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Think Twice Before Trusting Label Sizes

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Think Twice Before Trusting Label Sizes

Real-life problems of nonstandard label sizing

Labels affect just about everything we do, eat and buy, whether people want to believe that or not. From what we order at restaurants to how we shop for clothing, product labels have an unsuspecting way of guiding our purchasing decisions.

Skeptical? Let's look at a clothing example. How is it possible that the jeans we just took off are the same size as the jeans we're trying to put on, only the new jeans hardly snap and we're left buying an entire size larger?

The problem, of course, is that sizes denoted on labels can't always be trusted. Sure, a shirt may claim to be a small, but then why is that same shirt the same size - or larger - than mediums and larges in a different store? The same goes for food. Did you know that an iced Venti-sized drink at Starbucks is 24 ounces, but a hot Venti-sized drink is 20 ounces? And this is from the same caffeinated retailer! Sometimes the differences between unique brands and companies is much more apparent.

The effect of incorrect label sizes on Americans
What was once a large-sized fountain soda from a fast food joint is now a small or a medium, further proof that company and product packaging sizes aren't constant. Family-sized meals at restaurants or boxed in grocery store aisles aren't constant either, adding to the confusion. Could this be the reason our nation's obesity levels and weight-related health problems are skyrocketing? Experts believe so. Most people can remember a time when McDonald's Big Mac was the largest fast food item on the menu - today, it pales in comparison to the larger, "biggest ever" burgers offered.

Until label or packaging guidelines are put into place - if ever - Americans can use a series of handy tips to determine just how much product they are getting, both for their money and for their health. When it comes to food, the Food Network recommends people pay attention to the amount of food included rather than what the label says. A "small" portion of loaded mashed potatoes may actually be enough for multiple meals - so instead consider ounces when ordering food at a restaurant or at the grocery store.

When ounces aren't listed, people can revert to tried-and-true portion-controlling tips. For instance, one serving size of meat is approximately the size of a deck of playing cards, no matter what the label states; a single serving of pasta is about the size of a tennis ball; a serving size of peanut butter is about the size of a ping-pong ball; and one serving of cooked vegetables is the size of a baseball. Sadly, the serving size for ice cream is just the size of a small tomato.

The clothing label conundrum
Although many Americans stress out about clothing sizes and labels, often avoiding less-expensive online shopping because of sizing issues and differences between brands and companies, the solution may not be so difficult to find after all. When shopping, try to avoid feeling discouraged and getting the fitting room blues by realizing that just because a certain size does not fit, it may actually be because of the label.

While some companies are unfortunately turning toward vanity sizing to increase their sales, meaning labeling a clothing item as a smaller size to make the person feel thinner and ultimately convince him or her to purchase the product, the best option may be to take accurate body measurements and use those numbers instead of following inaccurate sizes on labels.

Although misleading labels can cause a lot of frustration for consumers, the problems inaccurate labels can cause companies are far more serious. Businesses that don't take special care designing and using effective, truthful labels may suffer a negative reputation if consumers stop believing the brand is telling the truth. Instead, business owners should consider the benefits of product labels - they attract consumers, list product information, quantity, ingredients and anything else a company wants to communicate to customers - and try to remain as honest and helpful as possible when marketing their products.