Pandemic Scarcity – How Shortages Are Affecting Consumers 

Delana Hall, left, and Alexcia Davis, right, talk how the pandemic impacted the production shortages around the U.S.



The effects of product shortages have hit big business where it hurts. Financially, big businesses are losing money as demands for various consumer goods continue to rise, while supplies worldwide plummet.  At U.S. ports, ships are docked and are backing up. Due to the employee shortage caused by the pandemic, warehouses are empty and it is trickling down to consumers.  


The ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt worldwide hitting consumers hard. With domestic and international imports and exports at a virtual standstill, shoppers are facing inconveniences in their everyday lives. What began as shortages in toilet paper, paper towels and disinfectants in 2020 has grown to Items like computer chips and are causing a backlog in cars and computers. Other items on shortage include paper bags, couches, appliances and school supplies.  


Restaurants continue to be one of the hardest hit markets after the pandemic. Facing a massive labor shortage, restaurants are unable to fill orders and have been forced to modify menus and business hours while straining to keep doors open. For fast food restaurants, long lines and wait times have become the norm because of an employee shortage. Now, fast food restaurants are facing another battle in retaining customers — a shortage in condiments.  


Ketchup packets were one of the first reported condiment shortages restaurants reported and customers are growing increasingly inconvenienced. Now, specialty sauces for some fast-food favorites are next on the shortage list.  


“Just recently I visited Taco Bell. After ordering, I learned they had no sauce. The manager had already rang me up and took my payment; without sharing they had no condiments. I felt so offended that he didn’t inform me of this before placing my order,” says Delana Hall. “I kindly asked for my money back and he obliged.” 


This consumer was met with a similar issue at another fast-food restaurant. This time, the problem extended to additional items in the restaurant.  


“The exact same thing happened at White Castle; they had no ketchup, ranch or napkins,” says Hall. 


Chain stores and restaurants are also suffering the effects of product shortages. Consumer stores have bare shelves and restaurants both big and small are being forced to eliminate popular menu items to supplement the failing supply.  


“J Alexander’s has been out of crab cakes for about eight months now. Plastic flatware is almost impossible to find in major chains like Target and Meijer. Top shelf liquor is sparse in some restaurants; Sedona Taphouse didn’t have Patron for months,” says consumer Taylour Baskin.  


Brides and grooms have faced mounting pressure preparing for their special day. Venue closures, dress delays, and limited capacities have all threatened to reshape wedding plans. Brides are getting a jump on planning in hopes of avoiding product outages.  


“As it pertains to my wedding, I haven’t experienced any shortages. I have experienced delays just with the production of my bridesmaids’ dresses and production with my dress. This is partially why I started so early because I knew COVID would put a delay on things,” says Alexcia Davis, who is set to wed February 2022.  


Though not experiencing personal wedding woes for products, Davis, who is a social worker professionally, also services clientele with floral arrangements. Flowers have been hard to obtain as shortages spread across various markets.  


“Shopping, specifically for flowers or in general, has been kind of frustrating because there are certain things that I need to dye flowers or design flowers — they haven’t been available at all. They say they’re on backorder, but they have not been available at all,” says Davis. “That’s frustrating because it forces you to be creative in other ways just so clients can still get what they want.” 


America is still struggling with getting a grasp on the coronavirus. Countries known for production and shipment of American goods are facing soaring COVID cases making warehouse and factory jobs a breeding ground for spreading the virus.  


“I believe a lot of shipping and logistics companies are short-staffed. If you don’t have people to deliver, chains can’t get their regular orders fulfilled,” says Baskin.  


As the weather cools, shoppers are looking to get prepared for the colder months by purchasing winter apparel. Stores, online as well as brick-and-mortar, are unable to fulfill orders and this is adding to the growing problem.  


“I recently placed an order for sweatshirts. The advertisement read ‘order now get free shipping and 45 percent off.’ I placed a $200 order and after inquiring about the status after a week or so, they replied that my order is on backorder and it won’t be processed for at least two to four weeks,” says Hall. 


The pandemic is not yet over and its tight hold on the economy seems to be strengthening. Prices are rising as products become scarce further upsetting the supply and demand scales.  


“I don’t think the hard part is over yet. We could still be months in,” says Hall. 


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