I’m sure you’ve been seeing plenty of coronavirus (2019-nCoV, COVID-19) news. My goal for this post and potential posts is to focus on tool-related or pro-affecting news, observations, and happenings.
At the moment, the main tool and pro-related news is centered around PPE gear (respirators) and cleaning product shortages.
Disinfectant supplies, bleach, and other such materials are in short supply here, as shoppers stock up and prepare. Shown above is the cleaning section at the local Target store. If you require the use of any cleaners for your work, you might have to forego your favorite brand.
The local large supermarket seems to be selling a lot of toilet paper, and have even emptied their upper-level racks, despite authorities insisting that there are and won’t be any shortages or supply chain issues. There are no local sell-outs yet that I’ve seen.
The problem with panic-buying and hoarding, as it has been described by the media, is that it creates a shortage that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.
Hand sanitizer has become extremely scarce, sold out at the local Home Depot, Target, and supermarkets. Checking online, office supply stores, industrial suppliers, and other retailers are not shipping any consumer-aimed hand sanitizer products and are reporting zero or “limited” in-store inventories. Commercial products still seem to be available, such as wall dispenser refills.
Tyler wrote in today (thank you!), informing me that Ebay has started to remove 3rd party listings. It has been in the news recently 3rd party sellers were price-gouging customers.
The message reads:
Due to regulatory restrictions across the United States, we have chosen to ban certain items listed on our site.
Effective immediately, eBay will block new listings and start to remove listings that sell:
• Masks including N95/N100 and surgical masks
• Hand Sanitizer/Gel
• Disinfecting Wipes
We will continue to monitor the evolving situation and quickly remove any listing that mentions COVID-19, coronavirus, 2019nCoV (except books) in the title, description, or MPN.
These listings may violate applicable US laws or regulations, eBay policies, and exhibit unfair pricing behavior for our buyers.
I wrote about respirator shortages and price-gouging nearly two weeks ago, and the situation doesn’t seem to have improved. Pros that need respirators as part of their personal protective gear can still find reusable half-mask respirators at some places. Online inventories seem to be stretched, with backorders on Amazon now quoted as being 1-2 months on the SKUs I checked.
Home Depot seems to be sold out of all kinds of respirator PPE gear. I spotted a couple of hidden Milwaukee N95 masks at one local store, but they’re sure to be sold out by now.
3M has issued a statement (PDF) that they’ve received reports of an increase in fraudulent and counterfeit activity in connection with the novel coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV) and that examples include people fraudulently misrepresenting themselves as being affiliated with 3M and having authentic 3M product to sell or are selling counterfeit 3M products.
3M advises that customers only purchase their products from authorized dealers or distributors. They also offer tips on identifying and avoiding counterfeit products:
- 3M respirators will be sold in 3M packaging, with model-specific user instructions accompanying the product
- 3M respirators should not be sold individually, in bulk (such as large bags or boxes of loose respirators), or without packaging (including User Instructions)
- 3M has strict quality standards, and therefore products that have missing straps, strange odors, blocked valves, misspelled words, etc. are likely not authentic 3M respirators
After my post on respirators, am industry contact informed me that they’re:
getting reports from vendors that China is prohibiting the export of masks so they can keep them for their own use.
I’ve seen this mentioned one or two other places since then.
I received a marketing email from Bridge City Tools, now owned by Harvey Industries, a China-based manufacturer for woodworking machines and accessories, headquartered in Nanjing. The email promotes a new discount on the unconventionally-designed Gyro Air dust collector, and in the email they show the above graphic, saying:
Gyro Air; A Natural Enemy of Coronavirus
I can’t put my finger on why, but this really annoyed me. Different brands and retailers focus marketing on cold and flu season all the time, but in the midst of a worldwide outbreak, this seems inappropriate. Or am I overreacting?
I also received an email from an air purifier and humidifier company, focused on HEPA air purifiers, but that seemed less offensive. Their email advertised specific models that were being sent (sold?) to customers in Asia for use in “clinics and working spaces,” as well as hospitals.
I was asked to investigate the potential for tool-related supply chain disruptions, but have not seen or heard anything relevant, aside from the current shortage of respirators due to panic-buying and hoarding.
Are there any other tool-related angles that we should be paying attention to?
If you won’t prepare prior to a problem, you can’t prepare after one becomes apparent….
JR3 Home Performance
You can’t expect suppliers to be able to ramp up production capability magically and it’s not in their interest to hold excess inventory for demand spikes. Perhaps school children should be taught what resilience is and how to practice it conservatively without going to extremes. It would help maintain calm over a wider range of situations. All people should keep a small stock of ppe. The Chinese especially should have respirators, they unfortunately live with elevated micro-particles and should be protecting themselves when going outside on a regular basis. Really everyone should have them. Who isn’t occasionally in need of some protecting from dust or particles on occasion outside of viral scares. I carry masks and first aid kits in all my vehicles.
Being proactive is a luxury afforded to people who have—and who grew up around those who also had—disposable income. Yes, even though, in the long run, being proactive tends to save money; tragically, it’s yet another example of how it’s expensive to be poor.
Good news is, that only applies to the “proactive” side of the coin. My housecleaners are working through the outbreak. Being poor makes you (mentally, at least) resilient AF.
I told them to stay home, and that I’d continue paying them for their time, regardless of work done, until it’s safe. This is the responsibility of rich people, and of the government, in times of crisis: to repay some of the cheap labor we’ve received by subsidizing those who can’t afford to (have) be(en) proactive. Ultimately, by helping to protect them, we keep society as a whole healthy.
Here here! Well said Dan!
I’m not talking about the suppliers. I’m talking about the people panic buying. If you won’t prepare a little here and a little there before there’s a problem, you can’t do it once the problem becomes apparent.
My attitude comes from growing up in hurricane country and seeing bare shelves as people stocked up at the last minute. The truism applies whether it’s hurricane, earthquake, disease or whatever….
This article on SBD potentially experiencing supply chain disruptions made the rounds in the local news. While manufacturers probably aren’t happy to broadcast this news (stock prices for most have dropped precipitously over the past few weeks), I would imagine this is probably going to be an issue for just about every major manufacturer given how important China and Southeast Asia are to their supply chains.
Ebay is worried that postings may “exhibit unfair pricing behavior for our buyers.” What? Since when does eBay have concern for unfair pricing?
I have a feeling because they would be fined for not enforcing the laws, though I really don’t think they should apply to individual customers. Same thing Amazon is doing.
It’s called a free market for a reason. I’m not saying it’s right to gouge, but no one has to buy from that person either. But if eBay wants to regulate one category, do it to them all.
The free market aspect doesn’t apply once a governor declares an official state of emergency which has happened in Washington, California, Pennsylvania, and Maryland so far. The exact definition of what constitutes price gouging varies by each state’s law but eBay is ensuring they aren’t on the hook for merchants violating anti-price gouging laws put into effect by those declared state of emergencies. My profession is Hotel Pricing so I’m very familiar with these laws as I work in a rather hurricane prone state.
The free market is not infinitely free. We have regulations for a reason. For example, you can’t sell your vital organs as the most extreme example. We do so that loved ones aren’t pressured to literally kill themselves to pay down the family debt.
Overpriced hand sanitizer is similar. I’d rather be banned from paying 10x markup than be sued because I didn’t. If you run an office and someone gets sick…do you want a lawyer questioning if you did enough to protect their client? Even outside lawsuits, do we want employees getting angry at their employer for not valuing their healthy enough to buy hand sanitizer at $100 a bottle?
We also need to consider mental illness. I have family members who would no doubt pay 20x markup on hand sanitizer because they have mental illness and the media is creating a climate of fear which is making them panic and act irrationally. While it’s easy to say “tough s***, make better choices,” the truth is someone has to compensate for their stupidity. That means a family member has to loan them money to pay their bills…or they start collecting public assistance. The stupidity in our community bites us all eventually in one way or another.
There’s a healthy debate to where to draw the line, but I think everyone agrees, it has to be drawn somewhere. I think eBay made the right decision.
Gouging, especially extreme cases, helps no one. They only cause harm and we’re better off banning them all together.
>Gouging, especially extreme cases, helps no one. They only cause harm and we’re better off banning them all together.
It’s supply and demand. It helps to determine who ACTUALLY needs the product and who isn’t just buying it for the hell of it. It also rewards people that prepare for these situations beforehand and helps to legitimize preparedness.
No, it helps determine who has the money to afford such a product, not who actually needs it. It’s really easy to blame people for not preparing ahead of time, but at least in the US, most people don’t know how they’d come up with $500 for an emergency. How are they supposed to justify spending money on a theoretical future emergency, when they don’t know how they’d pay for a real one happening now?
RE: Gyro Air
I’m not offended, but I just lost a ton of respect for Bridge City.
Agreed. At least as it reads to us here in North America.
That said they’re in Asia and possibly the subtlety is lost in translation. Mandarin/Cantonese to English.
My point is perhaps they’re marketing exactly the same way in China? A country where face masks have been ubiquitous for decades.
Possibly proving the Portland, OR Founder is no longer involved in marketing let alone cultural referencing.
Bridge City changed ownership in the last few years.
The attorney general of my state is looking into a hardware store chain that has been selling individual masks in sandwich bags.
As your State AG should. Though maybe just maybe their intent is honorable. But only if they’re charging the original retail. We’re they? And only as a “service” to their hardware and DIYer centric customers.
Still weird and hardly sanitary.
They were not charging original retail. They were separating large boxes that averaged 1.45$ per mask and selling them in zip lock bags for 10$.
That’s a lawsuit… 🙂
I could see a number of supply problems for various tool makers – and not necessarily chinese made tools. Italy is having a hell of a time too and if I recall a number of CMT and Frued blades are made in Italy.
Shipping is about to become more of an issue too with more things quarantined and the like.
Meanwhile Stuart to your point that advertisement rankles my nerves too – to the point where I wouldn’t buy that product even if it does work well. How the hell is a cyclone a natural enemy to a virus that is smaller than the pore wick of most paper air filters.
I’m a Dewalt fanboy.
But even I can see that this is just Willy-waving.
C’mon Dewalt, stop tinkering with current tech and get some decent innovation going on.
Err, how did this happen? I replied to Dewalt power detect thread. Weird!
It will be interesting to see what the overall effect is on tool production, not to mention retail in general, given how much product is manufactured in China.
AKA supply and demand. I hate the term “price gouging”. IF someone wants to pay $3000 for a N95 mask who am I to stop them.
Side note I think the whole corona virus issue shows why having global supply chains and manufacturing based in foreign countries should be considered a national security issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’m not talking about masks specifically as I know 3M also produces masks in the US. I meant in general. Being dependent on importation of goods rather than producing your own can cripple a country when something like this happens.
So keep the government out of price gouging but let them dictate where businesses can and can’t manufacture their goods… got it.
Good. Glad you understand they’re not mutually exclusive. The government already dictates where certain goods are produced that are of national security importance.
My take on the whole thing is that price gouging laws, while well intentioned, are ultimately a waste of time, because the black market will get around them. The government really can’t enforce laws at the individual transaction level. At the level of large centralized factory production however, enforcement of any kind of law concerning production is a whole lot easier and a much more realistic proposition.
You had better believe that offshoring is a threat to national security. Especially when people start to suffer or die because they can’t get their meds – meds that could have been made in the US for a reasonable amount. Instead, we have leaders that allowed this to happen, with no benefit to anything but some exec’s salary and likely some sellout politician’s campaign fund.
NAFTA, GATT, TPP, you name it – when people are expiring because the pharmacy is empty, just remember to thank globalism.
I told you there was going to be an issue.
(Seriously – https://toolguyd.com/more-about-mixed-product-sourcing/)
Masks are out now, but soon a lot of other China made items will be. Stock up on meds, and cheap electronics.
Looking long term, this is ultimately an indictment of both globalism and of a lack of emphasis on civil defense. Eisenhower had a point. The amount of a single f35 fighter is as low as $78 (lol wtf) million. At $.50 a mask, we’d have been able to provide free N95 masks for the whole country for about the cost of two of these things. If we spent a quarter of our defense budget on disaster preparedness (to cope with the floods, hurricanes, brushfires and natural disasters we routinely get) instead of insanely expensive planes to fight a war that won’t be fought with them, we’d save a lot of lives.
If we told the CEOs who wanted to save money by moving critical production overseas “No”, the only thing being missed would be the cost savings to the company, not penny of which would have passed on to the rank and file anyway.
At this point, some of you might figure out that you are being ripped off. When you are miserable enough to pay attention, I’ll explain to you why.
This isn’t the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. You will survive, and you will learn to appreciate your family, friends and neighbors – your people. You will also learn things about the supply chain, and why it is so important.
I just saw some shameful price gouging on Menard’s web page. Two packs of 3M N95 and P95 masks for $40 before $20 rebate. After rebate, that is about 3 times the normal price. Shame on Menards.
And all other traces of now-sold-out masks have been removed from their site too, so you won’t realize that $10/each is a deal… I expected more from Menards.