It has been widely reported that certain American food manufacturers have turned to downsizing package sizes on the quiet in a bid to cut costs, fuelled by rising production costs due to soaring oil and food prices (what’s new).

Of course, the hush-hush game is being played so as not to repulse consumers who may not be observant enough to notice the downsizing at all. After all, in a world where prices of everything else is going up, it will be a promotion of the items of some sorts should their prices remain stagnant. Such coy marketing ploys at work, albeit underhand. Who cares about honesty being the best policy if profiteering is affected at the end of the day?

Though, with the latest reports, these ploys are likely to have been foiled and the companies have some answering to do to their customers.

Then again, are consumers that blind not to notice the surreptitious marginalising privately at play?

As Ms Deirdre Cummings, legislative director at consumer advocacy group MASSPIRG aptly puts, “So many times, they put ‘new improved package’ on the label but they would never put ‘new, improved and smaller’.”

Shouldn’t it be made clear for consumers that they are paying less for the same amount? As buyers, we definitely have the right to know about such changes. Well, at least the Singapore market is not that badly affected yet, although even if it is, we can probably trust our Consumers Association (CASE) to set things straight.

In the meantime, however, has any other fellow local readers noticed a possible covert shift taking place in the fast food restaurants here, in terms of the food portions? I was having supper with a friend recently when he commented, rather aptly it seems, that “unlike 10 years ago when the Big Mac was so huge that we have to split the hamburger into two layers to eat it, the Big Mac is more like a Small Mac now”. Apart from which, the sizes of the burgers at McDonald’s, the fried chicken at KFC, as well as the meat at Long John Silver’s certainly seem to be shrinking by the year, while the prices of their meals are still going up.

As consumers become savvier while the business world gets tougher, it remains to be seen who will have the last laugh.

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Tourism in Sports

June 28, 2008

The world of sports is certainly a lucrative one, giving the recognition being placed on it, whether as a barometer of human progress, a showcase of indomitable human spirit, or simply, a chance to earn bragging rights on an international or regional platform.

This is further exemplified by how numerous countries have invested money into building up their burgeoning sports industries, amplified more so by the efforts and incentives of the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) in attracting foreign talent to Singapore, as well as the carrot being dangled in front of our sportsmen as motivation for them to perform.

The number of sporting events which capture global attention is countless, with the Summer Olympics, World Cup, Euro Championships and Commonwealth Games being some of the few large scale events with a lot of hoohaa attached.

The prestige of hosting a major sporting event has therefore grown leaps and bounds over the years, as a nation welcomes the best athletes from around the world for approximately a month of friendly competition. The benefits are boundless – a chance to build political ties and to gain recognition, as well as the promising tourism revenue which is bound to come along.

The onus lies with the host country to invest hefty sums of revenue to refurbish pre-existing infrastructure, as well as to construct new systems and to erect supportive tourism promotion campaigns so as to ensure the successful execution of the event.

Euro 2008 logoVia Euro 2008, Austria and Switzerland is bound to reap rewards from the European fans that are expected to descend on the countries during the championships, with an estimate of $358 million gained by the Swiss economy and $369 million gained by the Austrian economy. In Austria alone, overnight bookings have hit the 2-million mark during the campaign, which is well above the usual rates for the month of June, while almost 11,000 temporary jobs have been created to cope with the visitor influx.

However, while it may still be too early to tell, things do not look especially rosy for the upcoming Beijing Summer Olympics and Singapore’s Formula One Night Race.

Both events have been in the news lately in the run-up till the kick-off of the events.

The Beijing Games have been fraught with controversy surrounding the Chinese-Tibetan rule and the subsequent exile of the Daila Lama, and as a result, an unprecedented spotlight was shone on the global torch relay.

Formula One Grand Prix posterThe Singapore Formula One Night Race has been vigorously marketed as a world’s first-ever F1 night race.

Yet, recent reports have shown that the Formula One hotel booking is looking sluggish, while there is no sign of Olympic boom for Beijing hotels.

So, what ticks and what does not?

In the case of the Beijing Games, fingers are being pointed at wildly inflated prices within the country in view of the impending games despite a global economic slump, tighter visa regulations (ironically to keep out excessive visitors, a plan which has since proven to backfire), as well as possible anti-Chinese sentiments in the wake of the deadly Tibetan rioting. Tourism figures have dropped by 12.5% comparing May this year to a year ago.

As for Singapore, it is speculated that the sluggish outcome is a result of escalated hotel rates, especially for the hotels surrounding the race track, so much so that hotels have started pushing down their prices. But seriously, could there be an over-estimation for the demand? Ardent F1 fans would have snapped up grandstand tickets when ticketing sales first open. And, who would want to watch miniature-sized cars zoom by at a fraction of a second from, say, the thirtieth floor? Where is the kick in that?

The sciences behind generating revenue during a major sporting event may not be that simple, but the works are easy – for money to be earned, people have to come, and apart from placing too much focus and reliance on the sports itself, perhaps there is also a need to sell the country per se as well.

 

Read how Adam Sandler’s latest silver-screen outing, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, which also features the scriptwriting team from last summer’s sleeper hit, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, fares with us!

Official trailer:

Three research ships break through Arctic ice near the North Pole [Photo courtesy of The Telegraph]

Reports like these surface: 

It appears that the dire consequences of global warming are bearing down fast on our generation, in spite of the numerous efforts which have been set in place to step up action against practices which are bound to destruct the Earth.

The signs are there. The possibility of the complete melting of the Arctic ice cap as early as this year has compounded with the earlier reported issues of rice shortage / oil shortage / quirky weather patterns (floods in India during a dry season and vice versa; extremely hot summers in the US, just to name a few).

On the individual level, perhaps it is really time for us to listen, to leave our complacency and procrastination aside, and to get out of our comfort zones. And actually ‘go green’. The rising sea levels the melting Arctic ice is bound to result in will certainly cause catastrophic damages to the world, so what next?

At the rate things are going, perhaps it will not be so surprising after all if Nostradamus’ end-of-the-world prophecy in 2012 actually comes true.