Thursday, July 23, 2020

Sorting stuff out post-lockdown

Everyone knows that New Zealand’s lockdown interrupted lives and livelihoods, and it also disrupted the supply chains for the ordinary daily stuff we’re used to finding easily. It turned out that the effects were more far-reaching than that. Many of us are still trying to sort stuff out.

During lockdown—even before it, actually—there were major problems with having enough stock in supermarkets. The government was so concerned about the supply of medicines, it limited prescription renewals to a one month supply, instead of the customary three, and they even limited how much paracetamol people could buy. We adapted to all of that.

There were three factors, mainly, that led to that situation: Panic buying at the supermarkets before lockdown, which led to depletion of stocks. Then, the borders were closed here and in other countries, which made it more difficult to bring in foreign products. At the same time, the lockdown resulted in the suspension of manufacturing for many consumer products, and all non-essential products. All of which created shortages.

We all dealt with the situation the best we could, and, fortunately, I wasn’t as badly affected as others because my needs are fewer as a solo person, and because brands don’t always matter to me. That’s why last April I was willing to try ordering-in groceries from a company I’d never used before, one that normally supplies restaurants and cafes, but that has a home supply service, too. The supermarkets were restricting deliveries at the time, and it was nearly impossible to get an order in.

That unusual path meant I needed to order an enormous bag of flour and a big supply of yeast (both of which I’m still using). At the time, it was my only option for those particular things.

In April, the supermarkets expanded delivery and I became so excited that I immediately placed an order for delivery (I know, I really need a hobby…).

Big bag of rice.
The next month, I placed another order, and while that one was far less exciting, it led to my first mistake: I needed ordinary long-grain rice, and I was looking at the unit price to evaluate which was the best buy, and that led me to buy a 5kg bag of rice, which is rather a lot. As it turned out, I was able to use quite a bit to feed Sunny, and I will again, so the rice turned out to be not such a big deal, even though it was a very big bag.

More recently, I wanted to buy refills for my hand soap dispenser. None of the supermarkets had the refill of the variety I use, so I ordered a very large 5 litre bottle from the company that makes it (the normal size sold in supermarkets was 500ml. That bottle is, it turns out, difficult to wrangle, due to its weight, but ordering that way allowed me to also get a particular variety of their liquid dishsoap and their dishwasher rinse agent, neither of which were in the supermarkets I visited (both of those are part of the shower cleaning supplies I use, something I meant to have blogged about a long time ago, but… things happened. Soon, maybe).
Big soap. Bottle on right is former ordinary refill size.

Fast forward another week or so, and I went to a supermarket I don’t normally go to and I saw that they had the refills, but in a new and larger bottle. I guess that its absence was a manufacturing issue as the company geared up to make their stuff again, and after that it still had to get to the shops. That means that buying a 5L bottle of liquid hand soap wasn’t a mistake, because it was all I could get at the time, but the reason I bought it was because I didn’t know its absence was due to lack of supply, not the usual willfulness of supermarkets of both companies (my description, of course).

In the time of any adversity, most of us do the best we can do. Lockdown and slow lifting of restrictions created a whole bunch of challenges for everyone. In my case, that mainly meant buying large versions of products I’d normally buy in smaller sizes. I think that means I got through it all unscathed, relatively speaking. That’s good, because other stuff definitely wasn’t as good for me as for others.

Whatever the case was for us, and no matter the challenges we faced, many of us are still trying to sort stuff out. I don’t know about others, but for me, getting products is the least of my problems.

The photos above both have a pair of reading glasses for comparison of relative sizes.


Roger Owen Green said...

meanwhile, in the US, we have idiots partying. True in Albany, NY, with 22 cases recently from one 4 July party. I've said this before, but it's no less true - we're screwed until the vaccine.

And maybe later, because the anti-vaxxers will have a field day with a new treatment.

Arthur Schenck said...

Sad, but true. 😕