Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

This is how desperate retailers are getting because of the supply chain crisis

Published Oct 23rd, 2021 11:31AM EDT
supply chain issues

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

The next time you’re at your local grocery store or a nearby location of a department store giant, take a close look at the shelves. If you’ve paid attention at all to news headlines over the past week or so, you’ll no doubt have come across coverage of supply chain issues that are manifesting themselves in part in the form of empty store shelves. But it’s not just empty store shelves resulting from the US supply chain meltdown that includes clogged ports as well as goods sitting unshipped. Retailers are also getting creative (or desperate, depending on who you ask) — to the point that some shoppers say they’ve noticed tactics like stores using single rows of products to fill shelves.

To give the illusion, in other words, of abundance.

Supply chain issues getting worse

supply chain issues biden speech
President Biden speaks to reporters. Image source: Chris Kleponis - Pool via CNP/MEGA

People have taken to social media in recent days to share images of this kind of thing, like single rows of chairs arranged bizarrely all along shelves (as you can see below). As if there was nothing else available to put in its place, but the store just wanted to fill the shelves with something. Rather than make it obvious for customers to see that supply chain shortages are having an impact.

And make no mistake. They very much are having an impact.

President Biden’s approval rating in recent weeks has plummeted, as the administration is beset by nettlesome including record-high inflation. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned in recent days that supply chain problems and inflation are going to linger well into 2022. Even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey warned in a tweet on Friday that hyperinflation will hit the US soon. Former McDonald’s USA CEO Ed Rensi told FOX Business on Friday that Biden policies are contributing to all this, while several Biden officials have done their best to downplay the whole thing.

But first, let’s take a look at how this is all playing out in communities around the US.

Retailers getting creative

#EmptyShelvesJoe started trending on Twitter this week, a result of frustrated shoppers increasingly confronted with scenes like the above.

Another Twitter user shared an image from her local Safeway location, where products could be seen spread out to make the shortages less obvious. “Our Safeway appears to be trying to hide the supply shortage by using single lines of products to fill shelves,” the tweet read.

There’s a compounding problem associated with all this, too. Because shortages often lead to panic buying, which only accelerates shortages and makes the whole thing worse. And speaking of getting worse — some Biden administration officials have downplayed all this. They’ve blamed it in part on Americans’ overconsumption and excessive buying.

But that doesn’t explain why even some hospitals around the US are finding it harder to obtain the drugs they need, because of supply bottlenecks.

Biden officials downplay supply chain crisis

To be sure, the Biden administration did not create this problem. This is really the result of so many factors. Including extreme weather events, a trucker shortage, and other pandemic-related challenges. The issue, though, is what’s being done about the problem.

supply chain crisis jen psaki
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters during the daily press briefing. Image source: Rod Lamkey - CNP/MEGA

Unfortunately, at least three high-profile administration officials have in recent days done their utmost to downplay this crisis. There was White House chief of staff Ron Klain, for example, who a few days ago retweeted a post decrying the whole supply chain meltdown as a “high-class problem.”

What does that mean, exactly? Well, the somewhat MIA Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, put it like this in a TV interview: President Biden “successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession.” Even though, according to, the recession officially ended before Biden took office.

The ‘tragedy of the treadmill’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, though, added the cherry on top. It came in the form of an offhand joke during the daily press briefing, in response to a question from The New York Times’s Michael Shear. Shear asked: Why didn’t the Biden administration act more aggressively early on in the pandemic? “It was crystal clear that things were not improving,” Shear said during his question to Psaki. “People couldn’t get dishwashers and furniture and treadmills delivered on time. Not to mention all sorts of other things.”

Retorted Psaki: “…The tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.”

That comment seemed to be her not-so-subtle way of telling everyone to relax. That this is only a problem that affects people with tons of money to blow — on luxuries like treadmills.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.