Frankenstorm: Bringing Out the Best and The Worst. And the Dumbest.

by Darwin on October 28, 2012

With the East Coast gripped in fear from Hurricane Sandy AKA Frankenstorm, I thought I’d share some of my personal observations and experiences as an East-Coaster as we brace for the storm of the century (of the year; ya know, cause each year there’s a storm of the century).

  • People Wait Until the Day Before a Storm to Buy a Generator. And then Curse the Stores that are Sold Out – This is the same absurd dark comedy that plays out each and every storm.  People that somehow escaped prior storms unscathed (or didn’t) decide that 1 day prior to landfall is the optimal time to finally buy a generator.  I happened to have a completely non-storm related issue going on with my dishwasher today.  I was in search of discharge hoses for a Bosch dishwasher and to my chagrin, learned that there’s nothing “standard” about those German bastards.  Everything is custom… even though Lowes sells Bosch and told me over the phone they had what I needed in stock.  So, while I was in Lowe’s I couldn’t help but notice the frenzied look of fear in peoples’ eyes running around the store stocking up on flashlights and batteries.  I saw 2 different people hoarding 5 Gallon gas cans.  They had 2 in each hand for a grand total of 20 gallons of gas storage.  When Lowe’s didn’t have what I needed, I tried calling an ACE Hardware since they sometimes have a more eclectic mix of hardware.  After several attempts due to busy signals, I finally got a fanatical pickup where she literally yelled into the phone, “Ace, We’re Out of Generators!”.  She then paused, presumably waiting for me to hang up.  I said, “That’s how you answer the phone?”.  She repeated that they’re out of generators.  It’s all about generators these days even though there was ample supply a week ago.  Incidentally, I bought one a few years ago out of season on a 40% off sale at Lowes.  So, if you somehow make it through this storm and missed out, keep your eye on sales in the Spring!
  • Gas Stations Out of Gas – This is another one that confounds me.  I was out running errands Friday night and knew the car was running low so I filled up.  By Saturday, many gas stations were starting to shut down as they ran out of fuel.  By Sunday, few and far between.  Why wait until the last minute?  I don’t get it.
  • Price Gouging is Good and it’s ridiculous that it’s illegal – Most economists and other rational thinkers agree that price gouging is good for society, especially during an emergency.  I list out several reasons in that post, but in summary, it prevents schmucks from gorging themselves on stuff they don’t need at an artificially low “pre-emergency” price therefore depriving others of goods and services they could benefit from.  In other words, do you think society is better off with 5 people buying all the bread in the entire grocery store or if the price of bread went up from $2 to $10 and people thought twice before buying 39 loaves?  If you’re gonna be a prick and suck up all the supply, you should pay for it.  That’s how the world is supposed to work.  But no, we allow our emotions to dictate policy and just like the guy trying to sell generators during Katrina, the powers that be would sooner punish suppliers of goods at elevated prices.
  • And Now for the Good… It’s not all bad.  While we had bought some extra water, bread and all the other stuff stripped from the shelves by Sunday earlier that week, what we were missing due to our dishwasher mishap was some paper plates.  Yes, my wife sent me out to buy paper plates during the frenzy, so we didn’t have to handwash dishes for days on end awaiting these stupid Bosch hoses to arrive.  So, while on line, each register was fairly busy and a woman with a full cart looked back at me and said, “Why don’t you go sir”.  I was thinking how nice that was.  As everyone’s angry and freaking out about not stocking up on enough stuff, she was still pleasant and acting like she probably does on any other day, telling someone with one item to jump ahead of her on line.  I don’t believe in Karma, but if I did, I think the storm would spare her any grief.

With that largely useless opinion piece off my chest, here’s my Weekly Reading post I haven’t gotten around to in far too long:

Reads from Around the Web:


Carnivals that Featured My Content:

Stuff I Wrote All over in No Particular Order:

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Investor Junkie October 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Thanks for the mention, and yes we should allow retails to charge whatever they want, but Chuck Schumer would get involved to “protect the consumer”


101 Centavos October 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I did the yearly cranking of the generator this weekend, winter preparations and all.

Count me in as one who’s not particularly bothered by “gouging”. Just market-based pricing, is all.

Oh, and thanks for the mention.


Financial Samurai October 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Question for you mate. Why do so many people on the east coast make fun of those who live on the west coast with earthquakes and such, when there is a storm or multiple storms that cause a great deal of damage every year on the east coast?

You never hear people in Hawaii or the West Coast make fun of the East coast, or do you?


Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner October 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Great post, got a good chuckle from this “… largely useless opinion piece…” Thanks for including a link to my mutual fund family post. Hope that you and the family make it through the bad weather unscathed.


Adam Hathaway October 29, 2012 at 9:34 am

I am of the same opinion when it comes to all of the above. Price gauging would also force people to plan further in advance as well. I can understand those that live in remote areas stocking up on food items and such, but outside of batteries and water what the hell else do you need to stock up so much for. When was the last time you were unable to purchase food for over a week anyway?


Investor Junkie October 29, 2012 at 9:50 am

It’s all about the “social justice”. In addition, if someone does price gauge you think people will forget? If it’s a big enough issue to them, they will not visit them again in normal times.


Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner October 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

@Investor Junkie I totally agree with your comment. I was in eastern Iowa on 9/11 to do a couple of seminars at a plant location of a Fortune 100 company as an Ernst & Young contractor. I to this day recall a chain of gas station/convenience stores that raised the price of gas to over $6 a gallon in the wake of the tragedy. To this day I refuse to patronize this chain.


Kevin @ Ask For Benefits October 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm

People have an innate sense that they can buy sometime just in time, but it typically fails. I run into the same behavior every day from people looking to buy insurance – after getting bad news from the doctor.

My generator is tuned, and we have 45 gallons of gas in two cars, and three gas cans. Of course I bought the generator last year – after the Irene knocked out power and my basement filled with water because the sump pump had no juice.


Darwin November 1, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Yeah, that insurance thing is part of what’s so screwed up about Obamacare. A mere few hundred bucks penalty for people who don’t get their own insurance but they’re automatically covered for major ailments regardless.


Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin October 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm

In a society that is suppose to be based on capitalism it is pretty absurd that price gouging is illegal. It’s all about supply and demand. As for people waiting until the last minute that’s human nature. We see it in individuals who are getting ready to retire as well. People don’t start taking their retirement seriously until they’re approximately 35-40 years of age and by then they’ve lost out on 15-20 years of compounding interest. Smh! Great post, I’m looking to get a natural gas generator next winter 😉


Darwin November 1, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Very true; we’re about to see another storm next week. I wonder if people will react more quickly this weekend!


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