*Chicago Tribune* - Stocking Up For Y2K, Just In Case -

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


{Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Stocking up for Y2K, just in case

By Greg Burns - Tribune Staff Writer - December 12, 1999

Even as Chicagoan Pam Daniels and her family tucked into their annual Thanksgiving feast this year, a nagging worry arose at the dinner table: What if Y2K ruins New Year's Day?

"We all talked about it," said Daniels, a 29-year-old mother and insurance agent-in-training. "I really don't think anything bad is going to happen, but you never know."

After that conversation, Daniels set out to get ready for the year-end computer problem also known as the Millennium Bug, putting aside enough food and drinking water for a couple of weeks should an unexpected crisis arrive with the New Year.

At least one-third of Chicago-area residents will be right along with her, a new Tribune poll shows. Some 34 percent say they plan to stockpile food, 40 percent bottled water and 36 percent will withdraw extra cash as a precaution against Y2K problems.

Yet although the poll uncovered many people taking action in advance of 2000, it also reflected more of a healthy skepticism than a doomsday mentalityconsistent with national polls.

Far from turning into a bunch of survivalists barricaded in rural bunkers, many Chicagoans will be laying in a little extra food, water and cash merely for peace of mind, the poll suggests.

Indeed, a substantial portion of those planning to stock up expect no computer problems at all, but nevertheless want to prepare in the unlikely event their neighbors sweep the supermarket of canned goods on the last day of 1999.

As Darien homemaker Beth McCrory put it, "We want to be ready just in case other people go all out."

That spells opportunity for companies such as Chicago's Hinckley Springs, which is peddling special Y2K "emergency hydration kits" in single, family and small-office sizes.

Predictably, the bottled-water supplier has seen its sales jump in recent weeks as everyone from nursing-home operators to its own employees place extra orders ahead of Jan. 1.

"Everything we've read is that the [municipal] water system is going to be OK, but everyone is skeptical," said Hinckley spokesman David Brimm.

Even so, the provisioning efforts now under way are too minor to have anything but a slight, short-term economic effect, noted Ed Yardeni, the Deutsche Morgan Alex. Brown chief economist who was formerly among the mainstream business world's leading Y2K alarmists.

"I've been surprised," he said. "I thought there would be a bigger impact, but the public is very relaxed. There's not much panic and hysteria."

Nor should there be, added Peter de Jager of Toronto, a prominent Y2K consultant and speaker. "Your survey is showing that most people in North America have well-stocked cupboards" that will be more than sufficient for the relatively minor snafus that might ensue, he said.

After all, he said, most computers in the U.S. and Canada have been fixed so they won't choke on a year ending in "00." That misreading of the date is the essence of the Y2K problem, with the potential to cause major disruptions if the error should shut down vital computer systems.

Most major banks and retailers have worked for years eradicating the bug, and preparing for year-end demand that many say hasn't materialized.

Spokesmen for the Dominick's supermarket chain and Chicago's Bank One Corp., for instance, both said Friday their companies had seen no evidence of hoarding.

The sense of confidence is reflected in the Tribune poll, in which nearly two-thirds of respondents saw no need to stockpile extra food, water or cash.

And the results of nationwide polls also reflected the sense of calm. The Gallup Organization, for instance, has found that less than half of the American public will take even one step to prepare for Y2K problems. Similar to the Tribune survey, about 40 percent of the population say they will stockpile food and water, according to a Gallup poll of 1,010 adults conducted in mid-November.

To be sure, public officials have taken care to avoid being alarmist. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), vice chairman of the Senate's Y2K committee, recently went about as far as any other prominent pol in telling NBC's "Meet the Press," "It's not unwise for people to do a little stockpiling." Dodd urged Americans to prepare as if they faced a "good storm or hurricane."

President Clinton, on the other hand, laughed off a question last month about whether he would set aside extra food for Y2K if he were an ordinary citizen. "America is in good shape," he replied. "I wouldn't hoard food, and I wouldn't hide."

Most Chicago-area residents see it the same way as the president, according to the poll.

"I don't see the point of hoarding," noted Chicago resident James Wynne, a Web-site developer. "I think the computers will be fine, but I don't know about the people, and I don't feel like contributing to that."

In fact, those who prepare extensively might be courting ridicule from the mainstream, as in the case of the Wisconsin technical college that bought 2,400 gallons of bottled water and nine tons of food to stock a "Y2K disaster shelter" on campus.

"Nutty behavior," thundered a state legislator in charge of Y2K planning. "We have to question the quality of their instruction, if this is the depth of their thinking."

The Tribune telephone poll of 515 metropolitan-area residents, conducted by Market Shares Corp. of Mt. Prospect earlier this month, revealed that city folk are more likely to hoard than suburbanites.

For instance, some 38 percent of Chicagoans say they will stockpile food, compared with 31 percent of those in the suburbs.

For bottled water, the split is 43 percent in the city and 37 percent in the suburbs, while those withdrawing extra cash amount to 40 percent in the city and 34 percent in the suburbs.

As for the amounts being set aside, those who say they plan to stockpile intend to keep an average of 15 days of food, 14.6 days of water and 11.3 days of cash on hand.

While that might sound like a recipe for empty grocery shelves and cashless ATMs, the overall effect is likely to be muted since the majority of area residents plan to do no hoarding at all.

And of those who do, few expect trouble ahead.

As many as 28 percent of those who say they're confident Y2K problems will be fixed in general are stockpiling bottled water, food or cash, anyway.

So what exactly are they hoarding?

Canned foods and bottled water top the list, according to a recent survey conducted by Information Resources Inc., the Chicago market research firm.

After that come batteries, toilet tissue, canned or bottled drinks and flashlights, the survey says. Prescription drugs, matches, and candles also make it on many Millennium Bug shopping lists, the survey shows.

Jodette Feigl, an office worker who lives with her husband and two cats in Hometown, has taken it even further.

Instead of keeping the usual three or four boxes of cereal on hand, she has 15. And instead of a few cans of cat food in the cupboard, she has dozens and plans to buy "a lot more," she said. "I don't want them to suffer."

Her millennium stash also includes bottles of juice, toilet paper, peanuts, fruit cocktail, canned beans, boxed rice and "a ton" of garbage bags, she said.

"A lot of people think nothing's going to happen, including my husband," Feigl said.

"Probably nothing will happen," she said. "I don't know, and I don't want to be unprepared."

URL: http://www.chicago.tribune.com/version1/article/0,1575,ART-39253,00.html


-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), December 11, 1999


Guess we will all find out in three weeks....

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), December 11, 1999.

KOS, not long now. I posted this article because it does show some willingness to prep, but it also shows us that there is no BIG push from the Chicago Tribune to encourage their readers to prep.

BTW, Old El Paso brand instant Re-Fried Beans are GREAT---get some.

-- snooze button (alarmclock_2000@yahoo.com), December 11, 1999.

I wouldn't like to be in Chicago. The police
there aren't famous for their compassion. They
would make Seattle look like a pillow fight.

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), December 11, 1999.

Lets see here. 36% of 8,000,000 people in Chicago not counting the suburbs is about 2,880,000 people TRYING to get EXTRA cash from the banks in the next 20 days. I am wondering just how many people will NOT be able to get extra CASH before the end of the year???

-- y2k dave (xsdaa111@hotmail.com), December 11, 1999.

Something's fishy in this story, see my response to "UncleBob"s post of the same story above.

(sorry, I read his first)

-- plonk! (realaddress@hotmail.com), December 11, 1999.


"With these [concerted remediation] efforts, doomsday has now been averted, says Peter de Jager, a Brampton, Ont.-based programmer and consultant, whose warnings about the looming Y2K problem helped sound the alarm among government and industry leaders around the world. But Mr. de Jager says he is worried that his most recent pronouncements have been interpreted as a signal that all Y2K problems are solved and everyone can relax. "I'm frankly flabbergasted to read reports that I've said that the year 2000 thing is a dud or that it doesn't exist," he says. "We need to be very vigilant because there are still very large issues out there. No matter how diligent we are, there are going to be problems," he says. Every organization is likely to encounter glitches that have been overlooked or new errors that were introduced when the original problems were being fixed. And with these problems comes a certain degree of risk, he says. "The wild card is what if some of these problems are critical points of failure, where one failure has a far- reaching effect throughout your organization?" - 'Preparing For The Worst, What's The Best To Expect?', GLOBE AND MAIL, 20th April, 1999

"On a personal level, [Canadian Y2K guru Peter] de Jager said every household in North America ought to maintain a normal level of sufficiency for any disaster, about two to three weeks of food, supplies and a generator." - from a report in the (U.S.) Evansville Courier And Press on the "Are You Y2K Okay?" seminar sponsored by the Metropolitan Evansville Chamber of Commerce in May, 1999.

"Even Peter de Jager is astounded by the complacency that greeted his widely reported Doomsday Avoided essay, which ran first on his Internet site and was quickly disseminated with varying degrees of accuracy throughout the world's mass media. As he told us in frustration, "the media can't sing in middle C."" - From the book "KRASH! How Y2K Could Sink The Stock Market And What Canadians Can Do About It," Stephen Gadsden & Jonathan Chevreau, published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited.

"In the past few years, various groups and individuals have been preaching the necessity of stockpiling food, cash, candles, camping gear and weapons. The more extreme "Y2K activists" have even recommended building underground bunkers or heading into the woods. Mr. de Jager will have none of it. "Over the next little while, when we go to the grocery, we will buy an extra couple of cans of soup," he says." - In The Houses Of The Gurus', Marjo Johne, Financial Post, 22nd October, 1999.

And this gem from PC WORLD, Sept. 22, 1999 [just imagine - all those power utilities spending hundreds of millions to try to fix a "bogus problem"!]...
"Some millennium computer bug prophets of doom are having second thoughts, but others are still insisting that the world faces chaos at midnight on December 31, 1999.
Computer industry consultant Peter de Jager has spent more than six years traveling the world warning about the potential for disaster from the millennium bug.
He was among the first experts to realize that an old method of recording dates on software could cause mayhem in computers when clocks strike midnight at the end of this year.
According to de Jager you can relax. Power generation around the world is unlikely to be affected. Telephone and data transmission will continue as usual. The banking system is rock solid.
"Nowhere (globally) has any power utility found anything related to Y2K that could have shut off or disrupted power supply. The whole notion of blackouts is bogus," he says.
He reckons that there may be some blackouts over the millennium period, but this will be due to local management problems as demand fluctuates, rather than computer systems.
De Jager believes the biggest threat will come from the public's perception of the problem rather than from Y2K itself. If consumers decide to stockpile essentials like food, water, or cash, this could severely disrupt economies."
There could be Y2K chaos without a single computer failing. . . ."

-- John Whitley (jwhitley@inforamp.net), December 12, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ