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Supply Chain and Other Economic Oddities

Once the pandemic started, things got weird. Suddenly, everyone was out of toilet paper. Store shelves empty. People doing without. Probably a surge in home bidet sales too. And hell if I know why. Personally, I wasn’t dropping any more deuces than usual. The same happened with cleaners and other paper products. At least that made sense.

Then, it was ground meat. Around here, I couldn’t find it. Fortunately for me, I have a meat grinder and that and some chuck and fat make ground beef. And a Boston butt, with some seasoning, can be turned into breakfast or Italian sausage. It only recently resurfaced.

Eggs went through the same cycle but I couldn’t find anything to run through the meat grinder to make them.

Then, I saw signs like this:

Not that big a deal. Just meant I couldn’t enjoy my occasional caffeine-free diet Coke.

One of my kids’ dumb-dick friends broke the control panel on the hot tub. The replacement part

, I was warned, was taking longer than the usual three days to get in and that it would take 10 days or so. It was ordered in May. It got here yesterday.

Chicken wings. Kind of a tradition here that, once per week, I make the kids chicken wings. They love them. I haven’t seen a chicken wing in a store in two months.

A friend of mine is in the furniture business. In April, his business was 15% of what it usually was. In May and June, it’s 150% of what it usually was. My home sales have been through the roof. My theory is everyone was stuck at home and realized they didn’t like the home or the furniture and they had the time to look around.

But the weirdest one to me was the day I couldn’t find pickles. Particularly Claussen pickles. My kids love them. Personally

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, I prefer to make my own and do. But I couldn’t find any Claussen pickles. Or any other pickles that are kept refrigerated. I didn’t check the non-refrigerated kind at the store because we don’t eat those. But, really, pickles. Makes as much sense as toilet paper, I suppose.

20 Responses to “Supply Chain and Other Economic Oddities”

  1. Drang Says:

    There are two explanations for the toilet paper shortage:
    1) People were spending all their time at home, which meant that all the time spent on the throne at work was not at home, and
    2) Every time someone sneezed or coughed, half the people in earshot were filing their pants.

    The weird thing to me is that the person at work most likely to freak out at someone sneezing and “getting everybody sick” under normal conditions, is the person who was most resistant to taking any anti-coronavirus measures. Refused to wear a mask until they wouldn’t let her in the building, for instance.

  2. mikee Says:

    When you use the “best practices” of the beforetimes, such as just-in-time delivery of materials needed for your work, when a supply disruption hits for a month because of the lockdown nobody can start up again without delays waiting for stuff.

    Douglas Adams captured this in his Hitch Hiker series, keeping a space ship and its passengers in stasis for aeons as they awaited the delivery of the lemon scented moist towlettes for the meal service.

  3. Standard Mischief Says:

    I was sick Jan and Feb with the 2nd worst flu I’ve had, ever. (that they found the Wuhan Flu in the US much earlier than previously suspected could be a derail to my own comment..)

    So while I like to keep a spare pack of intact TP for the odd winter storm, I went into stay-at-home with 4 rolls. Four rolls were enough for a 14 day “flatten the curve” lie …unless of course I got sick.

    I managed to get a double pack of paper towels at Walmart, and 2 4x packs of really short rolls at Dollartree, but that was it. Took me two months to find that.

    Other odd shortages: I started baking again but can’t find rye flour or even the spot on the shelf where rye flour used to be. I may need to go to the hippie store for that.

    Generic “wet-ones”, (or even name brand.) They’re essentially baby wipes that kill germs on contact, and work as personal wipes as long as you don’t get “too personal” with them. They’re in all my emergency gear. Still can’t find them locally, but I did travel out of state for a “BLM protest” and found them in rural areas. Benzalkonium chloride isn’t good against covid (they say) but I have other bugs to fight too, especially on the road.

    Rubbing alcohol and Everclear. The Everclear got restocked faster, but that probably just because it’s 13x as expensive as isopropyl. I was about ready to make my pressure cooker into a still.

    I’ve been making my own loose pork breakfast sausage for years. I used to get ground pork for $0.99/lb until the lockdown. The only fault I found with it was it was too lean. Here’s the first and last recipe I’ve tried:

    Better than anything in a plastic tube at the grocery for any purpose except mixing in with too-lean ground deer meat.

    For finding shit: does Walmart and a few other stores, with the warning that if it says only one or two items are left in stock, that means something’s probably been shoplifted or hidden away by store employees with the idea that Walmart regularly deeply discounts stuff to clear inventory. It’s how I found the wipes and a few other things while on the road.

  4. Standard Mischief Says:

    low sales of US soybeans to China during Trade War = Chinese factory farms dumping pork on a bad market to lower their feed expenses.

    The last few years have been fantastic for anyone who know how to turn boston butt or shoulder into NC style pulled pork, and both of these cuts are a better value than the meat you get off a pork rib rack. Plus I hate dealing with pork rib silverskin.

    I’m a recent convert to the giant CA-style burritos made with french fries, especially if the protein is NC-style pulled pork, extra smoky, topped with a not-NC-traditional ketchup-based BBQ sauce.

  5. Richard Says:

    Lived through TP panic before so I was ready for that one. Ground beef was weird here. Not available, then lots of it. Several cycles of this. Same with chicken.

  6. Tim Says:

    Ditto on pickles here in Maine. WTF? Pickles?
    Haven’t seen any for sale in 6 weeks. Not that it matters (at all), but WTF?

  7. LCB Says:

    Maybe Clausen had to shut down it’s pickling plant. They “say” that’s what happened to hamburger. The processing plants had to shut down because workers came down with dah Covid.

  8. RandyGC Says:

    Hamburger, TP and soft soap are back on the shelves here in Ohio. They even lifted the 2 per customer limit. Just bought a jar of pickles (store brand) this week, never noticed any issue.

    Since the only soda/pop I drink is Caffeine Free Diet Coke (can’t do caffeine for health, prefer the diet taste to regular coke), this is impacting me somewhat. I was told by the store that there was an aluminum shortage impacting soft drinks, but even the (plastic) bottled stuff is becoming scarce locally.

  9. Ravenwood Says:

    Pickle shortage is probably due to the upcoming baby boom caused by the stay-at-home orders.

  10. The Neon Madman Says:

    Think that food shortages are bad, wait until you see the ammo and reloading shelves.

  11. Tim Says:

    “….wait until you see the ammo and reloading shelves.”

    Here’s hoping the good ol’ days (2months ago) were good to you.

  12. Paul from Canada Says:

    The TP thing started in Australia. Australia has trees, but mostly hardwood and odd stuff, not good for pulp and paper. Consequently, they actually get most of theirs from China, which locked down, causing the run on TP there.

    Our media hyped the scenes of women fist-fighting over the last package down there, which planted the idea of a looming TP shortage up here, and the lemmings did the rest.

  13. Patrick Says:

    Patio furniture and outdoor tools were short; our UPS delivery guy thinks America is going to look like one vast garden magazine by Fall based on how many people he sees doing yard work every day. Even bigger-ticket stuff like large grapples for tractors were selling at double the volume.

    I know many were hurt by this – I got a friend in the salon business who went without for a long time. But she’s a saver and did fine. There is obviously a sector of our economy that is/was able to power through, and they were willing and able to spend money on pickles and stuff.

  14. Patrick Says:

    Another thought: I’ll know “The Troubles” are over when LuckyGunner has inventory again. That’s either December of this year or December of Never, depending on electoral outcomes.

  15. Gerry Says:

    Ditto on pickles in SoKY. It looks like Kroger did away with the whole refrigerated pickle section. The Straw Boss was very unhappy.

    No pickles, no peace!

  16. LKP Says:

    Had the same problem with my favorite soft drink. I have not had much of a problem finding ground sirloin or chicken breasts. Del Monte cream corn, however, is nowhere in sight. I have gotten ammo on and off just to replenish my stock. The only time I paid over the prices from before the crap hit the fan was for a case of 40. I got it at Lucky Gunner, which is usually on the high end. I paid about 45.00 more than I would have before the run on ammo.

  17. Standard Mischief Says:

    Patrick>I’ll know “The Troubles” are over when LuckyGunner has inventory again.

    That begs the question of what we’re all going to call this thing when it’s all over.

    “The Late Unpleasantness” was my first term, but it seems to fall short. Bobbi and Tam seem to be going with various “The year without a…” catch phrases.

    Independently. I must have picked up the same vibe. It’s been a rather slow and unusual apocalypse to say the least, but some of us must be grooving on the same historical precedence.

    I’ve been calling it “Twenty-twenty and Bored to Death”

  18. Standard Mischief Says:

    >I’ve been calling it “Twenty-twenty and Bored to Death”

    I should also add that this nickname might not hold up, as we’re rapidly moving from a “boring apocalypse” to “interesting times”.

  19. HSR47 Says:

    “How about these weird shortages?”

    The thing to understand is that most of them start to make a lot of sense if you look at them hard enough.

    TP? Well, there’s not a lot of money in it, and the demand is extremely stable. So you get things like factories designed to run at full capacity without significant room to expand production.

    Then the late unpleasantness hit, and people went from taking 40% of their dumps at home to taking 100% of their dumps at home. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you factor in the huge rolls of industrial TP you find in a lot of public restrooms. Sure, the lemmings haven’t helped matters, but the sudden shift in demand away from those huge rolls was absolutely guaranteed to cause the sort of supply disruptions we’ve seen. The lemmings absolutely made it hit harder and faster than it would have otherwise, but it was absolutely going to happen regardless.

    A lot of the other shortages we’re seeing are due to similar packaging issues–Think about it in terms of beer: If you go from selling your product 50/50 in cans/bottles vs kegs (i.e. retail vs bar/restaurant) to suddenly selling your product almost entirely in cans/bottles, you’re probably going to have problems getting enough empty cans & bottles, and you’re probably going to have issues ramping up the output of your bottling plants.

  20. one eyed Jack Says:

    I know of a pickle plant that had to cut back. Seems that a guy got his finger caught in the pickle slicer. They both got fired and the plant was short on help. Jack.

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