As the late Gilda Radner loved to say on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, “It’s always something.” It sure is, as the headlines in today’s media grace their front pages with news of the pandemic coming to an end while inflation starts its own cycle. (The coronavirus might actually be officially over were it not for the needle-phobic among us.)
However, just when that nightmare is sliding into history, along comes something we haven’t experienced in many years thanks to the Fed and Divine Providence keeping a lid on rates and prices. Coin-op old-timers know full well how this beast feeds upon itself as one product’s price goes up forcing another to follow suit. Just ask former President Jimmy Carter how galloping prices can (among other problems) cause a guy to lose his job.
According to NPR, the U.S. Dept. of Labor reported that consumer prices rose 5% for the 12-month period ending in May, topping the 4.2% rise seen in April. That’s the sharpest increase since August of 2008 during the Great Recession. At the same time, NPR says, the economic recovery sparked by the success of the Covid vaccines has caused a surge in pent-up consumer demand for all sorts of products and entertainment after a year of home confinement. NPR says Zillionaire Warren Buffett finds us in a price-sensitive economy right now: “The economy is red hot!” says the Wizard of Omaha.
Prices of everything from new and used cars, airline tickets, rental car costs and (need I mention it?) gasoline are up. President Biden along with the Fed think (hope?) that this inflation will be short-lived and nothing like the madness of the 1970s. (NPR reminds us that the price increase from April to May was smaller than the jump from March to April and that some form of inflation is actually a positive sign that the economy is healing at long last.)
How this affects coin-op is yet to be discovered. We do know that our industry finds raising its play-prices exceedingly difficult. Not so much for machines and supplies, however, so maybe a little preventive buying…stocking up on things you may not need at the moment but will in due course (if you can get them)…might be in order, although the scarcity of imported products may get in the way of that. We are living and working in strange times and are writing this “script” as we go along. The Amusement Expo is on tap; hope you go to it and find out what the tom toms are really saying.