If you can bear with me for a minute, today is let-off-steam time, and it’s past due, so brace yourself, because we’re tackling something that’s been brewing for quite some time and finally has boiled over.As a consumer — defined as a person who buys things, just like the next guy — I am not amused, and even less amused by the fact that there is not a thing in the world I can do about this situation.I am referring to the shady goings-on manufacturers are foisting on their customers — us.Now, let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning. The local retailer is not responsible for this.He has no choice but to go along with what he is supplied with; not even if he switches suppliers, because they’re all doing it.Here’s what they’re up to.Pick up the average “pound” can of coffee and look at where it lists the net weight.It’s not a pound. It can vary anywhere from 11 to 14 ounces, and the manufacturer can get away with this because he’s listed the actual weight right out there in plain sight (even if the print is kinda small), and that slippery manufacturer also makes sure the word “pound” never appears, so he’s off the hook.And not one of those regular-price coffee cans contains a full pound of coffee. Not one.But look again. The coffee can itself is the same size it’s been for years and years, stretching back to when it actually contained 16 ounces and gave us buyers a full pound for the advertised price.But the good old days are gone forever, and in the modern business world, it’s obvious the customer is not always right — he’s now just a customer.Result? What you are getting for your money is a “pound” can of coffee that contains as little as 11 ounces of product, with a third or more of its volume being nothing but air! Naturally enough, this partial can of coffee leaves me feeling like I’ve been rooked!What’s worse is the fact that coffee is not the only culprit. Not by a long shot.Check almost any prepackaged product. What you used to think of as a pound can of pork ’n’ beans now is one ounce short — only 15 ounces, and you can find comparable shortages wherever you care to look: vinegar and bleach no longer are a full 128-ounce gallon, ketchup, fruit juice, pineapple, tomatoes, etc., etc., range from 10 to 15 ounces. The list goes on and on and, these days, if you find anything that has been packaged in standard 16-ounce pound, or eight-ounce half-pound weights, it’s a real rarity. But a few remain, and there’s a reason behind that, too. Some manufacturers have approached this from the other direction by maintaining the standard measure but offering fewer of them, as in sugar, which used to be available five pounds at a time, but now offers three-pound bags. They’re 16 ounce pounds all right, but now there are only three pounds where you’re used to buying five. And here’s one that really gets under a buyer’s skin — frozen vegetables. What used to be the standard 16-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables suddenly and unannounced changed (with a new label designed to distract you from its small-print volume statement) to only 12 ounces — and they raised the price at the same time! That’s a double-whammy for the customer.It’s getting so a consumer is beginning to believe manufacturers conveniently have forgotten the standard weights and measures so that after offering short measures, they also can jack up prices, adding insult to injury.Naturally enough, today’s consumers now are quicker to forget brand loyalty and more willing to buy another brand just to save a few pennies, while the original brand manufacturer simply doesn’t react, and churns out its smaller amount in its original package to those unsuspecting consumers who haven’t yet noticed the difference. That’s why we buyers shouldn’t feel guilty about switching, since it’s the manufacturers who have created this situation, and if life was fair, they’d have to answer for it.But maybe there’s a way.Tell you what.If the manufacturers are allowed to give us customers short measures, let’s level the playing field.We should be allowed to pay for an 11-ounce pound with a 69-cent dollar.Sounds fair to me! Mike Morton writes each week for the Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.