And why you should buy things you think you need now-ish (especially things from China)
Friends who have been following closely (it's okay if you haven't, I am not the funnest ball of sunshine lately) know I have been struggling to get some tech bunnies in line lately. Largely this is because everyone is trying to get tech bunnies in line right now and everything is sold out everywhere. But the mad rush is only part of the problem. The other problem is the supply chain is down, and worse's not going to get better any time soon.
On another thread on a friend's page, there was discussion of the food supply chain similarly in danger right now. A commenter flippantly said there was plenty of food on the shelves right now, and we have no reason to worry. Well, friends, I don't want to add to your stress, but I do want you to have a healthy sense of reality and preparation for the year(s) ahead. Because gently and methodically stocking your larders now would be a Very Smart Move. NOT HOARDING, NOT PANICKING; but just picking up an extra can or two when you shop each week, and stocking some dry beans/dry goods is literally always a good idea. Let's have a chat about why everything looks fine when supply chains are collapsing.
Like all wonderfully terrible things, it starts underneath (in the chain), and then it shows up at the surface (the markets).
Take things about electronics--the very thing that is making me insane right now? Right now you could go out and buy a TV, right? Well, that TV wasn't made yesterday. It wasn't even shipped here yesterday. Those TVs on the shelf were shipped 6 months ago from a port in another country. They were made maybe even over a year ago in another country--let's say mostly China, in this case.
When those TVs run out on the shelves, the store fills from the back room.
The people at the store will order from a local warehouse, and the back room's backstock will fill up again, fine, good.
When the warehouse is empty, the warehouse orders from the distributer/shipper in China.
The distributer orders from the manufacturer in China.
So track it back to the source. If China is shut down, they aren't making any more and aren't shipping any more, that goes back in time, far before your shelves are ever empty. 6 months to a year.
A store shelf empties out, so the store fills from backstock. Backstock fills from a local warehouse. The warehouse ships all they have left, and now that warehouse is empty; but the store backstock is full, the store shelves are full, and you the consumer see a shelf full of TVs.
That local warehouse calls the distributor to fill up, but China is shut down--nothing is being manufactured or shipped. Now local warehouses are empty. You the consumer never see that. You just see full shelves and think everything is business-as-usual.
Next time the shelves empty, it gets filled from backstock.
The warehouse has none. Now the backstock and warehouse are both empty. You don't see that.
Next time the shelves are empty, there is nothing to fill it because long before you saw that happen, the chain had collapsed. Only now do you see the impact.
Same for every supply chain, from widgets to food. We haven't yet begun to see the impact of every supply chain around the world, because the impact will ripple out in time ahead of it. You are still seeing full shelves, but there are supply chains breaking down due to worker shortages and shutdowns, inability to source supplies and repair parts for machinery, and countless other little details we the consumer don't have to think about when we're filling our carts.
Being price-gouged on CraigsList for a webcam so I can Zoom my dance classes is just one small way I am experiencing what will be a months-long, or potentially years-long, drought in high quality electronics in the market (and the absolute flood of cheap off-brand garbage right now is alarming from an environmental standpoint, but I digress). What comes next could be potential continued scarcity and higher prices when things do return to market. Because we don't know what the world financial market is going to look like, nor how long this virus is going to be a real threat in our population.
How this will play out for clothing and food and other necessities I can't speak to (Tracy below reminds us that if you think your food all comes one state over, or even within the US--even if it says US on the label--think again, and do a little reading on the topic). For durable goods--particularly ones manufactured largely in countries hardest hit by COVID-19--my general thought has been that if you need it, and you are seeing it becoming harder to come by, get it now. It's likely only going to get more scarce and expensive for a while.
For foodstuffs, no hoarding, no freaking out; just think about what you would stock away in your larder for winter and start putting a little bit away every week. This isn't happening tomorrow, but it's something worth being prepared for.
That's my take. Any thoughts or sources to add to the discussion?

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On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

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