Stadium beer cup outrage: Small ($4) and large ($7) are the same size!

It's not green beer (click to watch the video) but it is clear -- these cups hold the same amount of beer.
It’s not green beer (click to watch the video) but it is clear — these cups hold the same amount of beer.

How often do I get to combine my favorite topics — consumer behavior, beer, hockey, and ripoffs — in the same story!  Hockey fans (of course, hockey fans) in Idaho have sued a minor league team for using differently-shaped but equal volume plastic cups for their small ($4) and large ($7) sizes.

Thanks, Idaho Stateman for being all over this story.

A YouTube video produced by hockey-and-beer fans Heath and Gwen Hunt pours out the convincing evidence, as the couple pours to contents into one tall and thin cup into the other short and fat cup, and the volume is clearly similar.

The team has responded to a social-media driven outcry, and half-a-million YouTube views, and ordered larger beer cups. Now that’s what I call a happy ending.

“It was recently brought to our attention that the amount of beer that fits in our large (20-oz) cups also fits in our regular (16-oz) cups. The differentiation in the size of the two cups is too small,” wrote Eric Trapp, the president of the Idaho Steelheads in a post on the team’s Facebook page. “To correct that problem, we’re purchasing new cups for the large beers that will hold 24 ounces, instead of 20, for the remainder of this season to provide better value to our fans. As we do every offseason, we’ll evaluate our entire concessions menu for next season over the summer,”

These kinds of optical illusions are a common staple in the war that is consumers vs. retailers. Humans are actually very bad at judging volume, for example. Tell the truth — aren’t you surprised the cups are equal?  And of course, shrinking volume on items we love is a time-tested, sneaky way for companies to make more money from us. (Go ahead, try to find an actual quart jar of ANYTHING these days.) Rather than raise the price, they shrink the item, a technique sometimes called Inflation by Degredation. My friend Ed Dworsky covers this issue all the time at
Let this be a lesson to you: buy beer from bartenders you trust.  


About Bob Sullivan 1443 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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