Weights and measures

The International Organization for Standardization (that body responsible for the various ISO quality standards) and every dictionary I can find defines a ream (of paper) as consisting of 500 sheets. This is is good: it confirms certain experience gained in my former life as a federal purchasing agent.

In preparing to order printer paper from a well-known company whose catchphrase is “That was easy” (formerly “Yeah, we’ve got that”), I see that most, if not all, paper they sell is described as “400 sheets/ream.” My guess is that someone is not aware of the definition and is just assuming that a package of paper is called a ream.

A foot is twelve inches, a pound is 16 ounces. If one was selling products by those measures but providing a smaller quantity, they wouldn’t get away with it. Or would they?

Question: Is there a law or regulation (you know, one of those things we have to enact to enforce common sense?) that says if you use a standard term in selling a quantity of a given product, you have to abide by the commonly accepted dictionary definition of that term? Can Staples (OOPS!) sell 400 sheets of paper and call it a ream?

Everything I see on their website says “500/Ream.”

I could have sworn I saw several as described. At the moment though, I find only SKU (Product number) 653337, “400 sheets/ream.”

That could be a typo, but be that as it may, the question stands.

I’d be willing to bet that even if there were such a law or regulation, they’d be able to get around it by saying, “We told you it was 400 sheets per ream up front. We sold you a ‘400 sheet ream,’ just like someone can sell a ‘baker’s dozen.’”

From American Heritage dictionary:

ream n. Abbr. rm. 1. A quantity of paper, formerly 480 sheets, now 500 sheets or, in a printer’s ream, 516 sheets.

Nothing about 400 sheets.

A baker’s dozen is actually so that the baker intentionally gives more of the product than he promised, lest all the loaves be light by an ounce, one would still get greater than 12 pounds when they bought a dozen loaves (assuming 1 pound loaves). The way I understand it, this is because it was/is a pretty big deal in the U.K. for a merchant to short their customer, intentionally or not. This is also why pint glasses there still have a line and the queen’s stamp (crown?) at exactly 16 oz.

Also, I couldn’t find any 400 sheet reams, either.

From Wiki:


I understand that the Bakers Dozen originates from back in the mists of time when a baker would prepare enough dough for 13 loaves but bake only 12 of them retaining the 13th unbaked one as a starter culture for the next days baking.


there are 20 oz in a pint in the UK. any less and there’d be serious trouble!

Not a valid comparison. I’m talking about someone using a specific term when they mean something entirely different. “Baker’s dozen” is a specifically defined term in itself: the word “Baker’s” tells you it’s different from a standard dozen.

The definition of the specific term “ream” is 500 sheets; you can’t say your package of 400 sheets is a ream any more than you can say two feet is a yard or three quarts is a gallon.


Don’t blame Staples, blame HP.

It’s Staples’ website, and I see nothing on the packaging that indicates that it’s HP calling it a ream, “400 sheets.”


I also find it odd that in the “Tech Specs” located at the bottom of the page, Staples specifies that it is 500 pages per ream.

So they only made a dozen loaves of bread per day? :dubious:



they might!

I guess what I was getting at is that the thirteenth loaf provides enough yeast culture for the next dozen loaves - if, for example, a baker sold 2 dozen loaves a day then he’d need two loaves worth of dough from the previous day as the source of his yeast.