Friday, September 9, 2011

San Diego Power Outage Thoughts

Yesterday, according to some early reports, a worker in Arizona flipped the wrong switch while working on a power line, which caused around 1.4 million people in the San Diego area to lose power.  I live in San Diego, but I wasn't put out too much by the outage (my power was turned back on around 10 pm).  In fact, the outage gave my wife and I an opportunity to have dinner (thank you gas barbecue grill!) with some neighbors who we've been meaning to get to know a little better.  Most of the area now has the power back on, but there others who are still in the dark.*

During the blackout, I noticed or heard about two things last night that had to do with money, and I thought I'd share.  One of these is admirable, the other, not so much.

First, the admirable: I mentioned above that I grilled last night.  What I didn't mention is that I had to go to Lowe's to refill my propane tank.  While at Lowe's, I noticed a guy was loading a generator with a price tag of $1,000 into the trunk of a pizza delivery car.  I think this is admirable because it shows initiative; if this pizza company is the only restaurant that can deliver in the area, they stood to make a lot of money.  Also, this company was helping with something vital: they were hoping to continue to deliver food to the hungry. 

Next, the less than admirable: during a blackout, one issue that people are concerned about is keeping food from spoiling.  As such, there was a major run on ice last night.  I live around the block from a 7-11, and that store had a line out the door for hours last night with people wanting ice or cold drinks.  With the demand for ice at a high, I heard on the radio that one local liquor store decided to jack up its prices for a bag of ice from $2 to $5.  While the liquor store certainly *can* price its goods at whatever it thinks is fair, I think it's deplorable for them to do so in the middle of a blackout where people aren't thinking as clearly as maybe they should (the first reports we heard said that we probably wouldn't be back on until late last night, or possible even into today).

Way to stay classy, San Diego.

The major difference that I see between the admirable and the un-admirable is that the first person was taking some initiative to not only help his business, but also to provide food to people who may not have food stored for unforeseeable events.  The second example, the liquor store, I feel like was just taking advantage of the situation.  While I understand that this is how a capitalist economy works, it just makes me a little sad-face.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the liquor store was justified?  Or, do you think the pizza place was as big of a crook as the liquor store?  Let me know in the comments.

*For what it's worth, the woman in the picture of the link is a coworker of mine.  She is also a part-owner of a local restaurant, and I guess a patron got out of hand last night and attacked her.  Scary stuff.


Kellen said...

I totally agree that the liquor store was unethical, while the pizza shop was just keeping up with demand. People would be happy to buy pizza most of the time anyway with a little excuse - and what better excuse than a blackout!
Whereas the liquor store just saw an opportunity to make more money *per sale* because people were desperate. I suppose that's perfectly allowed, but not highly ethical.

Bryan said...

Smart Passive Income also posted about the power outage, and he suggested that liquor stores (or other ice purveyors) could have made big news by giving ice away for free, which might have also made the news, as well as earned some good will in the community that would have been rewarded with more customer loyalty later.

Here's that post: