The truth is elastic. But as consumers we love it.
Clothes with the feel-good factor sewn in
Take dress sizes. Recent research conducted by The Economist suggests that the average British size 14 pair of women’s trousers is now more than four inches wider at the waist, and three inches wider at the hip, than it was in the 1970s. In other words today’s size 14 is what used to be labelled a size 18. And a current size 10 is really a size 14.
Why do manufacturer’s do this? Because women feel better, and are more likely to buy, if they can squeeze into the same dress size they could 20 years ago (even though they are well aware they’ve put on a couple of stone in the meantime – who wouldn’t buy a garment that instantly takes four inches off your waistline?!).
Reading this, I felt smug. My waistline has expanded, but because men’s trousers are measured in inches I cannot kid myself that I’m slimmer than I really am. But then The Economist article pointed out that some brands of men’s trousers labelled “waist 36 inches” are up to five inches bigger.
In the meantime food portion inflation is doing its bit to pile on those extra pounds. Pizzas now come in regular, large and very large. Starbuck’s coffees are tall, Grande, Venti or (coming soon) Trenta. Whatever happened to small?
5* is for losers
Hotels are at it too. 5* used to be the ultimate, but now you can stay at a 6* or even a 7* resort. Standard rooms have disappeared and even Deluxe rooms are pretty ordinary. You are a bit of a loser unless you stay in a Luxury, Superior Luxury or Grand Superior Luxury.
Airline Economy Class is becoming a thing of the past – British Airways has World Traveller and Air France has Voyageur. Free flights have also disappeared – Airmiles (rebranded as Avios) now barely get you off the runway. So many of these have been given away that the total stock out there waiting to be redeemed is worth $700 billion, more than all the dollar notes and coins currently in circulation.
Kids nowadays – they are so much smarter than their parents
Then there’s grade inflation. In Britain the proportion of A-Level students given an “A” grade has risen from 9% to 27% over the past 25 years. Even though other tests suggests our children are no cleverer than they were. Durham University calculates that today’s “A” is the equivalent of a “C” in the 1980s. In the US almost 45% of university graduates get the top grade compared with just 15% in 1960.
Menial has become meaningful
Even employers, who complain about the fact that grade inflation makes it harder to tell the best applicants apart from the average ones, are giving their staff fancier sounding job titles. A receptionist is now a Director of First Impressions while a humble ticket collector has been promoted to Chief Revenue Protection Officer.
Blessed are the marketers, the government and the employers for creating a world in which it is so hard to feel fat, thick or undervalued.
Picture credit http://www.flickr.com/people/whiteyspics/