Y2K fears fuel a survivalist shopping spree - U.S. Newsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
News You Can Use 4/12/99
WORK & HOME
Need a stove? Take a number
Y2K fears fuel a survivalist shopping spree
BY MARISSA MELTON
It was last September when Jackie Foot Clark realized there was something in the airand it wasn't just a chill. In that month alone, her family's Ellicott City, Md., hardware store sold over a hundred gas and wood stovesas many as it normally sells in half a year. She couldn't figure out why, until she realized that a lot of her customers were computer programmers. They were worried about the Y2K computer bug, and, Clark decided, they were on to something. Today, the Clark Do-It Center features its own Y2K section, complete with flashlights, solar-powered ovens, water storage containers, and 400 wood stoves on order. Sales are up 25 percent since fall, and the Clarks expect the increase to rise to 35 percent by summer.
The forecast is by no means unreasonable. Despite other retailers' efforts to discourage stockpiling, Y2K fears already are sending mainstream consumers on a survivalist shopping spree. Cottage industries that once catered to outdoorsmen, missionaries, and fringe militias say they suddenly have been deluged with orders from ordinarily rational folks. All are preparing for the power outages, food shortages, even civil unrest that some predict will result from computers' inability to read the numbers "00" when the calendar turns on January 1.
Aping the Amish. The evidence suggests that, for the Y2K wary, it may not be too early to take action to avoid shortages at year's end. Already Lehman's hardware of Kidron, Ohio, which supplies Amish families with nonelectric appliances, is fielding thousands of orders worldwide from panicked customers seeking oil lamps, water filters, and hand-cranked radios.
Most sought-after are gas- and solar-powered generators that can operate essential appliances should the lights go out on New Year's Day. John Deere & Co., which manufactures gas-powered generators, has added two assembly lines, both of which are running nonstop. Coleman Powermate has boosted staff and is considering adding more production space. And at the Clarks' store, many generators the store orders from now on won't be delivered until next February.
After power and heat, those fearful of Y2K chaos seek potable water and nonperishable food. Consequently, water filters are selling at an unusually brisk pace, from $30 sports bottles with built-in iodine screens to $1,000 models that gush a gallon of clean water each minute. Suunto USA, which distributes Katadyn filters, is running two months behind schedule. "We used to sell 100 to 200 a month," says product manager Jenny Overlock. "Now, we're back-ordered by 9,000."
Should Y2K result in the prophesied End of the World As We Know It, we'll all need something to eat. Accordingly, marketers of such niche products as dehydrated and freeze-dried meals are seeing sales figures they only dreamed of in calmer times. Walton Feed in Montpelier, Idaho, employed 30 staff members two years ago. Today, owner Steve Portello says he employs 170 to fill Y2K orders. Last summer, Cheaper Than Dirt, a camping-supply business, sold about 300 cases of MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) a month. Now, says CEO Michael Tenny, he sells 700 cases a day.
Does the buying binge suggest prudence or panic? To Mike Walker of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it's clearly excessive. He recommends preparing for only one to three days of inconvenience. The National Retail Federation is urging its members not to encourage stockpiling, because emergency buying could disrupt holiday sales. (Retailers also worry about returned merchandise if disaster doesn't strike.)
But Mike Land, a promoter for Y2K product shows, says too few people are preparing for Y2K-related glitches; he says government agencies are fudging their Y2K-readiness assessments to make the problem look less severe.
However you choose to prepare for the millennium, now may be the time to plan purchases, if only to avoid costly oversights. Clark cites a woman who wanted a wood stove, though her house had no chimney. And Texas grain producer Ben Boerner fondly recalls the industrious fellow who announced plans to grind his own flour during a power outagewith an electric mill.
-- Leo (email@example.com), April 07, 1999
er, Leo, in some circles this magazine is known as US News and World Distort...I think you can see why...
Is anybody keeping track of missed opportunities? If so, here's another one to add to the list.
-- Arlin H. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 07, 1999.
Did anyone notice? "Alot of her customers are computer programmers"
-- SCOTTY (BLehman202@aol.com), April 07, 1999.
"Does the buying binge suggest prudence or panic? To Mike Walker of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it's clearly excessive. He recommends preparing for only one to three days of inconvenience."
What's wrong with this picture? Every piece of FEMA literature I've ever seen reccomends at least a two-week supply of food and water for any disaster situation. Yet here's a Mr. Walker saying anything over three days is "excessive". I wonder if he realizes how much potential blood is on his hands by making statements like that.
"The National Retail Federation is urging its members not to encourage stockpiling, because emergency buying could disrupt holiday sales."
Now there's a public-spirited organization for you. Never mind that civilization as we know it may be coming to an abrupt halt, just be sure that December's bottom line is rosy. This outfit seems to have "whistling past the graveyard" down to an art form.
Is it just me, or does anyone else see portents of doom in statements like the two above???
-- sparks (email@example.com), April 07, 1999.
It's not just you. These folks have been "crying wolf" for so long that they no longer have any credibility left. Too bad; now's when they really need it. . .
-- Hardliner (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 08, 1999.