Corona-Chan strikes again

corona chanI don’t know who created the above image.  If you know, tell me and I’ll credit them.

Measures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus (also known as Winnie the Flu, or Corona-Chan — pictured above in a frightening incarnation) led to my company laying off an entire division last Friday, and a smaller number of people at headquarters today, including me.   But, that’s not the full story.  My ex-employer has been circling the drain for a while.  That division was scheduled to be shut down in May, but the virus gave them a way to not look like the bad guys.  People at the company knew I was planning to leave around April 10th, so I guess I was another convenient push-forward.

My point in bringing this up is that you’ll see a lot of unemployment and financial loss numbers attributed to the virus in the future, but I wonder what percent of them will really be opportunism.  Accountants use tricks to move revenues and expenses backward and forward in time, and when they see a time period that will inevitably have bad numbers for an easily explainable reason, they try to pile all of management’s mistakes in there as well.

My previous employer (not the one I left today, before that) recently declared bankruptcy.  There are far too many reasons to go into here, but I’m wondering if Winnie the Flu might have helped push them over the edge.  After the company was bought by a private equity firm, a series of managers unfamiliar with the industry kept insisting on “lean manufacturing” (what we used to call “just in time”), presumably because they heard someone else parrot the term during a meeting somewhere.

Lean/JIT is where a company basically keeps no inventory of finished product or raw materials.  Things arrive right as they are needed and go out as they are needed.  Sounds efficient, except this company is a custom manufacturer whose customers expect to place an order and receive their product two weeks later, but one significant component takes four weeks to arrive from China, and that’s assuming it’s not Chinese New Year.  So, the managers had a choice:  alienate customers by delivering products two weeks late (leaving the customer shut down and unable to earn revenue), or tell their higher-ups they couldn’t activate the buzzword they’d promised.  I’ll let you guess what they chose.

Well, once China started putting places on virus lockdown, I imagine that two week delay turned into “we have no idea how long” delay, and may have been what finally tanked the company.  I can’t say for sure, as most of my contacts have been fleeing the place over the past year.

This drive for lean inventories might be what’s behind today’s toilet paper shortage.  I’ve been to six stores in three different cities in the last few days, and none of them had toilet paper.  I bought some earlier, so I wasn’t searching for it, but I was curious, so I checked out the aisle while I was picking up other things.  I’m curious whether any of you live in cities where toilet paper is still for sale, but I don’t actually want you to tell me, because people here would probably hijack a train, drive it to your town, and load up all your paper products.

I’m not sure how my unemployment will affect my blog posting.  Normally, when I’m out of work, I obsess over job hunting and it consumes all my time.  But, there may be little point in doing so now.  Companies I’ve dealt with have been incredibly indecisive concerning hiring over the last couple of years, and this virus is the perfect excuse to avoid action.  A couple of employers I’d already interviewed with are putting positions on hold.  So, maybe I’ll resume active blogging and hold my job search to a minimum.

I hope all of you stay employed, avoid as many viruses as possible, and find some toilet paper.

19 comments

  1. U.S. Navy hospitals have adopted the idiotic “lean inventory system. They pushed the Kanban system on us. Horrible.

    1. Great idea, lean inventory for lifesaving materials in an organization that could experience large number of casualties at once.

  2. I don’t know how familiar you are with the tax reasons, but companies get penalized for having stock on hand by the IRS. That is why stores don’t have the necessary long supply of inventory. I think THAT is what is going to get us, personally. Glad I don’t live in a big city…

    1. Some state governments have inventory taxes (Indiana used to be the worst, at 20%, ouch!). I hadn’t heard about any federal ones, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

  3. At my main local store, last Monday the toilet paper was fully stocked, Thursday it was completely wiped out, and yesterday morning they were restocking as I shopped, but it was still mostly empty. Somebody pointed out supermarkets may stock less toilet paper than other items because it is so bulky and takes up so much shelf space. For all the talk of media scaring people, I think the toilet paper shortages are a creation of social media. A couple places ran out, people started talking about, people starting joking about it, then people freaked out. But this isn’t a hurricane. More toilet paper will go up on the shelves daily. At some point it becomes pointless for people to buy more.

    We suspended all searches as of yesterday. Didn’t say we could proceed virtually or not at all, at our discretion, didn’t even say we could extend an offer if we were ready, just shut everything down. Only exception is for offers already extended.

    1. Yes, people will have to stop buying toilet paper once their garages are full! Unless they start renting out storage units….

      Thanks for letting me know about the hiring. I’ll try to keep my job-hunting efforts to a minimum for now, so I don’t get demotivated by the lack of response.

  4. There is so much spin and opportunism in all of this. Politicians want to blame the other guy for all of it. Companies are doing as they please and blaming the virus. Best of luck to you, and I hope someone is hiring. Sounds grim with everyone sending people home right now.

    1. I’ll just try to relax for a while if I can, and try to keep my spending down.

  5. The economic realities of the panic and the pandemic are going to be playing out for quite some time. I secured a temp job about a month ago and everything is up in the air. I am glad I moved and got the job when I did and I can survive for a while with no job if I needed to. Your thoughts about businesses taking advantage makes sense. I hadn’t thought about it but it sounds right. Sorry to hear about yer job and the job search during this lack of opportunity. Hope ye sail though it okay and come out into sunny skies after the journey.
    x The Captain

    1. Thanks, I hope your employer keeps you on.

  6. I hope something comes through for you soon. I’m lucky to have a job which can be done remotely. My boss sent us all home yesterday.

    1. The people they kept are also being kept out of the office, except for one person who has too many paper records to deal with.

  7. The cynicism of using a global pandemic as a screen for letting people go is something I found profoundly distasteful.
    My best wishes!!!!

    1. Thanks.

      I honestly wasn’t surprised by what happened….

  8. Good luck!
    We still have toilet paper in stores and even sanitizer is available 😉 I do wonder how much of what is currently happening with economy is the effect of the virus, and how much of it stems from long-term processes – eg. cutting the employment numbers so that the company looks better at the end of the fiscal year. I guess it’s a mixture of both. Hope you’ll find something good!

    1. I’m glad your stores are stocked. Maybe ours will be back to normal soon. They could be already, but I’ve been staying away since I don’t need anything at the moment.

  9. Hope it will all work out. Our zoo also shut down 4 days ago, we are waiting to hear and see if we will be getting any form of salary out of this forced isolation.

    1. I’d have guessed that most zoo employees deal with the animals rather than the crowds, so they’d have to keep working.

      Hope you’ll get paid enough to get by.

      1. We are still waiting to hear what is gonna happen

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