Kodak Film, Jurassic Park and y2k Hoarding

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This is a combination question/advice. The book Jurassic Park was an astounding example of juxtaposition of the profound and the banal. The most profound observation by the author (Crichton??) was that society limits the price you can charge for goods and services necessary for survival, but, ironically, society places no limit on the prices one can charge for nonessentials. The more necessary something is for survival, the more likely it is going to be price controlled. (Therefore, the fictional company in Jurassic Park wanted to create an amusement park, since society would put no prohibitions on the company's ability to charge astronomical admission fees.)

Based on my observations during hurricane Fran aftermath, anyone who made an entrepreneurial effort to provide ice or chainsaws or generators (at anything other than pre-disaster retail prices) to the disaster area was mercilessly excoriated by the press and public as a gouger. I understand that there are now laws against raising prices following a disaster. I have conflicting feelings about the wisdom of such laws, since few reputable local dealers would raise prices, so the existing stock would go for normal price, but there would be a restriction on the amount of surplus stock coming to the disaster area because who is going to pack up a rental truck full of chain saws and drive them 1000 miles if no profit can be made? So the anti-gouging law is a feel good free market restriction which prevents valuable goods and services from being directed to a high demand area.

So I will advise you that if you plan to trade post y2k with a vital good such as food or even toilet paper, be prepared to be villanized, tarred and feathered and given the bum's rush out of town on a rail.

That's where Jurassic Park comes in. And this is where my question comes in. If you're trying to anticipate the barter market, don't think vital good, think luxury. I don't think I'm going to think barter (except 1/10 gold possibly) because I'm not smart enough to guess right. But I do predict that, believe it or not, no matter how bad TSHTF, there will be people with a lot of excess cash. They may be mobsters who have millions of dollars of unlaundered money, but I really expect them to be there.(Look at Russia today.) Think Kodak. If you have cash y2k and a newborn on the way, how much would you pay for a few rolls of 35 mm film? A wedding? Grandparent's 90th birthday? Parent's 50th anniversary?

No one has to have photographs to live or be happy. The ironic result? You'd be worshiped for saving the family memories. No tar, no feathers, no jail term.

I'd also be wary of tobacco and liquor. I don't even want to get into those arguments but I think they're dangerous for barter.

How about some other ideas for "luxury" items that people will continue to demand post y2k?

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), March 03, 1999


Fascinating line of thinking, Puddintame. My first reaction is that here in Iowa, as farmers hurt from disastrously low commodity prices, perhaps the means to break the limits on essential goods is to counter with production controls, as OPEC would love to do (and in 74 tried to do) with oil. I read earlier (Bruce Websters e-mail, printed by Drew on CBN?) that the Mid-East countries would love to limit oilperhaps they see Y2K as a means to that (who knows)

Y2K: the ultimate production control. You know, perhaps if there were global outages, those limitations on essentials would disappear, as they couldnt be flown in from other states  theyve truly disappeared from availability.

I also think our notion of luxury will drastically change. Imagine the price of a Snickers bar

As for me and my tribe, were just worried about buying enough Ball jars at this point to consider what might bring profits. Maybe others are further ahead with such things.

-- Brett (savvydad@aol.com), March 03, 1999.

Make-up sweets pop books (alot of time on our hands) cards coffee

-- Moore Dinty moore (not@thistime.com), March 03, 1999.

good inexpensive (but NOT cheap) knives to replace all of those dimestore specials and truckstop '9.95' hunting knives. Everybody needs a knife or two, and too much of the stuff I see in the discount catalogs will bend, break, or otherwise become functionally useless in relatively short order...so I guess it's not really a luxury...but that is one idea.


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), March 03, 1999.

Spices have historicly been very valuble trade items. People will be eating a plainer diet then they're used to.

-- y2kbiker (y2kbiker@bellatlantic.net), March 03, 1999.

I think you confuse profit and profiteering. If you know of an area that needs a load of (say) generators, and you buy a load, drive them there, and sell them at maximum recommended price rather than at the usual discount, that's probably fair. If you mark them up tenfold... well, don't know about the law, but don't expect anyone to think that you are trying to help them!

I'd expect an honest trader in a critical situation to consider reducing his margins rather than boosting them. This is how to make friends (and later they'll choose to do business with you because of it). In the aftermath of a major storm I lived through there was a power cut, and one on the local grocers was giving away the (thawed) contents of his freezer cabinets rather than see it wasted, even though I suspect his insurance payout suffered as a result. Also the local council workmen with chainsaws were working on any trees that were causing major inconvenience or danger, not just ones that were the council's responsibility.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), March 04, 1999.

Nigel, I agree with your point and I addressed that in my "reputable local dealer" comment. But I tend toward libertarianism and defining profiteering gets into a very wide area of grey (I'll go with the British spelling in your honor.) It seems to me that the threshold of dishonor/illegality was 30% above regular retail. A supplier can rarely rent a truck, ignore business at home, buy inventory, and travel 1000 miles and stay in a hotel room for several days eating MRE's for 30% above retail. Why bother? So goods and services stay in low demand areas and the high demand area suffers. None of this applies to me; my services are not survival related and are relatively unaffected by disasters. These are just my observations. I think most government intervention in economic activity is counterproductive.

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), March 04, 1999.

Puddintame, generally I agree. But having seen the price of bread rise to a dollar (when it was only 35c a loaf) and watched in disgust as store personnel frantically restickered batteries, radios, flashlights, bottled water, ice and such, when a hurricane warning went into effect, I'd say there's a need for anti-gouging laws of some sort--bare minimum, though.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), March 04, 1999.

An interesting opinion piece on the subject: (I'd put the whole text here, but am wary of the copyright restrictions.)

There's Some Good in Gouging

As for bartering for luxury items, this now makes sense to me for the first time. Thanks Puddintame for framing it that way. Most interesting. Think: coffee, chocolate, shampoo.

On a little different subject from the above article, I've had a lot of second thoughts about barter lately. I intend to do NO bartering until whatever crisis there is, is well past. We'll either be on our way back to normal because it won't have been that bad (<6 scenario) hence forget bartering, or in some shaken-out post-crisis world. Before it shakes out, bartering would be too dangerous and ruin your low profile. There can be little negotiation, especially if you are the prepared one surrounded by non-prepared. There could be exceptions, I am sure, but I think it's romantically idealistic to plan for bartering early on and expect to be well received. Scary. Besides, you should be well enough prepared that you aren't on the "need" end of the bartering.

My nature is to want to share essentials without thought of return, but know that that could be suicidal. (Maybe I'm just not a good enough natural businessperson?) It really depends on what kind of atmosphere prevails - civil unrest, angry, petulant, desperate people? or organized community?

After the Northridge earthquake, people were sharing and helping each other. Earthquakes are a so-called "act of God," and an actually refreshing leveler of human differences. In that situation, commerce of all kinds happen more easily of course. We've discussed many reasons why people might not be so sanguine if Y2k is bad. One of the biggest would be Anti-Preparation propaganda leading all the way up to it.

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), March 04, 1999.

Sorry, did not mean to associate "gouging" with "luxury items" in the above posting. It was a change of subject.

I have such admiration for people on this board with such tremendous writing and communication skills! I can't tell you. It is a terrific gift, one I struggle with. So many express yourselves so well, Old Git, Greybear, I won't name other names because there are so many.

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), March 04, 1999.

Ok if no one else will say it, I guess I will have to be the one. CONDOMS!!! These are a luxery item in some ways and in other ways it is a must have. I mean think about it without available birth control how many people will find themselves in deep doo-doo. Keeping in mind that healthcare is not up to par. Not to mention, if women do not have birth control and they all just say NO, how many rapes will occur? If nothing else they make great water balloons if nothing comes to pass.

Just my two cents. My mind was in potty-ville.

-- shellie (shellie@hotmail.com), March 04, 1999.

Hey! If the drug cos. have to shift production to life saving drugs, Viagra might bring a premium in December! Taht's a plan. Stock up on Viagra, condoms and, lastly, Kodak film for those who failed to pay your price for the prophylactics!

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), March 04, 1999.

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