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Reply to "Just Saying Hi... Again..."

@Stan Galat posted:

Huh. The last "year or two" you say. Gee... I wonder why that is?

We can't speak of it without bifurcating into camps, but let's just agree that what has changed "in the last year or two" has resulted in a complete upending of the glonal economy. This is the "new normal" we were told to expect.

I will have owned and operated a small business for 25 years next Sept., and can tell you the last 20 months (and particularly 2021) have been the hardest and least fun of any of them. There's money to be made for sure - but the unpredictability of equipment and material pricing (indeed, whether or not I'll even be able to get the material, tools, and sundries we need to do business) make bidding nearly impossible. Scratch that - it IS impossible, and I won't do it. That makes me a contractor that won't contract - everything is time and material.

Forget everything you think you know about business and what is a normal (timetables, processes, etc.) for anything. Chrome window frames in 3 months sounds astoundingly fast to me. They didn't lose them? They didn't send them back unchromed after 9 months? You must be living correctly.

You've noticed the empty car lots, correct? And the random shelves at the supermarket completely cleaned out of something arbitrary (bread? potato chips? vegetable dip?) for weeks at a time? Have you attempted to purchase a roll of Romex of late? The current price for 12/2 with a ground is $135 for a 250 ft roll. It was about $35 6 months ago. I haven't been able to find or buy a 200a meter socket for months.

A case of beer and some bonhomie joviality isn't going to cut it, nor is talking tough with a guy who just isn't feeling it. That all worked in 2019, but this isn't 2019 anymore. The world has changed. Business has changed. Foundations are eroding, but retired guys and wealthy guys and especially Wall Street guys can't see it because the stock market party just keeps rolling along on funny money that the Fed is pumping out faster than they can count.

Gasoline is up a bit, and NOW John Q. Public starts to notice.

It's one of a thousand examples, but for some inexplicable reason (loss of sanity? senility? an unexplained desire to incinerate money?) - I'm trying to build a shop across the street for my business tools and stock. It would have been very straightforward before the recent troubles. Come along with me for a minute, while I take you down the Rabbit Hole. I need you to forget everything you may think you know about building anything at all. One needs to let the Mad Hatter do the talking, and just figure out how to work with him.

I bought the property July 3, pulled the permits, and lined up the subs - acting as if I was not in an alternative universe. So far, so good. I was told that garage doors are an issue, so I paid for and ordered $10,000 worth of doors on Sept. 3, before the foundation guy had even showed up.

At the 5 week mark, I got a cryptic email proclaiming, "good news and congratulations Comrade on your recent glorious purchase".

I immediately contacted Home Depot, who referred me to the manufacturer (Clopay). Clopay had me on hold for nearly 2 hours before I got a human in customer service. This customer service agent resides in this hemisphere (hooray!), but unfortunately had no interest in helping this particular customer.

I was told that Father knows best, and that my order (which was correct) was being held up on an internal change-order (which I never wanted and the manufacturer never informed me of) and I STILL hadn't signed off on it. She told me I needed a 8' w x 8'9" high door... even though I'm building the shop and the door I ACTUALLY need is 10' w x 8' high (which coincidentally, is what I ordered and paid for, and what the building will be framed for. Weird, huh?). The friendly customer service professional was hearing none of it, and I hung up. I considered framing for a Weird Al door, just to keep the project rolling. I considered cancelling the entire thing and reordering, but doors have gone up 20% since I ordered, on top of the 30% they went up earlier this summer.

But I'm nothing if not consistent with my Moby Dick ways, so I had to spend another 6(?) hours or so finding somebody at Home Depot who cared enough to find a sentient human at Clopay who could undo the Gordian knot that was the mystery change-order and just process the order (the one I signed off on and paid for 8 weeks ago). I've been working on these doors for 3 weeks. THREE weeks, and I think I've got it done (as of this morning). Three cheers for me, I have DONE IT!! I am the master of the "New Normal". I stride as a giant among mere men.

But... I lost my place in line.

It'll be 16 weeks from right now (which puts me conveniently at about March 1) before I see 3 pretty generic garage doors. It's the best possible outcome. It's all I can hope for. I lost many, many  hours over this. I lost sleep over this. I lost WORK over this. They're garage doors. They aren't shards of the true cross, but they may as well be. If it wasn't garage doors, it would have been a pump or acetylene or a brass cap, because I've waited weeks for all of these things. I waited a month for a new oxygen regulator for a torch-set. I gave up and bought the whole rig, just to have a working torch on my truck. I'm no giant, I'm just a putz greasing the wheels of a broken system with filthy lucre.

Refrigerant gasses have gone up 450% since June 1. I'm told there's a component gas sitting on tankers off Long Beach, but it's hard to tell. The Paris Accords say we'll need to find new gasses before long anyhow - the current darling is Butane, which sounds safe. Back to the gasses we use, rather than the future gasses that will certainly save the world (just like the gasses we have did in 1990) - this supplier says they can't get gasses at all, that supplier says they're mysteriously all the same price (ALL of them. EXACTLY the same). A random 3rd supplier in another state says they can sell the one I need for only 250% more than it was in June. Come at night. Wear a yellow raincoat. Tap out the bass line to "Black Betty" on the keypad.

In other related news, there are no LG washing machines in Peoria. There's a bearing out on my 5 year old machine. Good luck with that. I ordered a new machine from "Greentoe" or some such clearing house site. It might be a scam. It must be, because they claim to have an LG washing machine. It'll ship in 3 weeks. Maybe. If we can find a truck driver. Or not. Don't push me, man.

It's like doing business in the Soviet Union. Every day.

HEY! There's Diet Squirt on the shelf - BUY IT ALL BEFORE THE SMITHS FIND IT!!!

I have no idea how builders like Greg and Carey and Henry are getting the parts they need for non-essential luxury goods. Some well placed bribes in the ports? High level connections in the Politburo? Bitcoin bribery?

You'd like to know "why", and I'm feeling honest enough to tell you. This is the "new normal". We're all going to learn to like it because "we're all in this together". The economy is an enormous engine with a thousand thousand thousand cogs, which were all in their place and doing their thing until March 2020. We ground the entire machine to a stop, shoveled dirt into the works, set it on fire, then tried to restart it after several months. The fact that it's working at all is a mystery to me.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm here for a dose of "Uncle Stan's tough-love" - if you want this thing finished at all, you will probably have to do a lot of things yourself. They will be imperfect, and they will cost you a lot of frustration, but they will get done.

Anything else is a complete crap-shoot.

I always appreciate your thoughts, Stan