Americans are noticing shrinkflation, and they’re not happy

In less than five minutes of reading time we’ll give you all the data and context you need to get you up to speed on Ipsos’ latest wave of the Consumer Tracker.

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends & Foresight Lab
Get in touch

See the full data and methodology.

Here’s what we know today from the Ipsos Consumer Tracker about: inflation and shrinkflation; QR code menus; backlash whiplash; AI; plus a new installment of the Ipsos Care-o-Meter looking at sports, debt ceiling, TV finales, AI and gas stove bans.

  • Most (57%) have used a restaurant QR code, up from 42% last year
  • More than eight in ten (83%) notice they are getting less and paying the same amount or more. And nearly as many (79%) say they feel cheated when that happens
  • 45% of Americans are worried about the risk of human extinction from artificial intelligence

People have inflation on their minds, no matter their income

Why we asked: We really wanted to ask about shrinkflation but thought it was a good time to trend this battery and add to it for context. Also, inflation isn’t really going anywhere, it seems.
What we found: For the most part, our views on inflation haven’t changed in the last year. Everyone is feeling inflation (like 96% everyone). The idea that people saved enough during the pandemic to still be covering their bills seems off (only 37% agree). Only 32% aren’t thinking about inflation when they shop — that’s true regardless of income level.
The one place we see a little change in the data is a slight downtick (54% to 48%) in people saying that “Even if prices are rising due to inflation, I am not going to stop buying what I want.” Perhaps as inflation has dragged on, it’s having a lingering impact rather than an acute one. This tracks with the data from last wave showing that more folks are postponing big purchases they would otherwise be in the market for.

People have inflation on their minds, no matter their income

The Ipsos Care-O-Meter (Week of May 22, 2023)

Why we asked: How much do you know about a series of in-the-news events, and how much do you care about them? We explore the relationship between the two in each week’s Care-o-Meter. Check out the new Care-o-Meter page for the full analysis.

Ipsos Care-o-meter published on June 12

Customers are noticing shrinkflation and feel cheated by it

Why we asked: We have seen the news reports, you know, the “consumer watchdog” investigative pieces on local TV or in newspapers. We have also witnessed firsthand that the everything from boxes of chocolates to toilet bowl cleaner is shrinking as prices rise. We wondered: How many others have noticed, and how do they feel about it?
What we found: As careful readers of the headline will note, customers are indeed noticing and do indeed feel taken advantage of. In relatively high numbers. More than eight in ten (83%) report noticing that they are getting less and paying the same amount or more. And nearly as many (79%) say they feel cheated when that happens.

Customers are noticing shrinkflation and feel cheated by it

Customer service is still important, but it’s slipping as a tradeoff for higher prices

Why we asked: As long as we were checking on shrinkflation, it seemed a good time to revisit our questions about customer service and if better service is a good tradeoff for higher prices and inflation.

What we found: Our expectations were pretty high when we last asked this a year ago that if we pay more, we expect better customer experience. That’s risen 5 percentage points to 86%. But our willingness to pay more for experience is dipping. Those who say they are willing to continue buying from companies that raise prices if “they feel valued as a customer” dropped 10 points to 63% since last year. Those saying they would continue to buy from companies with good customer service as prices rise fell similarly.

Notably our “empathy” for small businesses raising prices ticked up slightly, to 84%, but our empathy for large global companies dropped quite a bit, to 35%. Older, higher-income, and for some reason Midwestern Americans tended to agree more with all of these statements.

Customer service as a trade-off for inflation pricing is still relevant, but slipping

The level of our worry about AI is increasing for some

Why we asked: If I were in marketing, I would say something here about how Ipsos is really leading the way in measuring how people feel about AI. I would also take this opportunity to announce that artificial intelligence is one of our first Topic Pages, where we are collecting and curating all our research on a subject in one place. Keep the Ipsos Top Topics page handy, folks. So here we are, trending some of the AI questions we’ve already asked and finding a really interesting change.

What we found: If you just look at the topline “worry (net),” you don’t really seen any difference. But scratch beneath the surface and there is a small but consistent shift into “very worried” from either the “somewhat worried” or perhaps even the “don’t know” groups of people. And eyeballing this a bit more, it seems that Republicans remain generally more worried, but Democrats are catching up and are most responsible for driving the higher levels of concerns among the battery we trended.

One exception is the worry about “inability to tell what’s real and what’s AI-generated” has gone up in both parties, though faster in Republican, 45% of whom are very worried about this. Likely with good reason, as faked images of a fire at the Pentagon briefly tanked the stock markets recently. But wait, there’s more.

The degree of our worry about AI is increasing for some

A majority agree with AI experts that AI is an existential threat

Why we asked: Another group of AI experts – this time from many of the organizations developing popular AI tools – released a 22-word statement that read, “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

What we found: In one question, we asked if people were worried about the risk of human extinction from AI. And people are evenly split. 45% are worried, 46% aren’t. We can pause here and just note that 45% of people are worried that AI will wipe out human life on Earth. That seems not insignificant. Now, do they agree we should treat it as a “societal-scale risk,” as the experts suggest? Yes. Yes, they do. 57% (27% strongly) agree that preventing the risk of human extinction from AI should be a top global priority. There’s not even a lot of demographic variation in the response. It’s like it’s a thing.

A majority agree with a statement by experts that AI is an existential threatMost think AI will lead to more bullying and harassment online

Few are willing to trust AI with their health records

Why we asked: I mean, we think AI is going to kill us all. Do we want to feed it our medical info to help it know our weaknesses?! I kid. Kind of. But in all seriousness, medical AI is already here and has the potential to deeply improve our healthcare. It can find and test new treatments. It can diagnose conditions. Even more, it can help medical professionals diagnose conditions better than either humans or machine can do it alone. AI can likely help in the back office and give us more time with our doctors. But we would need to trust it first…

What we found: … And we don’t. We trust our doctors with our health records (80%). We kind of trust computer programs (51%). But at the moment, only one in three people say they trust AI with our medical info. If we lean into the wonders of AI and take better stock of what is a realistic worry, perhaps these numbers will shift.

Few are willing to trust AI with their trust records

We’re less likely to buy from brands we don’t agree with

Why we asked: Maybe you’ve seen the news of some recent product boycotts across a number of political and social issues, but especially around LGBTQ+ issues – just as Pride Month begins and brands signal their support for this community and its allies. We’ve been tracking issues about brands taking a stand for a few years now in the tracker.

What we found: With the start of Pride month, the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and the Juneteenth federal holiday, it’s a pretty big month for social issues in America. Two years ago, most Republicans (58%) and Democrats (55%) said they would be less likely to buy products and services from brands that take a political stand they don’t agree with. We saw similar numbers about social issues. Then last year, all of those numbers dropped. If memory serves, last June was a little less of a powder keg. This year, we’re back up at the same levels as 2021 for social issues and nearly there for political issues. Boycotts, they’re happening.

We're less likely to buy from brands we don't agree with

Backlash Whiplash

Why we asked: Some brands have been put in the position when they take a stand of then backtracking – which leads to a backlash to the backlash. It’s not easy these days. So we asked about it.

What we found: Democrats were far more likely (68% to 42%) to say that brands shouldn’t backtrack even if the stand a brand takes makes some consumers angry. This is maybe not surprising, but still a pretty wide gap on the issue.

Democrats think that if a brand takes a stand, they should stick with itYounger Americans dig QR code menus

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends & Foresight Lab

Consumer & Shopper