As someone who dealt with a flooding event back in June, I know all too well what it means to have to quickly purchase items needed for day-to-day existence. You don't have time to shop around (I even bought ethernet wire at Best Buy, which is insane, pricewise) and you are very much at the mercy of decisions made by suppliers and retailers. Fortunately - - except for a run on dehumidifiers - - our local area was not so uniformly hit that shortages or gouging occurred.
Not so in larger weather events, unfortunately. The story below notes that Wal-Mart's sudden price hike on cellphone chargers may have been a coincidence, but anyone who has studied Wal-Mart's sophisticated "just in time" pricing and inventory system knows that nothing happens there by chance. They know how many boxes of Cheerios are on a shelf at store number 2354 in Peoria right this second.
Raise the price to avert shortages? It wasn't long ago that Wal-Mart apologists were back-slapping the retailer for utilizing their sophisticated inventory and stocking system to be pin-point prepared for Katrina. The Wall Street Journal gushed:
Wal-Mart mined its vast databases of past purchases to compile lists of goods most desired after a hurricane. (Among the top items? Strawberry pop tarts.) Because of its advance logistics planning, the big retail chain was able to quickly move in to devastated areas with mini Wal-Marts to hand out goods. Other firms leveraged similar supply-chain capabilities; Pfizer dispensed pharmaceuticals via Wal-Mart and other retailers. "What companies do is solve problems," says Johanna Schneider, an executive director at the Business Roundtable.
Pop Tarts? Check. Wait a minute; are they strawberry? Check!
Ooops - - forgot to order extra .... battery chargers? Guess they would have been "desirable."
From the Consumerist:
A Walmart insider tells us that the price of cellphone chargers nearly doubled on orders from Walmart HQ in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Before the hurricane, chargers cost from $10-$15, but afterwards, they rose to a uniform $19.
The insider writes:
I work in a Walmart store in KY, and I'm writing in to let you know that my store has raised the prices on all of its cell phone chargers by almost 50%. These price changes were automatically put into effect in our system by Home Office. This, I feel, is in direct response to Hurricane Ike.
Here in KY, we didn't get the rain, but we did get high winds on Sunday morning, which knocked out power to some 300,000 people here. The next day when we opened, people bought every car charge and battery we had because they were still without any power. Now today all of our car chargers go up nearly 50%. In fact, every charger, car or wall, in our store is a flat $19.00, when car chargers were $10.00 and wall chargers were $15.00 yesterday. This is hardly a coincidence, and it's so blatently obvious to our customers. I can't believe Walmart would do something so totally against their own mantra of Save Money, Live Better. This is more like "Raise Prices, Screw Suffering Customers!"
It could be a coincidence, maybe not. Either way, the timing is certainly suspicious.