Pandemic Shortages – Or Pandemic Excuses?

Back in April I posed the question, “Will the pandemic become the excuse du jour?”

Since March 2020, when we started hearing “…due to the pandemic,” we’ve become accustomed to nodding and accepting the explanation.

And in March 2020, when stores ran out of toilet paper, and paper towels, and hand sanitizer, and, and, and…

We heard, “due to the pandemic,” nodded, and accepted the explanation.

In my blog post I suggested that not just for the next year, but probably for the next decade, when something isn’t delivered on time, or something breaks and stays broken, or even when someone commits a crime, it will all be…

Due to the pandemic.

For the latter, I’ll cite this April 28 Washington Post article:

According to the article,

Brendan was bored.

“Brendan Hunt, a Trump supporter who called for killing members of Congress days after the January 6 insurrection, was found guilty Wednesday of making a death threat against elected officials.

“Hunt said he was heavily using marijuana and alcohol while struggling with depression and boredom during the coronavirus pandemic.  He told the jury that the video he posted online after the Capitol riot was filmed while he was under the influence.”

Hunt faces up to 10 years in prison.

Will future conversations with customer service sound something like this?

Customer:  I’m calling to check on the status of my order.
Customer Service:  It’s delayed due to the pandemic.
Customer:  I haven’t told you what I ordered.
Customer Service:  It’s delayed due to the pandemic.
Customer:  The pandemic was declared over in late 2021.  This is 2025.
Customer Service:  Thank you for calling.  Have a nice day.

As we slowly – and hopefully, safely – emerge from the dark pandemic tunnel, I’ve been keeping track of a number of shortages blamed on the pandemic.  Just a few of many examples:

And as we all know, shortages often lead to:

And perhaps the most egregious example of that…

Is this…

When the pandemic began, apparently people in the lumber business hit the brakes on production, figuring the demand for new houses would slow.

They were wrong, according to the expert in this article:

“At the beginning of the pandemic demand for lumber was slightly down and mill inventories were down, but in the spring of last year [2020] we saw people move on home improvement projects, purchase a home or build a new home, causing an increase in demand for lumber.”

It seems to me that people in the lumber business caused the lumber shortage, and now they’re reaping the rewards:

No wonder Jeffrey Mezger is smiling.

And the people in the lumber business aren’t exactly crying in their beer over it, if this guy is an example:

“While lumber prices have gone up, we have been able to pass it on to the consumer with higher prices for homes,” Jeffrey Mezger, the CEO of KB Home, told CNN Business.  “And there is still far more demand than there is supply.”

Can’t you just picture ole Jeff, rubbing his grubby hands together in glee?

Now, I’m no economist, but I do understand that the law of supply and demand is integral to capitalism.

Definition:

Law of Supply and Demand:  The amount of goods and services that are available for people to buy compared to the amount of goods and services that people want to buy.  If less of a product that the public wants is produced, the law of supply and demand says that more can be charged for the product.

Charging more is one thing.

But with the lumber situation – a price increase of more than 500 percent in a year?

Gouging.

Outrageous.

And the lumber industry isn’t alone – here are just a few more recent price increases:

P&G said it was increasing prices on certain brands in North America to “combat the impact of higher costs of raw materials used to make the products.”

Uh-huh.  And…

Coca Cola’s “holistic inflation management” is a “multi-prong approach to manage inflation of key ingredients and packaging materials, according to executives.”

Uh-huh.  And…

According to the article, “Both Jif and Skippy already are or will be more expensive thanks to previous winter storms, the ongoing pandemic, truck driver shortages, shipping fees and delays, and even the recent block of the Suez Canal by a cargo ship.”

“The recent block of the Suez Canal.”

Well, that’s one I hadn’t thought of.

Here’s my perception.

For the first 12 months of the pandemic, we hung in and hung together, getting through the tragedy day by day.

When suppliers were caught price gouging – and it was infrequent – they were excoriated in the media and by the public.

But now, as we’re emerging from that dark pandemic tunnel, it’s no more “Mr. Nice Guy.” 

No more “We’re all in this together.”

The suppliers’ gloves are off.

Shortages?

Real or manufactured?

Higher prices?

They’re real, all right.

And while companies may tout that “wholistic inflation management” and bemoan the blockage of the Suez Canal, how many are using the excuse of the pandemic – and coming out of the pandemic – to raise prices?

Simply because…

They can.

It appears that even this venerable industry – yes, even this – has succumbed to the pandemic excuse and the lure of more money:

“Supply chain backlog.”

Uh-huh.

At least this CNN article…

…was a tad more creative than that.  In addition to “supply chain” issues, it cited:

  • The high demand for workers.
  • The shortage of truck drivers – orders that would normally ship the next day can take weeks to go out.
  • The pandemic created new demand at companies that had never needed porta potties before, such as vaccination sites.
  • The emphasis on hand washing and clean surfaces during the pandemic led many customers to order more porta potties at their job sites.
  • Competition from overseas buyers also has increased demand.
  • The concert venues and road races are starting to open up, and the festivals are talking about coming back in late summer – all porta potty customers.
  • An unprecedented increase in the cost of plastic resin used to make portable toilets; it’s a petroleum product and disruptions like the February winter storm in Texas have led to limited supplies.

The “February winter storm in Texas.”

That’s another one I hadn’t thought of.

This reminds me of an old commercial for Roach Motel, “Where roaches check in, but they don’t check out”:

The pandemic:

Prices go up, but they won’t come down.

Shortages, plus price gouging.

It’s…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s