And then it was gone. The little creamery in Brenham just ... stopped ... making it. I considered special ordering it, but I drew the line at paying something like 10X what I did in the store. I didn’t value it THAT much.
Fast-forward to this year. I decided to give Blue Bell’s Sea Salt Caramel a try. I love caramel, but marrying sugars and salts doesn’t do it for me. I’m glad I took the dive though, because that’s some good stuff.
And now IT has disappeared. I haven’t been able to find it at any nearby grocery store for the last few weeks. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson and stocked up like Elaine Benes hoarding sponges on “Seinfeld.” But no, I didn't.
Alas, if I had, you can bet there would have been a premium put on every bite, for both my daughters AND me. Who knows when, or IF Blue Bell would ever make it again?? It would have been my version of a fine wine that you break open only on a special occasion. Its scarcity has increased its value.
Now imagine it’s YOUR favorite food, and you did have the foresight to stock up in anticipation of such a possible shortage. But instead of consuming it, you rely on selling it to make a living. That's the dilemma vendors of water, gasoline, batteries and the like face when a hurricane like Harvey is heading their way. They don't know when their next supply shipments are coming, or IF they’re coming. They don't even know if their place of business will still be standing post-landfall.
Keep this in mind when demagogues start screaming about price gouging. These vendors are humans just like us, humans with strong enough nerve to risk a LOT to supply us with everything we want AND need. And now, just like the rest of us, they’re facing what is hopefully just a temporary disruption of an important part of their life. They don’t raise prices to screw consumers, but rather to defend their livelihood.
Or take for instance the guy who was filmed selling bottles of water out of the back of his truck in the parking lot of a WalMart in Houston as Harvey was bearing down. The man filming the video berates him, presuming to know what he and his family needs, telling him he “should be ashamed of himself.”
But why? No one is forced to buy from him. If someone values the water enough, they’ll pay for it, no coercion involved. So what if he marks it up more than usual?? The whole episode invariably ends up being pro-consumer: either no one will buy the water and he’ll be forced to drop his price, or people will scoop all of it up, thereby luring in other suppliers who’ll offer a lower price in order to gain the business. Some of my students seemed to know this on the first night of class last night.
Buyers and sellers, acting independently, will always bring about a result that is satisfactory to all parties. We shouldn’t allow our emotions, our sense of envy or insecurity, or presumptuousness of others’ business, to demonize someone making a profit, especially when it’s fleeting and short-term. The only individuals who profit from such intellectual and emotional gullibility are politicians, from BOTH major parties, wanting to look heroic. The worst of them are only too happy to hook up some more dependents to the State.
In the meantime, HEB does more to endear itself to Texans by sending caravans of food, supplies, etc. to my hometown of Victoria, and other communities in the area hardest hit by Harvey. As the mosque burning earlier in the year demonstrated, the free market of charity is as effective as any government action at helping people truly in need.
Especially here in the great Lone Star State.