Small, medium or large? Those options sound simple enough, but my how have they changed in the last few decades. 

I stopped into a convenience store the other day to buy a small fountain drink. I searched for the small cups. And searched. And searched. The “small” was 24 ounces — the equivalent of two 12-ounce cans of soda. The medium was 32 ounces, and the large was 42 ounces! Each of those options was far more soda than I wanted.

So, I walked over to the cooler and looked for a simple can of soda. And looked. And looked. The store I was at only sold 20-ounce plastic bottles of soda. I was working up a thirst just trying to find a small soda option.

Then along comes Starbucks and throws another wrench in the serving cup dilemma. I don’t go to Starbucks very often, but when I do, I have to remember that a small coffee is a Short, a medium is a Tall, and a large is a Grande. My, lord, this is confusing, and I am not even into the sizes of Venti or Trenta, or whatever they are called. 

What changed? Why is a small no longer small, and why is a large a behemoth? Has our consumer behavior really dictated this? 

A 2012 story in Mother Jones explained the trend at the time, noting that when McDonald’s struck a partnership with Coca-Cola in 1955, the only beverage size available was a 7-ounce cup. By 1994, McDonald’s was offering fountain drinks size six times larger. The article goes on to state that franchise convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Kum & Go all offered drinks upwards of 85 ounces — about three times the capacity of a normal human stomach!

After further research, I learned that, yes, our consumer behavior is dictating this. But, don’t fret, there is a one-word solution for all of this oversizing: share. 

Thanks for reading.

Shane Goodman
Editor and Publisher
Times Vedette digital newsletter