Imagine going to your local market expecting to find the usual groceries and household items you need, only to be met with higher prices and products that just don’t measure up. That’s the reality for many Nigerians right now.

The money in your pocket doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. The prices of things we buy every day – from rice to soap – keep going up. It’s like a silent thief stealing the value of our money. So, when you head to the market with a fixed budget, you find yourself putting back items you thought were basics.

Ever bought something and realized it’s not as good as it used to be? That’s happening a lot these days. Products we’ve come to trust seem to be cutting corners. It’s not your imagination – the quality is slipping. The local businesses making these things are struggling and sometimes they have to compromise on quality to stay afloat. However, as the saying goes, the customer is always right, and being the final consumer, the common man is seen to bear the impact, being at the receiving end in the current economy.

A walk round town reveals a number of Nigerians lamenting over matters ranging from product quality to prices.

Speaking on recent observations as regards the price of commodities, a consumer, Mr Justice Jerome, said, “I would say that the prices of commodities have actually increased and yet the quantity of the products keeps reducing,” Jerome said.

“For example, the bathing soap (Fresh Glow) I used to buy for N200 a bar early this year has over time increased to N400 but the quantity has reduced because when it was sold for N200, the size was way bigger compared to now that it is being sold at a higher rate of N400. Now the soap that used to last up to a month doesn’t last more than two weeks.

“Also, the quality of bread has reduced and meanwhile, the price has gone up from N1,000 as at two months ago to about N1,500 as of today. As a consumer, I am highly dissatisfied with the increase in the prices of commodities and decrease in the quantity and quality of the product because I am paying higher and getting less value,” he said.

Another respondent, Mrs Glory Osagie, a mother of four, complained about the cost of stocking up on food and other necessities in recent times.

“The Minimie chin-chin which I often bought for my children before is now filled with air. It’s so puffed up that you will think the content will be much, but alas, when you open it, you will discover that it is not up to 15-20 pieces inside,” Mrs Osagie said.

“Take Spaghetti, for example, the quantity is getting smaller by the day, while the price is increasing almost every time you go to the market. In the past, you could cook two packs and it would satisfy a family of five, but now, three packs can’t even satisfy a family of four, let alone five.

“Or should we talk about sachet water. A bag is now sold for N350 to N400 but the size has reduced. It used to be 60cl but now it is 50cl and some don’t even get to that size as they now appear slimmer,” she lamented.

Similarly, Mr. Henry Okorie, a construction site labourer, lamented that the quantity of fermented cassava, popularly known as Santana or Akpu, has drastically reduced from the size that he used to buy and the price did not reduce.

“I found that before now, my hand could not cover one wrap of Santana. Now, however, the palm of my hand can cover it with space to spare. It is so funny that with just about two or three lumps of the swallow, one wrap of Santana is gone,” Okorie said.

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“I recently bought some wraps of eba (garri) from an eatery. I took two or three morsels and one wrap was gone and so was my N100. And it felt as if my stomach was empty. This is really sad because not long ago, a N100 wrap of eba would fill me,” he said.

Mrs Pelumi Olatunji had a similar story to tell. According to her, a particular toothpaste that she used to buy for about N600 has now gone up to N900, yet about 25 per cent of the tube is filled with air.

“Even the everyday cooking gas is now an issue. As for cooking gas, it seems as if they just add air while filling up the gas cylinders because of the rate at which the gas gets spent. This was not the case before.

“I used to fill a 12.5kg cylinder of gas for about N9,000 as at two months ago and it would last my household for more than one month. Now, however, I fill that same 12.5kg for about N12,000 and it only lasts at most three weeks, not even up to a month,” she said.

Miss Mercy Orukpe said just recently, she noticed that sachet tomato paste that used to be very thick has become watery and the quantity has also reduced.

“Happily, however, the taste is still the same, but the quantity has reduced and the price keeps going up by the day.

“Also, one or my favourite brands of biscuit, which used to contain eight pieces per pack, now contains just five pieces. To add to that, the price has also increased. It would have been better if they just increased the price and maintained the quantity and size,” she said.

Mrs Faith Obasuyi, a beautician and hair stylist, complained about the price of hair attachment pieces.

According to her, hair attachments used to cost about N2,200 per pack and they would be full and fluffy. Now a pack goes for about N2,800 and the size is much much smaller.

“Before now, you could use one and a half packs to make a beautiful hairstyle, but now if it is not two packs or more, it won’t be enough to do the same hairstyle,” Mrs Obasuyi said.

A young undergraduate who identified herself simply as Ifeoma said beverages like milk and chocolate powder, especially the refill packs, now cost N2,500 as against N1,750, yet each sachet is filled with air.

“It’s now like we are buying 35 per cent air and 65 per cent choco powder. How long do you then expect the refill to last?” she asked.

The impact goes beyond the market. Families are feeling the pinch. Choices between sending children to school, getting proper health care, or putting enough food on the table become tougher. It’s like juggling, but with fewer balls in the air. Some citizens argue that while they understand the plight of the manufacturers and the reasons for the increase in the prices of commodities, manufacturers should retain or even improve on the quality of these commodities without any compromise. That way, the customers are sure to get value for their money and happily come back to buy more. Otherwise, customers will keep losing at both ends. That’s bad business and it leads to despair.