The wonderful thing about American industry is that it rises to every challenge. Even something as distasteful as inflation has not discouraged most manufacturers. The solution to the problem is not in the product but in the package. Rather than raise the prices on many goods, American industry is devising new methods to make the product smaller, while making the package large. In this way, the customer feels assured that nothing has changed.

I visited one of the largest packaging companies in the country the other day to see how they were doing it. The vice president in charge of inflationary design took me around the plant.

"We're going 24 hours day," he said proudly. "Everyone is asking us for new designs to help them get through this rough period."

I noticed women in white smocks working with tweezers under microscopes.

"What are those women doing?" I asked.

"Those are 15-cent chocolate bars in their tweezers. They put each one in that large aluminum foil and then they wrap wax paper around it. Over the wax paper they put the name of the chocolate bar in large letters. Here's one that's finished."

"Why, from the outside it looks like an old-fashioned chocolate bar!"

"No one can tell the difference until the package is opened," he said proudly.

We went into another part of the building. There were air hoses hanging all over the ceiling and boxes were rolling along a conveyor belt.

I looked perplexed.

"We're packaging soap flakes in here," he shouted above the din. "The lady down at the beginning of the line puts one teaspoonful of soap flakes into one of those giant-sized boxes; then those men over there with the hoses pump air into the rest of the box."

"How ingenious!" I shouted back.

"The bottom of the box is weighted with every heavy cardboard so no one will know, when picking up the box, how many soap flakes there are in it."

"That's a lot of air to put in a box."

"We don't use the air for only soap flakes. We also use it for cereals, baking products and anything that comes in a box.

"Let me show you this invention which we have a patent on. This is a see-through wax paper window for noodles. Well, when you look at it, you think you're getting a full box of noodles. Right?"

Of course."

"Why, the only noodles in it are stuck to the window," I said in amazement.

"Yep. The windows and the noodles are magnetized. When the window fills up with noodles, the box moves on."

"Are those frozen TV dinners over there?"

"They certainly are. They look like complete dinners, don't they?"

"You bet."

"Now, look under the tray. You see how it's indented? There's nothing in the tray but what you see on the top."

"Fantastic," I said.

He took me into another building which had a large sign, PHARMACEUTICALS, on the outside. "This is where we work on new packaging for medicines." He opened a door and everywhere I looked were large mounds of white cotton.

"What do you do with the stuff?" I asked.

"We put two pills in each bottle and stuff the rest of it with white cotton. If it weren't for cotton, I don't think the drug industry would survive."

"You people think of everything."

"Not everything. Our dream is to devise a package filled with nothing but air, cotton and aluminum foil. It you bought one, you'd get a second package free."