The Hustle

📱 The world runs on WhatsApp

What better way to experience inflation than to travel back in time to a grocery store in the 1960s. We’re still working on the time travel part, but we dusted off old episodes of “Supermarket Sweep” to compare the price of food from the ‘60s to today. Check out our findings below.

Today’s rundown:

  • It’s critical: Why WhatsApp going down is no joke.
  • Holiday Shopping: There’s no such thing as too early this year.
  • ‘Supermarket Sweep’: Why your food bill is >2x higher.

Let’s do it.

The Big Idea

The world depends on WhatsApp

On Monday, Facebook suffered a 6-hour outage (its worst since 2008) that also took down Instagram and WhatsApp.

For many American users, jumping over to Twitter and making memes was a good option. However, the outage was much scarier in other parts of the world…

… because WhatsApp has become critical infrastructure

According to Business of Apps, the Facebook-owned app:

  • Has 2.5B+ users worldwide
  • Is the most popular messaging app in 100+ countries

In developing countries with underdeveloped (or overly expensive) telecom options, WhatsApp is the go-to alternative to text.

Seven countries — Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Argentina, Malaysia, Colombia, and Brazil — have 90%+ of their population on the app.

Much more than messaging

WhatsApp delivers critical (and different) services to countries around the world, per The Washington Post:

  • In Lebanon, COVID-19 tests can be ordered on the app
  • In Argentina, a chatbot connects patients to doctors to report COVID symptoms
  • A Philippine diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates uses the app as a hotline for its citizens working in the country
  • In Brazil, citizens use an in-app directory of 1000s of retailers

The app’s largest market — India (390m users) — has 15m+ small businesses using its WhatsApp Business platform.

WhatsApp’s loss…

… was a big gain for competing encrypted messaging apps:

  • Telegram jumped 55 places to No. 1 in US iPhone downloads
  • Signal gained millions of users after receiving endorsements from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (and whistleblower Edward Snowden)

Facebook’s outage happened a day after the unmasking of the social network’s whistleblower, former employee Frances Haugen. Both incidents — underscored by the importance of WhatsApp — give further credence to the belief that Facebook needs more regulation.

SNIPPETS

Rent the Runway filed for an IPO. It’s not profitable now, but it’s counting on newfound interest in secondhand apparel and sustainability. #ecommerce-retail

Electric cars are cool, but what about public transit? The New York Times explores cities that are adding electric cable cars, ferries, and more. #clean-energy

This is fun: You can get your fortune read by the famous Zoltar thanks to AR labels on Jones Soda bottles. #emerging-tech

Yikes: Medtronic, a company that makes insulin pumps, issued a recall saying hackers could take control of the devices, delivering or denying insulin to patients. #privacy

The wash-sale rule, used in stock trading, can get you a big tax bill if you’re not careful. Now, it could be coming for crypto, too. #fintech-cryptocurrency

Red light, green light: No, this actually isn’t about “Squid Game.” Google thinks AI could get traffic lights on a more efficient schedule. #big-tech

We’re breaking down the economics of the “James Bond” films — lots of double 0s, if you know what we mean. #hustle-picks

Cartoon

This year, there’s no such thing as ‘too early’ to start holiday shopping

It’s Oct. 6 — you may still be debating your Halloween costume…

… but it might be time to shift your attention to holiday shopping. While US retailers typically maintain ~1.5 months of inventory on hand, that number has dropped to 1.1, well below historical averages, per Bloomberg.

In addition to the examples in the cartoon above:

  • H&M sales slowed notably in September due to delivery delays
  • Nike lowered its sales forecast after closing 80% of its factories in Vietnam
  • Bed Bath & Beyond revenue fell 26% YoY due to shipping issues

At the very least, it’s probably time to start putting together a list of presents for your loved ones lest you come up empty-handed in December.

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The Big Sweep

What ‘Supermarket Sweep’ tells us about changing grocery store prices

In the 1960s, you could win “Supermarket Sweep” with less than $300 in your cart. Today, you’d better get $2k. Here’s why.

‘Supermarket Sweep’ first aired from 1965-1967

It ran again from 1990-1995 and 2000-2003, then got rebooted in 2020 with comedian Leslie Jones.

In all versions, 3 teams of 2 play various games inside a grocery store. In the ‘60s, they used real stores around NYC; since the ‘90s, they’ve been mock stores built in LA.

How the store is stocked

The show’s piece de resistance is the “Big Sweep,” in which players have ~1-2 minutes to fill their cart with groceries and challenge items, which are worth extra cash. The team whose cart is worth the most money advances to a final challenge.

Brett Hatcher, an art director on the reboot, told The Hustle that non-challenge items come from and are priced by a grocery supply company. So, the groceries contestants grab reflect current real-world prices.

Winning cart totals have changed dramatically over the decades

We watched several Big Sweeps from each decade at random, logged the winning total minus challenge bonuses, and took an average:

1960s: $211 (accounting for inflation, $1,728 in 2021)
1990s: $608 ($1,151.06)
2000s: $854 ($1,319.92)
2020: $2,708

It’s not just inflation that made 2020 carts so expensive

Producer Wes Kauble told Collider that most items have gone up ~15%-20% since the ‘90s.

But today’s stores also have more expensive offerings. Frozen turkeys ($30-$50) have long been a player favorite, but now there are $300 wagyu ribs, $30 jars of manuka honey, $33 reusable water bottles, and $45 energy drink mixes. Jeez.

Fun fact: Versions of “Supermarket Sweep” have aired in numerous other countries, including Britain, Vietnam, and Ukraine.

AROUND THE WEB

🙀  On this day: In 1982, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” opened on Broadway, its audience unaware that years later a film adaptation would be panned by critics and audiences alike.

💡  Useful: This website lists a whole bunch of micro-startups for sale, like a digital menu company for $15k, or an Italian grammar app for $6k.

🐕  That’s interesting: Studies show dogs can use physiological and chemical cues to not only detect our emotions, but “catch” them as well.

💻  Haha: Zuck the Game is an RPG where you’re Mark Zuckerberg. Can you make the right choices to build Facebook?

👚  How to: We previously wrote about the environmental cost of fast fashion. Now, here’s a guide from author Aja Barber on how to shop more sustainably.

🐴  Aww: And now, a woman uses a tiny microphone to interview adorable animals at a wildlife rehab center.

Tweet of the Day

Source: Twitter / @AllisonPDavis

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