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Skimpflation is everywhere and ever-growing. What is it exactly?




All is not so happy at the happiest place on Earth. The guests of the Magic Kingdom are restless. Despite reopening more than six months ago, Disney World and Disneyland have yet to restart their tram services to and from parking lots, forcing visitors to walk nearly a mile to enter and exit the parks. Some Disney fans are acting as though the company is a kind of real-life Cruella de Vil, willing to slaughter cute puppies and turn them into coats for a profit.

“Customer service is gone at Disney,” says commenter James E. on Facebook. “It’s all about maximizing profit now.”

Domino’s is taking longer to deliver pizzas. Airlines are putting customers who call them on hold for hours. Restaurants, bars and hotels are understaffed and stretched thin. The quality of service seems to be deteriorating everywhere.

Last weekend, American Airlines cancelled upwards of 2,000 flights, leaving thousands stranded, as a single weather event (high winds in Dallas) threw the carrier’s rotas of pilots and flight attendants, already in short supply, into chaos. But passengers weren’t the only ones affected. Crews found themselves having to work double shifts or stuck far from home at the end of work.

What we see at play here is Skimpflation.

What is skimpflation?

Essentially, it is a form of inflation, and signifies that we’re getting less for our money. Some argue the government is failing to properly account for this kind of inflation when crunching official statistics.

All of this, according to Alan Cole, a writer at Full Stack Economics, is part of the phenomenon of skimpflation, a sentiment among consumers that they are getting less for their money, worker dissatisfaction with customers and employers, and employers’ dissatisfaction with restive workers. It’s an economic force that makes everyone feel like they’re on the losing end of the deal.  

“Nothing prepared us for how much life has gotten worse,” Cole told the Guardian. “Most of these factors haven’t been picked up on by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We thought these changes to products were going to be temporary, so it was reasonable not to account for the changes. But now, everything has gotten worse all at the same time, so even if you tried to account for them, you probably couldn’t.”

Even while skimpflation cannot be easily evaluated, consumers have seen that service quality appears to be worsening everywhere. Consumer satisfaction indicators have been declining since before the outbreak of the epidemic, and consumer confidence improved little last month after falling over the summer.

To the consumer, who are sensitive to losses of services and generally take improvements for granted, the effects of skimpflation can be traumatic.For consumers, less really doesn’t mean more.

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