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Decimated store shelves, raising prices & how we react to keep our dogs fed
Dennis Wyatt new mug
Dennis Wyatt

The economy is going to the dogs, literally. And cats too.

If you doubt that visit the pet food section of your favorite general merchandise store.

Thanks to shortages and price increases some sections throughout stores are starting to take on the Old Mother Hubbard look. It’s kind of like during the early days of the pandemic but without everything going up in price except for the bags at the checkout stand.

And it’s definitely not like 1980 when inflation peaked at 14 percent. That’s because while everything was going up in price the shelves were still stocked, new vehicles were on dealership lots, and you don’t need a bank loan to buy dog food.

Local Target stores have been completely wiped out of larger and most medium sized bags of non-upper echelon dog food and even cat food products.

We’re talking about items such as the 44-pound bag of Pedigree dry dog food. It was $3 cheaper just a month ago when it wasn’t as hard to find as respect and decorum for those with opposing views in Congress.

They had a few smaller bags of Pedigree like they’ve had on previous trips. But based on pound pricing they have always been higher. But now some of those 20-pound bags are costing as much as a 44-pound bag did a year ago.

The shelves weren’t exactly bare of dry dog food. You could still buy high-end 40-pound bags if you were willing to shell out $53 for the privilege.

Striking up a short conversation with another shopper, she said that she used to buy the smaller bags of Pedigree but now she tries to find the bigger bags. Even though they cost almost $30 a whack, she noted the smaller bags have become too expensive.

As for me, I have two energetic and active dogs that weigh between 70 and 80 pounds. They eat a diet of Pedigree, Purina packaged moist dog food, Kirkland dog biscuits, and Purina Beggin’ strips along with rawhide to chew on.

I do not over feed my fogs. That said, this is the first time I’ve had two rescue dogs that weren’t food insecure because they were starved before someone abandoned them.

There are some out there that would be critical of what I feed my dogs because it isn’t what they’d call high caliber.

Sorry, I’m not about to spend more feeding my dogs in any given week than I spend at Food-4-Less on myself for the same time period.

The Purina Beggin’ Strips will eventually go off the list unless I score another deal for the treats.

They were a combination purchase and gift after I brought home Whitney, a Dalmatian and Pitbull mix.

It started with a phone call from a friend that wanted to know if I wanted two boxes of Purina dog treats for $3 apiece as they were at the Amazon resale store in Tracy on a Thursday morning.

I said OK and that I’d pay her back. When I went to pick them up there were four boxes as a friend she decided to toss in another two boxes as a “welcome home” gift for Whitney.

I had no idea what they were buying until I saw the boxes. In each box there were two 26-ounce bags of Purina Beggin’ Strips.

Years ago, I used to buy a smaller bag as a treat for my Dalmatians for less than $10. But these were large bags.

That week while shopping at Walmart I discovered they were just a few pennies under $16 per bag. That meant I had $96 worth of dog treats for $12.

I bring this up for two reasons.

First it is to question the nonsensical price margin Amazon and others must be operating on. A check of the Amazon site on Sunday had two 26-ounce bags for $18.52. While that was $14 less than what the same two items would cost at a Walmart store, it was $15.52 more than what Amazon was unloading them for to walk-ins in Tracy.

These were returned items. They had not been opened. And their ideal freshness date was through February 2023.

The second point is our threshold of pain.

Rest assured I will no longer pay $10 for a smaller bag of such treats let alone $16 for a 26-ounce.

That will give you a clue as to how I’ve been buying dog food and other staples that seem to be in short supply while prices keep rising toward the stratosphere.

When I see items my dogs eat on a routine basis — such as the 32 package boxes of the moist dog food — I buy them even if I don’t need them at the time.

That’s because of two things that have become very clear about inflation and shopping in 2022.

Prices keep going up and items are in short supply.

In the case of dog food, it is the larger bags where you get a price break even with rising prices that are hard to come by.

Call it hoarding if you want but as far as I’m concerned its smart shopping.

The smaller and more expensive per pound packaging hasn’t completely vanished. And certainly, the caviar league dog food isn’t flying off the shelves.

What I don’t want to do is get caught in a situation where I’m not only paying higher prices due to inflation but because of short supplies I’m forced to buy the more expensive smaller bags of dog food.

True hoarding would have shelves completely devoid of any dog food such as what happened with toilet paper, Top Ramen, and rice during the early days of the pandemic.

Why it matters is simple.

The strategies people are employing to stretch dollars when faced with the one-two punch they’re getting hit with at stores reflect two lack of confidence votes a mile wide that will make it much worse to tame inflation than usual.

People are convinced prices will keep rising.

But unlike 1980 they are not convinced if they do have the money that the goods they want will be there when they go to buy them.

Granted, I’ve always stockpiled items I use in large quantities when they are on sale, or able to secure a gift card for $5 or $10 if you buy in large quantity.

Savings of quarters and dollars add up.

But what I find myself doing today is buying items I use whenever I can find them in larger sizes that have savings — such as dog food — long before I am almost running out.

The same goes for other items stores have a difficult time keeping on the shelves. Not because the prices are likely to be higher when you can find them but the possibility that they won’t be there when you need them.

Yes, it does seem like a form of hoarding. And it is something that the federal government did not have to deal with back in the good old days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when inflation peaked at 14 percent.

It qualifies as an axiom and might be a bit trite but it is the economy, stupid.

Now the question is just how tolerant the voters are.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.