Devoid of meaning

Nowadays we seem to focus on price inflation, even though at the moment it appears to be subdued.

However, we currently are ignoring other types of inflation that are taking place in our everyday life. This has reached absurd limits, making statistics in too many instances devoid of any meaning. This is part of our “feel good” attitude.

Anyone buying clothes is confronted by this change. For instance, women purchasing apparel opt perhaps for a size six, whereas by old standards that would be a much higher number.

Men’s trousers normally are four inches wider at the waist than just a few decades previously. All are pleased if they can squeeze into a smaller size.

With perhaps half of the population overweight/obese, customers are pleased if that smaller size will work, and retailers are catering to as many as possible.

Restaurants similarly are part of this trend. Food portions are called regular when they are anything but that. Ice cream cones featuring two scoops are standard. To avoid excessive portions one has to order a children’s plate, now called an adult’s serving.

Tim Hortons’ coffee now comes in small, medium or large, but even the smallest are very big. Starbucks’ coffee is available variously as tall, venti or trenta. Pizzas now come in regular, large or very large, but all are oversized in any case.

In the travel industry the same nonsense prevails. Five-star formerly was the top grade, but now there is deluxe, as the word standard has all but disappeared in the travel dictionary. Airlines now offer seats for “only $30” but that is just for the seat. The flight itself costs several hundred dollars extra.

Business class now offers more leg room, but for a decent seat one has to travel first class. Inexpensive reservations do not include a surcharge for making a reservation on the telephone or even anything to drink.

There are other, more serious examples of this “inflation.”

Take academic performance. It has become almost meaningless when half of a class at a university graduates with top honours, and 60 per cent of students receive an “A”, compared to 15 per cent in 1960. Have all become that much smarter? Awarding top grades makes everyone happier. How can any employers evaluate a job seeker’s intelligence?

Businesses, too, are joining in this travesty.

To blur all distinctions, secretaries have become administrative assistants, recent graduates immediately become directors of financial planning, those interviewing job applicants now are directors of human resources, and receptionists now are titled as traffic supervisors.

Manufacturers, too, participate in this farce. A standard package of paper towels now has been reduced to 200 items, whereas formerly there were 300. One has to order an extra-size to receive the usual amount. The same thing is true of many food packages.

Exaggeration may be profitable for business, but too frequently the distortions simply are dishonest.


Bruce Whitestone