Global supply chain glitch pinches locally

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Meijer store sign states limit of four items per shopper.

Veronica Bolanos

To help people get scarce products, Meijer limits how many items consumers can purchase at a time.

Michael Thibideau, an assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University, says that people’s reaction to buying items like toilet paper have forced grocery stores to try keep up with high demand. With shortages of meat, saltines and other items, stores across the nation have had to redesign how they fulfill orders. 

“Grocery also had a crisis driven move to support online buying and outside package pickup or home delivery so had to re-engineer transactional and fulfillment processes nearly instantly,” said Thibideau. “They also then had a serious shortage of workers in many packing plants due to health risks, so we saw shortages and rising prices for meats.” 

Consumers are seeing firsthand how the shortage of workers is leading to a lack of food selections at grocery stores. Shoppers in Mason are having to switch brands and adapt to a life where not everything is available. 

For Chris Schmidt, a frequent builder for projects in and outside his home, it’s about more than just him. He has seen from his colleagues, friends and family that everybody is having to change what they eat. 

Veronica Bolanos

A place where baby cucumbers normally are is filled with peppers until the store gets a new shipment in.

“Prices are crazier. Stuff is costing 20, 30, 40% more than what it used to be,” Schmidt said. “I’m more of a builder, but my wife is a baker so stuff like vanilla has been hard to come by. You get what you get whenever it comes in.”

From a worker’s perspective, it’s been nothing short of a constant struggle of being able to keep up. Jason, one of the stockers at the Meijer in Mason, describes the ever-changing supply chain issues as frustrating and tiring. 

 “It’s been kinda crazy. I mean one week we’ll have something, and the next week we won’t. For the most part people have been pretty understanding.” Jason started about a year ago, and has been working throughout the pandemic. “I know we’re pretty short staffed here, but everywhere is. It’s been across the board in terms of being short on things. Like right now, we’re out of cucumbers, and I don’t know when we’ll get more.”

Another Mason resident is frustrated that a shortage of workers has still not been solved. Brent Hukill says the scarcity of food should not still be happening.

“I don’t like it,” said Hukill. “I expect the supply to be there. I think that’s important. The shortage of something like chips affects us all.” 

A shopper in the parking lot says that the shortage of certain products has forced her to go to other stores to get certain brand-named products that she needs. She said she has learned to make compromises with other products when needed.

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