Thur. Jan. 6, 2022 – working today, because money can’t buy love, but it can buy stuff.

Warmer and sunny, clear. Yesterday was nice, if a bit humid. Sunny for a couple more days too.

Spent yesterday doing a bunch of local errands, then went to my client’s house to do some work notes. The programmer had an issue on another job and couldn’t make it, so he’s coming today. I spent some time troubleshooting, and determined that a home theatre receiver needs to be replaced. It’s the oldest gear in the rack, and doesn’t support 4K resolution, so its time was limited. My business partner was very skeptical that we’d be able to find a reasonable replacement due to supply issues. And indeed, directly comparable gear is months backordered and expensive. I was able to find something that will work at BestBuy. They have one per store in stock, and I can pick it up today. I also found 1 on amazon with 2 day delivery. It was cheaper, but the programmer is here today. Worth the extra $100 to have it in the rack so he can integrate it with the control system.

VERY few AV receivers are available anywhere, what is available is either very low end, or very high end. Too cheap to use, or too dear for most people. We’ve had other supply issues on this job. We had to upgrade the in room control touch panels because the cheaper button panels were not available. I’ve talked before about buying every IR emitter in the store and every mono 1/8″ plug, and them not being restocked in weeks…

I stopped at lowes for headlight bulbs for my wife’s minivan. Over the weekend I noticed they had bins of them on closeout, huge price reductions, and I just noticed her headlight was out. That’s how my life works. I got a set for her minivan, and a set for each of my trucks. $5 a pair was too cheap to resist. While I was there I confirmed that they don’t have a seed display up. They had one small rotating display of a couple dozen seed packets for “organic” seeds, but it had mostly herbs left. NO big burpee display. No Martha Stewart or other cheaper seeds. There were large empty areas in the store too. Whole pallet racks filled with individual empty bins so they weren’t actually empty.

And we’ve talked about grocery and retail stores re-organizing the stores to hide shortages. Well what I saw at Costco yesterday left me quite disturbed. Costco has leased ships to try to shortcut some of the supply chain issues. They are very good about getting product in the stores. And yet. Yesterday I realized that they had removed an entire aisle of cold food display coolers. They moved the remaining aisles farther apart and REALLY opened up the space in cold meat and prepared foods… They went to smaller coolers too. I confirmed with the employee at the door checking receipts that they had removed the coolers and reconfigured the remaining coolers. He said “they’re having trouble getting what they need, and had to disguise the missing product.” The medicine and supplement section had also gotten wider aisles and less product. In fact the whole store was feeling weirdly open. All the displays were shorter. I could easily see across the store. They even had a shelf of marked down Christmas gifts in the back corner of the store. Costco NEVER has markdowns or shelves with a couple of out of season items on it.

Think about this for a minute. Costco, despite their market power, despite leasing their own ships to help bypass supply chain issues, decided to reconfigure the store with FEWER coolers, and smaller displays. They spent money to move electrical, drains, chiller lines, and get new coolers. You don’t DO that if you think the shortages are temporary. You don’t move utilities if you think things will be better in a month or two. They are betting real money that they’ll be dealing with reduced inventory for a long time. If that isn’t your wake up call, what will it take?

Take a serious look at what you need for the next couple of years. Start looking for it now, and buy it if you see it. Be flexible with what you want, and start learning about other places to look where you might find it. I would prefer to get pro gear for my client. I had to get consumer product, and I had to look outside my normal suppliers. I also had to pay more than I would have a year ago when we were discussing the project. Start looking around for the secondary markets near you. Auctions, thrift and outlet stores, estate and yard sales, fleamarkets, bodegas, ethnic stores, mom and pop storefronts, street vendors… my partner recommended looking on ebay for a replacement receiver, used and likely priced as new, because his distributors had nothing. For the model we wanted there was ONE for sale, and 4 had recently sold for more than new. Recognize that there might be opportunities for YOU in this new normal if you have access to stuff people want, or can fix the stuff they can’t replace.

Keep stacking it guys and gals. It isn’t getting better soon. The big boys looked at it and spent the money. You need to too.

nick