelled as aviation ground to a halt amid the pandemic. 

But instead of telling him, Gill says the travel agency repeatedly said there was no sign of the valuable travel documents. It then used those vouchers to pay for trips for other people. 

"I feel like I have been betrayed," he told Go Public. "How can somebody use my money without my consent?"

Gill is one of thousands of Canadians who've battled for months over travel vouchers issued amid the pandemic. Many say the very travel agencies they used are compounding their problems getting vouchers or refunds from airlines. 

All Link Travel claimed the vouchers had been used by mistake — three times — but it wasn't until Go Public got involved that it repaid Gill.

The agency declined an interview request. Instead, a representative — who would not provide his name and called Go Public using a blocked phone number — promised several times to send a statement, but never did. 

Gill says he's grateful to have his money back, but the experience was exhausting.

"Everything has worked out," he said. "At the same time, I still have the feeling that this should not have happened." Read more

Air Canada gave Surinderpal Gill of Brampton, Ont., vouchers worth more than $5,200 in compensation for flights that were cancelled in the early days of the pandemic. He was angered to learn his travel agency had spent them on other customers' trips. (Kimberly Ivany/CBC)

Soaring fuel prices hamper Canadians' long-awaited travel plans

Does the end of most COVID restrictions have you itching to hit the open road?

You're hardly alone, but soaring gas prices are putting a damper on many planned summer road trips this year.

With gas over $2 per litre in much of the country, these long-awaited trips to reunite with loved ones or enjoy a much-needed vacation have lost a little of their lustre. 

According to a new poll, two-thirds of Canadian drivers surveyed said skyrocketing gas prices will likely force them to cancel or limit their road trips this summer. 

Although he no longer has to worry about COVID-19 test requirements when crossing the border, Ted Hilton of Ingersoll, Ont., said he won't be visiting family in Michigan this summer due to high gas prices. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

The poll, conducted by Leger for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, surveyed 1,538 Canadians in April. The poll had a comparable margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

"It's kind of discouraging," says Ted Hilton, 81, of Ingersoll, Ont.

He lives on a fixed income and was looking forward to visiting family in Michigan now that test requirements have been lifted at the border.

But he says he can't afford to take on the 460-kilometre drive until the price of gas goes down.

"You depend on keeping in touch with friends and relatives … and not being able to travel and to meet up with them, it does make you feel rather isolated." Read more

What else is going on?

Certain Jif-brand peanut butters recalled due to salmonella
Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to where they were purchased.

Feeling poorer? Inverse wealth effect may add to Canadians' spending gloom
Falling house prices, stocks and crypto expected to make Canadian savers spend less.

Bed bugs and cockroaches: International students in Sudbury, Ont., decry landlord for 14-bed home conversion
Tenants say 3-bedroom house converted to space for 14, infested with cockroaches, bed bugs, rats.

How AI-equipped technology could help clinicians better diagnose mental health issues
The movement has potential, but experts say users must proceed with caution.

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