American Horror Story: Supply Chain Massacre

The Four Things Killing the Holiday Spirit

 

Ho Ho Horror.

Tell Ava and Emma to get their lists for Santa together now and start planning ahead because the Halloween horror may make this the Blackest Friday ever to kick off the shopping season.supply chain has packages delayed

The stories abound: the neighbor with the torn up backyard, whose renovation is stalled because a hot tub has an ETA of February 2022. The sister whose new dishwasher is now delayed four months, sadly staring at her gap-toothed kitchen waiting for its brushed stainless rectangular filling. Stuff is hard to get now and the upcoming holidays (especially the gift centered ones) are only going to poke the beast.

The supply chain is a warzone. Competition for shipping slots is driving prices into the stratosphere and the capitalistic shippers are laughing wickedly as they reel in 4 to 5 times the amount a normal freight container would command for a sail across the ocean.

How did we end up on the precipice of an apocalyptic holiday season? What maniacal villain is to blame for the serial hold ups?

1. COVID

The Grim Reaper itself, COVID-19, has been center stage in the horror film that got us where we are today. People getting sick, quarantining, taking care of sick loved ones, and, sadly, dying has dramatically reduced the number of people that are able to work at any given time. Since we are not (quite) to the point of total robot takeover, our economy still relies on humans. Thus, without adequate employees, ports are shut down or capacity is reduced, creating a bottleneck in terms of throughput AND….

2. LABOR

This drop in the number of people available to work has come at a time when even the least tech savvy shoppers are beginning to order online. More and more people ordering more and more of their wants and needs online has increased demand for drivers for services like food, groceries and, of course, the ghastly beast that is Amazon. Warehouse workers are also in wickedly high demand, with nearly 500,000 job openings currently in that industry alone. This all puts even more strain on demand for….

3. SHIPPING

Our zombie-like online shopping behavior was brought to life by the pandemic. We became (and remain) transfixed on getting whatever we can online, including clothing, food, specialty items and…anything else. Instacart, Amazon, UPS, FedEx––all these drivers became the only people we interacted with on a regular basis. But then they didn’t show up on time, or arrived a week late, or maybe not at all. Suddenly our demand, along with (1) and (2), put such a strain on shipping that we started to see backlogs in ports, scream-worthy prices on building materials, appliances and other goods, and long long lead times. Containerships have been sitting in China for months before a slot would open up and allow our budget-friendly Amazon goods to set sail, destined to sit in our kids’ rooms after a single use, waiting for the next Salvation Army run. And last but not least….

4. STUPIDITY

Maybe this isn’t fair, but how do you get a ship stuck in a canal…for days…? Over 18,000 ships go through the Suez Canal each year, and this was the time to get one lodged in there nice and tight? Over 6 days and 7 hours, a bevy of engineers toiled away trying to unwedge our widgets so we could get the backed up boatloads of other widgets to their inpatient recipients. There are a lot of factors at play here but some were more avoidable than others…

 

All of this to say: Order early, plan ahead, and watch where you’re going or you just might end up stuck between a giftless holiday and a hard place. What’s your “can’t get it until 2022” horror story? Tell us in the comments below!

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