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Sell more, deliver less, bro down.
March 23, 2022

I’m a Florida Man. Not the “wraslin’-alligators, all-hopped-up-on-crystal-meth” kind of Florida Man. But the “I grew up in Florida and have thin blood” sort. I’ve spent the past two weeks in the cold and it has made my skin very dry. And it turns out, skin is also inside your nose. Who knew? So now I have an unfortunate affliction of cracked skin inside my nose. The pain, the agony. You use your nose a lot, it would seem, and I’ve never been more aware of my nose than I am now. 

I popped into a Duane Reade (a Walgreens, for those not in NYC) for some travel-sized tissues, saline spray, and a ChapStick, to soothe my aching nose-holes. The total for my visit? $15.50 — due to bulkflation.

We’ve all heard of shrinkflation - the term used when brands sell you less for the same money. Packages get marginally smaller, or the contents inside are a scant less than usual. This happens in times of poor economic factors; the last time we saw shrinkflation at scale was during the 2008 housing crisis and subsequent recession.

But this is something different. In today’s economic environment, Duane Reade no longer sells a single packet of travel-sized tissues. Instead, they have a bulk package with 8 small travel-sized tissues in the package, individually wrapped, but not available for individual sale. The same story with the Saline spray — it’s bogo, but twice as expensive as usual, and obligates me to get two instead of one. ChapStick? Fuggidaboutit; I had to buy three in order to cop just one. They’re all name-brands, too. No house brand whitelabel shenanigans. The margins just aren’t there. 

I asked a store employee why they don’t sell small travel-sized individual items. “We stopped that a few weeks ago. You can only buy the big ones now” was his reply. Another employee said, “yeah it’s all this inflation s***”. 

What I experienced at Duane Reade is a manifestation of what I’m calling bulkflation: selling smaller-priced items in kits and bulk, in an effort to hide the rising costs of those products. In the case of the tissues, buying in smaller packages has always had a convenience cost associated. Rather than $0.03 per tissue from a larger package you’d expect to pay $0.05 or $0.07 apiece. But with this bulk-travel-sized option, you get the worst of both worlds: higher cost per piece ($0.11) AND the requirement of buying more than you reasonably need. 

As we weather inflation, this type of tactic will be required to offset the uncertainty of costs that retailers have. In managing rising fuel costs, Jetblue is canceling flights, Uber and Instacart have added fuel surcharges. And then there’s the cost of packaged goods themselves, which are only getting more expensive as the price of labor and raw materials get more expensive and more scarce.

One way to combat this as a consumer is to be more prepared and thereby spend less. Mine was a cost of convenience; had I thought to bring tissues, ChapStik, and nasal spray on this trip I wouldn’t have written this piece. But it’s a lesson that this Florida Man won’t soon forget.

Convenience has a price, and in 2022, that price is (much) higher than it used to be. 

— Phillip

Get your goat. Kawasaki has not yet introduced an electric motorcycle to the market, despite former promises. However, in Tokyo at the International Robot Exhibition, they did show off a lovely electric robot goat named Bex, short for Ibex. Motorcycles are cool, but… goats are… also cool.

Wild new tech. A new Chrome extension is able to detect artificial profile pictures with a reported 99% accuracy. Also, the browser is now a full-blown operating system. It's the next frontier for commerce apps. First Honey, then crypto wallets. Next: shop everything, everywhere, all of the time.

More Sights & Sounds. Apple has a new patent for removable MacBook keyboard keys that could be used as a mouse. BMW and KITH have paired up to make a limited (150 total) edition BMW M4 with $38,000 in options. Austin, TX is attempting to marry tech and fashion with a 13.1 million incubator for fashion resale platforms. Greenerways, LLC, an organic products manufacturer in California has filed for bankruptcy, and 8 or more lawsuits are pending against them for the millions they owe trucking and logistics companies. The cloud era has an integrated API solution for literally everything. A Walmart distribution center in Plainfield, Indiana caught fire and the smoke billows were so huge they could be seen from space. A med student in India surgically implanted a Bluetooth device into his ear to help him pass his final exam via an age-old method known as “cheating.” Lenny Kravitz’s co-founded DTC toothpaste brand, Twice, is launching in Target and Wegmans. Sir Mix-a-lot is celebrating the 30 year anniversary of “Baby Got Back” with NFTs that benefit the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Pusha T didn’t get properly paid for his “I’m loving it” jingle for McDonald’s, and now he’s written a Filet-O-Fish diss jingle to promote Arby’s fish sandwich. Putin has declared that “unfriendly” countries will have to pay for Russia’s natural gas in rubles. And with everything happening in Ukraine, Americans are hoarding coins.

Student Athlete Stars. Adidas is launching a paid affiliate program now that student athletes can profit from their name and likenesses. Adidas will open up this opportunity to 50,000 students.

Impossible changes. There’s been a leadership shakeup in the fake meat world. Pat Brown is stepping away from his role of CEO at Impossible Foods, eleven years after founding the company. Chobani’s Peter McGuinness will take over the role at Impossible Foods.

Bad news for Doug. If you remember, back in our November 19th Senses we reported on Doug, the 17-pound celebrity potato. Well, new science has emerged since then revealing that Doug was no potato, according to Guinness World Records. Rather, after testing a sample specimen of Doug, he was determined to be some type of gourd, so he will not make it into the world records after all. Sorry, Doug. We were rooting for you.

More Palate News. Instacart will begin adding temporary fuel surcharges to orders to offset increasing gas prices. Uber and Lyft have already added these charges to their services. Wendy’s launched a breakfast menu two years ago in March 2020 and is now poised to surpass Burger King as the number two player in the breakfast market, second to McDonald’s.

Photo by Aegon Boucicault on Unsplash

iPod Mods. iPods are making a comeback, but not from Apple. People are tracking down the old devices, repairing them, and taking their music back to the click wheel, rather than sticking with streaming service. Modders are even adding Bluetooth to the retired devices.

Corporate climate impact regulations. The SEC is inching closer to enacting a climate disclosure rule for public companies. If it passes, companies would be required to report to the government and to their shareholders what their environmental impact is. This rule would also hold the companies accountable for their impact, as well as give their investors leverage in pushing companies toward change.

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