Port backups, labor shortage due to sickness keeps items off of shelves

The ports remain jammed, so much so, that products keep arriving late. Now, Bay Area air quality officials want the diesel-powered container ships anchored in the Bay to go out to wait at sea instead of idling in the bay. 

That may delay some goods, but Professor Saikat Caudhuri, a UC Berkeley supply chain expert says this. "Things are shifting. Right? It not always the same problem that we're dealing with," said the professor. The biggest delay right now is labor worldwide. "Workers are falling sick. So, you don't have people, say in the warehouses or truck drivers to take these things," said Caudhuri.

Whether at a grocery, hardware, clothing or other store, there are many missing items. "Air freight rates and shipping rates are up double or three times. Sometimes, frankly, it's not worth it for the retailers to get certain products," said Caudhuri,

What about food? "There's plenty of food, plenty of product. It's just getting it from point A to point B," said Nate Rose of the California Grocers Association. 

Keith Trimble, manager of his family owned Village Market in Oakland, says the actual number and variety of food products offered, called SKUs, is down. 

"So, if they used to have 10 different SKUs, maybe now they have five; just concentrating on the better sellers," said Trimble. 

Consider the case of the pasta/pesto case. There are many things available, but there are also holes where no supply is available. It doesn't mean you can't have pasta and pesto, It simply means you have to make other choices. "Our customers and just people in general are being creative with their buying. If they can't get the thing they used to buy, they try something new," said Trimble. 

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In many cases, what you want will show up. "You might go to a store on a Tuesday and, you know, there's something you're looking for that may be out of stock. If you went there Wednesday sometime, it would probably be there," said Mr. Rose.

One shopper says he sees on one major exception where the shortage is real and widespread. "It's the COVID test that has been very hard to supply. A friend got me some by going to Walgreens at 6:30 a.m. when they get their re-supply," said Keith Milne.

One shocking fact about supply, demand and inflation. The average price of a new car today: $47,000.