As for why contestants are figuratively shi*ting the bucket, Hartley thinks there are three very specific economic factors that are the reasons why this is the case.
First, he pointed towards inflation in the US, was much higher and much less stable in the 1970s and 80s than now. When inflation is high and variable, Hartley found that people tend to become more conscious of prices and what they are spending.
Second, the rise of e-commerce (especially via sellers such as Amazon) may have made people less sensitive to price. The stability of prices have made people more comfortable with what they are paying for and less likely to compare prices.
Lastly, there are now more products than ever. There are 50 times as many products at a grocery store than 80 years ago. This also may contribute to making it more difficult for consumers to know exactly how much things costs.