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ST. LOUIS — People are noticing the impact of runaway inflation in strange ways at their favorite ‘drive-throughs’ and pizza joints.  

With inflation hitting another 40-year high in recent days, restaurants are getting creative to keep up with things like soaring food and labor costs. Customers say they’re charging you more, but giving you less or charging more — depending upon when you eat.   

Signs are up at a St. Louis drive-through letting customers know food costs more than the menu price during overnight hours. 

Food prices at restaurants are still climbing after jumping nearly 6.5% in 2021, according to federal government statistics, and from cheese sticks to chicken wings, portions may be shrinking.   

Jalisha Lane noticed she wasn’t getting the 10 chicken wings in the pizza-wing combo from her “go-to” pizza place, anymore.  

“It’s definitely 8 (wings now),” she said.  “I’m like, um, that’s like a dollar apiece.  I’ll just stick with my pizza and call it a day.” 

“What happened to my two nuggets?” laughed customer, Lamont Campbell.  “You’re not getting that back, The prices are a little higher.  We try to deal with that (but) you’re getting less food for what you usually would get.” 

“That’s not gouging,” said Dr. Max Gillman, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “Generally, prices rise more quickly than wage rates.  So, what happens?  Workers have to find a different job to get a higher wage rate.  This is what’s creating the job shortage.”   

“I definitely don’t want to not pay the workers.  It’s kind of hard to penalize us, too, because we’re just hungry,” Lane laughed.   

It’s the reality of our inflationary times, the worst since the Vietnam war, he said.  The federal government has been running deficits since the September 11, 2001, attacks, to fund wars, fight recession, and now recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“With so much money entering into circulation with such high spending for more than a decade and now during COVID, the inflation rate is very unlikely to stop accelerating in the immediate future,” Gillman said.   

The Fed benchmark “Interest Rate on Reserve Balances” is now at  .4%  after a  .25% hike in March.  It really needs to surpass the inflation rate, which was 8.5%  in March, for a lasting correction, according to Gillman.    

That’s a lot of ground to make up and trying to do so too quickly could cause economic collapse beyond the drive-through.   

Gillman expected these inflationary times of paying more for less to continue for at least 5 years.