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Economic Signs - Scott Adams' Blog

Economic Signs

Apparently the economy in California is doing well. My personal economic indicator revolves around how hard it is to buy ordinary goods and services. At the moment it is very hard.

For starters, the lines everywhere are longer, and the traffic is notably worse than a few years ago. If you can get to a physical store, they don’t have your size in stock, or the popular model is already sold out. At best, the salesperson might try to order your item from another store if you can wait a week. With the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies, physical stores are empty shells waiting for the Internet to deliver a head shot.

Apple stores are exceptions. They generally seem to have every model in stock and the staff is excellent. But I won’t buy anything at an Apple store this summer because I’m quite certain they have new and better stuff coming soon. Apple trained me not to buy their products today if they might come out with something better soon, and they are always coming out with something better soon. I’ve been staring at my old and defective iPad for six months wishing there was something I could do about it.

Online shopping isn’t much better. Let’s say I realize I need to replace some sort of broken item in my house, which is a process that happens a lot. So I go to a web page that carries that product and use the contact link to find the email address for the company. I type out a simple question about the product and wait for a response.

And it never comes.

What kind of company doesn’t bother answering a customer who already has his credit card in his hand? Answer: One that has too much business already.

Buying clothes online works unless you want a size that fits. Those sizes are generally not available, even online, which I find puzzling. And if heather grey and navy blue aren’t your colors, you’re usually out of luck.

And what’s up with taking two weeks to deliver an item you purchased online? Which part of the supply chain is doing so well they can’t keep up with the business?

I hired a locksmith recently to fix a broken bathroom door locking mechanism. He worked on it over the course of three separate days, including trips back to headquarters to get parts. When he was done, he proudly showed his work. The door handles were back on the door and functioning! The only problem was that the door would never again lock, because he didn’t have the right parts for that. He’s a locksmith who doesn’t think the “locking” part of a bathroom door is terribly important. Apparently his boss was having a hard time hiring qualified employees. That was a bad situation for me, but a good sign for the economy.

I realize this is all anecdotal, but how hard are you finding it to buy normal goods and services compared to a year or two ago?