Archive for the ‘Shortages’ Category

Service of Why Offer What You Can’t Deliver?

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

This package takes up little room. How can a drugstore run out?

We had our share of shortages during the pandemic. It’s a puzzle why some still exist. It’s also a mystery why a company that promotes a service isn’t prepared to immediately repair an obstacle preventing its delivery.

Nothing to Sneeze At

I was baffled that I couldn’t find pocketsize tissues in any of the drugstores near me and had to order some online. Given the gargantuan size of the OTC cold and cough meds market–$11.11 billion anticipated in the U.S. for this year according to statista.com—you’d think the stores would be prepared for dripping noses.

Those empty shelves are not a question of tight inventory control. Smart shoppers who want a holiday-related item like cute Valentine’s or Halloween decorations grab them fast these days or go without because retailers–smartly–don’t want to be stuck with leftovers. However, once the height of flu and cold season is past, we segway into allergy-related sneeze fests that keep Kleenex shoppers coming back for more.

Don’t Pass the Popcorn

I decided that Saturday was a perfect one to rent from Fios a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing available on Demand. To navigate to Netflix on my Fios system I must first bypass Demand’s lively promotions for its movies for rent or purchase [see the photo below]. After countless attempts to download my choice and three quarters of an hour on the phone with Verizon I learned that the glitch had to be fixed internally. ETA of the repair? Monday at 9 PM. Three days?

I called Verizon when at 9 PM Monday I still got the “Oops.” I went through the rigamarole to finally reach a customer service person and was disconnected. My mood didn’t improve when I had to go through the entire thing again with no opportunity to skip the drill and type in the number of my ticket to get an update. The person I spoke with warned me not to call again until Friday to give them time to fix the glitch. It was repaired late Tuesday afternoon. I loved the movie which I watched Tuesday night: “The Holdovers.”

Are you surprised at what’s still missing from store shelves or how long it takes for a corporation to fix an error halting use of a revenue-generating service?

Service of Shortages Redux

Monday, May 29th, 2023

I covered the topic of shortages and dramatic backorders thoroughly during the pandemic and thought that much of this, along with the worst of Covid, was behind us, but no.

My Canon printer is less than a year old. I went to Staples to buy a single black ink cartridge because I have two for color that came with the double packs. There were no singles in the store and the associate showed me on her computer screen that there were none in the warehouse either so I couldn’t order one for delivery.

I hear you asking, “why didn’t she order one online from home?”

The reason is that I’m allergic to paying for shipping which the cost of one cartridge would entail. You don’t pay for shipping if the store doesn’t have what you want, and the store is at a bus stop I often use—easy peasy. I now have three color cartridges because I bought yet another double pack for fear of running out of the black at 11 pm.

A friend in the autobody business continues to be hamstrung searching for parts to complete jobs. It can take weeks to locate what he needs, and he knows all the rocks under which such parts would be buried. Talk about a spanner in the works.

And high car prices reflect involuntary low inventory at dealer showrooms.

Worse, we continue to read about shortages of lifesaving medicines such as for cancer. Sometimes the scarcity happens because a drug to control one condition is discovered to be useful for another so there’s an unanticipated run on it.

We continue to experience a shortage of waitstaff in these parts. I enjoyed two magnificent lunches recently where it was clear that either the waitstaff was overwhelmed and shorthanded or untrained.

Who knows whether this situation is a Covid hangover or an excuse to keep inventories and labor costs low. Have you had trouble finding what you need? Do you think we’ll be living with this situation for the near future?

Service of Backorders

Monday, November 21st, 2022

This old Hamilton Beach iron served me well

I’ve not needed a fridge or kitchen cabinet or car, so I’ve not been impacted by typical pandemic backorders—until now. Guess what? The Wall Street Journal published a story last Thursday “Fading Supply Chain Problems Signal Holiday Season of Stocked Shelves, Lower Prices.” I hate being the exception to the rule.

My trusty steam iron bit the dust in a most responsible way on Saturday night. It started to beep at me and then I saw smoke–not steam. It was entitled to retire. It has served me splendidly for years.

Was I surprised when I tried to order one for same day pickup in a Manhattan store. I couldn’t find one at two likely suspects and many irons were out of stock even for shipping. The wait time for delivery for the available ones ranged from six to nine days. I found one at a third vendor that was to arrive three days later—on Tuesday. But I received a notice from the vendor on Monday night that the delivery date moved a week. An aside: This iron had better be as good and long-lasting as the Hamilton Beach I bought at a long defunct discount store. For one thing, I paid 3x more for it.

Here’s one reason for the delay in my receiving the iron: It took some journey to get to Manhattan! It left Chandler, Ariz. and stopped in Phoenix, then Tucamcri, N.M., next Phillipsburg, Mo., on to Quaker City, Ohio, and Keasbey, N.J. and was sited at a warehouse in Long Island City, N.Y.

In another surprising example, I knew that the flannel shirt—from an iconic brand for such things– I bought days ago was backordered a few weeks until November 18. Then the delivery date was moved to December 6. And it’s holiday time!

I shared frivolous examples as they surprised me. What about the shortage of meds for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [A.D.H.D] patients who depend on Adderall that New York Times reporter Dani Blum wrote about? Without their daily dose they “face withdrawal and despair.” She reported that the issue should be resolved within the next month or two according to the FDA. “Rates of Adderall use in the United States have been rising for 20 years. The use of prescription stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. doubled from 2006 to 2016.”

Have you experienced delays or disappointment lately for items you needed or wanted? Were you surprised?


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

Service of Planning Way Ahead

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Does everyone plan way ahead these days?

As early as August people had rented homes and hotel rooms to gather with family members for out of town Thanksgiving celebrations.

Daily we’re warned to buy Christmas gifts now. Wait and we will be unable to purchase the ones we want.

Michelle Fox at cnbc.com reported that a creditcards.com survey forecasted that 27 percent of holiday shoppers plan to start before the end of September and 13 percent started in August. In addition to bargain shopping and threats of rising prices that inspire early purchases, supply chain clogs and shortages of computer chips and other key components inspire shopping now.

Toys are particularly at risk. Fox wrote: “Some Lego advent calendars are already selling out, Ellsworth noted. Other hot items include Squishmallows and a plush toy of the Morris character from the Marvel movie ‘Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.’” Kate Ellsworth is the executive editor of commerce content at Reviewed.

Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, reported in mid-September that “A record 60 container vessels are at anchor or adrift in the San Pedro Bay, waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports and another 20 are due to arrive in coming days.”

An article on thedeepdive.ca reported; “According to data from the Bank of America cited by CNBC, overseas shipping container costs have significantly ballooned since the beginning of the pandemic.” The article: “Costco Warns of Higher Inflation Ahead of Holiday Season, Dismantling ‘Transitory’ Narrative.” Reporter Hermina Paull continued “A 40-foot container shipped from Shanghai to New York was priced at approximately $2,000 just over one year ago; now, that price tag has soared to around $16,000.” She predicted that with upcoming holidays consumers should expect to cover such increased costs.

Have you noticed that people are making plans unusually early this year whether holiday related or otherwise? Are “buy early” warnings real or an attempt to stimulate or increase sales?  Are you shopping early or resorting to gift cards? Is this a one-off due to the pandemic or may we expect it for years?


Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

Service of More and More Shortages

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Local and national news outlets report shortages daily. A dearth of kitchen appliances join lumber as well as microchips that choke manufacturing in auto and computer industries.

According to a segment on 60 Minutes, 75 percent of microchips come from Asia. Intel, which passed on the opportunity to make chips for iPhones early on, doesn’t currently have the ability to make the small chips here.

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

A friend ordered a sofa at the end of April and was told to expect it in September. Segments of the furniture industry have a reputation for slow deliveries but lately, a lack of shipping containers is partly to blame.

Not all shortages are pandemic-driven. A three-day fire last August at the Biolab chemical plant in Westlake, Louisiana, crippled operations and impacted availability of chlorine tablets for swimming pools. Most were manufactured there.

We’ve just begun to see changes in our lives as a result of the pandemic. Will we be back in the manufacturing business here? Have we reached the end of the heyday of cheap prices because of our reliance on products made abroad by poorly paid labor? Will we want more control over essential goods? What shortages would impact your life or already have?

Service of Hoarding III

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

I can see everything in my freezer–it’s no longer overstuffed–I have three rolls of paper towel and of TP and love that it all fits under a sink. In the small cabinet in my diminutive kitchen, for the first time in six months, there’s room for a few more condiments, pasta or other non-refrigerated items.

The space in which I stored the overflow in my apartment last March is taken. It’s my home office since I no longer rent elsewhere.

We broke a record with 200,000 dead from Covid-19 and there’s already a new spike of cases in Europe. “Europe Passes U.S. in New Covid Cases, Returning as Hot Spot,” Thomas Mulier reported in Bloomberg.com 10 days ago. Earlier this week the UK increased restrictions for six months in an attempt to quell an alarming rise in cases.

We anticipate a resurgence in winter that will exacerbate the usual flu season.

“Currently, travelers from 35 “hotspot” states and territories must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut,” according to nbcny.com on Tuesday. On September 22 New York Governor Cuomo added Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

So am I taking a chance by not stocking up on the brands I like or do you think the country has overcome its shortage challenges? Have citizens here controlled their tendency to hoard? Is this an issue that only impacts people who live in compact spaces?

Service of Shortages During the Pandemic

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

We’ve heard ad nauseam about TP, paper towel, mask and disinfectant wipe shortages in retail stores–I haven’t seen a container of Clorox wipes in weeks nor will I unless I’m there when they are delivered according to a Wall Street Journal article–but now there’s a bicycle shortage and hints of an impending scarcity of meat as well.

Ironically the pandemic might create a healthier population just as it has cleaned the air and waterways in cities worldwide. According to an @CNN tweet, the journal Nature Climate Change reported global carbon emissions dropped 17 percent between January and April.

Bicycles Built for Two

It’s not just in NYC that some anticipate riding their bikes to work instead of taking a subway. Christina Goldbam wrote “Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait. The United States is facing a shortage of bicycles as anxiety over public transportation and a desire to exercise has sent the demand surging.”

She reported in her New York Times article, “Some bicycle shops in Brooklyn are selling twice as many bikes as usual and drawing blocklong lines of customers. A chain of shops in Phoenix is selling three times the number of bikes it typically does. A retailer in Washington, D.C., sold all its entry-level bikes by the end of April and has fielded more preorders than ever in its 50-year history.”

Goldbam wrote: “Today fewer than 1 percent of New Yorkers commute by bike. In Portland, which has the highest percentage of cycling commuters of any American city, only 6.3 percent of commuters ride bikes. By comparison, in Copenhagen nearly half of all trips to work and school take place on bicycles.”

During the 1980 NYC transit strike I rode my bicycle from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge was jammed. It will be interesting to see how social distancing plays out at rush hour if bicycle transportation really becomes a thing in cities.

High on the Hog

As for meat, according to Saloni Sardana of businessinsider.com, the shortage is one of workers and of transport to stores–not of beef, pork, lamb etc.

Some analysts anticipate consumers moving to plant-based alternatives. Sardana also reported: “Kevin Beasley, chief investment officer at VAI, said: ‘By incorporating analytics and AI, meat companies will be able to ensure essential products are available in the right place at the right time and proactively identify breaks in the existing supply chain.'”

In addition, as the nation’s pocketbooks shrink, so their choices of cuts of meat will navigate to less expensive ones.

What shortages are you experiencing? Are you tempted to travel by bicycle? Do you think that a significant number of commuters will opt to bicycle to work once offices open up? Have meat prices increased in your grocery store?

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