In a recent What's Tempting segment, you could be convinced to always get the larger size since you get more bang for the buck. Well, as hockey fans in Boise, Idaho found out, that isn't always true.
Paying $4 for a 16-oz. glass of beer seems unfair when you can get a whole 20-oz. glass of beer for $7 … until you find out that the same amount of beer fits in both glasses and those who order the larger size are paying $3 more for the same amount of beer.
The larger glasses were taller so it looked like you were getting more beer. But as we learned with the pizza example, your eyes can't tell the whole story.
Volume is the measurement of liquid and you can get the same amount of volume in a taller but thinner cup.
The Idaho hockey arena story is similar to what happened at football stadiums in Seattle and Oakland in early 2011. In Seattle, the difference in beer prices was $6 for a 16 oz. beer and $7.25 for a 20 oz. beer. In Oakland, $5 bought you a 16 oz. beer while you had to pay $8 for a 20 oz. beer.
After having seen the Idaho video, and videos for the Seattle and Oakland examples, the cups and sizes in the three videos looked virtually alike.
The 20 oz. glasses in all 3 cases are taller and thinner. Volume is a ratio of radius of the base to the height of the glass. In non-math terms, you can have a cup with a taller height and a shorter base that can contain the same volume as a cup with a shorter height and a longer base.
The arenas are being charged more for the 20 oz. cups than the 16 oz. cups, though that total is literally pennies compared to the extra margin made off of the "large" beers sold in those scenarios.
An imperial British pint is just under 20 oz. while an American pint is 16 oz. This would be hilarious if this were the reason for the discrepancy, but highly unlikely.
Even with a lawsuit filed in the Idaho story, something similar will happen in the future where sizes don't reflect the reality of the serving. So how do you deal with this possibility as a consumer?
Ask to see the small and large cups in question. See them side by side. One cup will be taller but is it thinner? Don't look at them just straight on. Look at the mouths of both cups — after all, volume is a 3-dimensional measurement.
If you aren't sure, get the smaller size. In the Seattle case, the larger beer wasn't that much more in price (provided the sizes were accurate), but in the Oakland and Idaho instances, the price difference lent itself to the smaller sizes.
In the Idaho case, you could get 32 oz. of beer for $8 by purchasing 2 small beers vs. paying $7 for a 20 oz. beer. In the Oakland scenario, you would get 32 oz. of beer for $10 vs. 20 oz. for $8, a much better deal.
In those last 2 cases, smaller was better provided you could buy and carry more than 1 beer back to your seat.
The further the difference in price between large and small, the more likely the value lies in two small vs. one large.
So when you're in line or deciding about different sizes for pizza, beer, or whatever is on the menu, you'll have to do a bit of math to figure out the best value scenario. If you take these tips, and ask yourself if two small is a better deal than one large, you'll make smarter food and drink decisions and getting better value for your buck.