Shipping under duress


March 27, 2020

Just us, or are the days starting to blur together? That’s what happens when you haven’t gotten off the couch in *checks watch* 268 hours. Yikes.

The good news is, the weekend is basically here. The bad news is, we’re not quite sure what to do with the time. Wash our hands to Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits? Struggle through a Tinder date on Zoom? This will all make sense once you’ve read today’s email. In the meantime, you can find us re-watching Grey’s Anatomy and sobbing into our TV dinners.

Distressed Shipping

Warehouse workers, truckers, postal staff: People who power our mail face major strain

If you’re stuck at home trying to ride out the pandemic, you’ve probably done some online shopping — maybe even for things that aren’t truly essential.

But before you open that cardboard box, think about the workers who brought the package to your door.

In all phases of America’s shipping pipeline, frontline staffers are at risk. Here’s a closer look at what they’re up against.

Phase 1: Your order starts at the warehouse

Amazon is one of the few places left standing for items you can’t get at your local grocery. The company is hiring like crazy, but cracks in the base o’ Bezos are starting to show:

  • CNN reported that at least 11 Amazon facilities have been hit by coronavirus cases so far. (The company says it has more than 110 fulfillment centers in North America.)
  • Some warehouse workers have complained that they weren’t notified when colleagues tested positive. Three workers at a Kentucky facility tested positive, and the state’s governor ordered it shut down until April 1. 

The company is prioritizing shipments of essential goods, but even those might be hard to come by. A 12-pack of Amazon’s Presto paper towels is out of stock until the second week of April.

Phase 2: It’s on the truck

Crazy fluctuations in supply and demand have the trucking industry swerving to avoid danger. Drivers have lots to haul but little to bring back on the return trip:

  • Last week, shipments to grocery and discount stores were up more than 50% over the same period in 2019. But restaurants and retail stores are ghost towns.
  • One exec told The Wall Street Journal that the pandemic is forcing the industry to “redesign the network in real time.”

Then there are the on-the-job struggles. Some truck stops are shutting down eateries and restrooms, and drivers are running low on sanitary supplies.

Phase 3: It’s out for delivery

Now your package is in the hands of a delivery driver or a postal worker. They’re all being hit hard:

  • The $2T stimulus package passed by the Senate included a $10B Treasury loan for the Postal Service. Two members of Congress said the service wouldn’t survive the summer without financial assistance, since mail volumes have plunged. 
  • At least 85 of the nation’s 630k postal workers have fallen ill, raising fears of an outbreak among employees. 

Keep in mind: The Postal Service says there’s currently no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through the mail. So here’s a suggestion: Show the workers who deliver your packages and letters a little love.

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Tweet of the day

Oof. That red spike on the right represents the 3.3m Americans who filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. Quartz’s takeaway: A lot of people lost their jobs at once. Source: BuzzFeed News

Cupid vs. Coronavirus

The pandemic has turned our love lives inside out

Au revoir, awkward Tinder date. Bonjour, awkward Zoom date.

That’s the nouveau reality for lonely singles in the age of coronavirus. The pandemic isn’t stopping people from swiping — they’re just doing it more creatively, and from a safe distance.

Sometimes, you gotta bumble through it

Let’s be honest: First dates are tough even when you can sit closer than 6 feet away from your match. 

Bumble is promoting video chats as virtual icebreakers, and Tinder made its paid Passport feature free for everyone — it lets you swipe around the world to find new connections outside of your sad self-quarantine bubble.

There’s even a new app tailor-made for these times: OKZoomer (golf clap for the name) was created for college students who want to crush on people from a social distance.

So you’re ready to take things past 1st base…

…don’t sweat. The… um, New York City government… has you covered. Twitter got hot and bothered over NYC’s guide to safe corona-copulation (TL;DR: when in doubt, rub one out, OR get down with your roommate, but DEFINITELY NO rimming!).

Other options for adventurous types: MIT Tech Review says high-tech sex toys and VR strip clubs are all on the rise. Not to mention corona-fetish content. (We’re not into kink-shaming, but… what???)

Sex workers are pivoting, too

Many of them are raising money to support each other — the pandemic has dealt a major blow to their livelihoods. 

Some are moving online. But the ones who don’t already have a virtual presence are running into a classic business problem: It’s hard to challenge the well-established incumbents.

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Sponsored

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For those of you in these industries who lost your jobs this month, we feel for you. But this ain’t Facebook, and sending “good thoughts” doesn’t cut it for us.

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First Border of Business

Borders are closing (like everything else). That’s particularly bad news for ‘border-conomies’

Across the world, governments are closing borders to contain the coronavirus. 

Border closures affect many businesses with international supply chains: According to a recent report, 75% of US businesses have experienced supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus.

But while borders are a big part of many industries, they are the backbone of others…

And now, border-conomies are starting to go bust

Take a look at how the closure of the border between Poland and Ukraine is killing Poland’s construction industry, for instance.

In normal times, around 2m Ukrainians work in Poland every day and power the country’s booming, $47B construction industry (which accounts for 8% of the country’s GDP).

But now that the border’s closed, the entire industry is at risk of grinding to a halt — even though the virus outbreak in Poland is not as advanced as it is in many other parts of Europe.

So border management just became a very big deal

By yesterday afternoon, 47 countries had entirely closed their borders and another 48 countries had partially closed theirs.

But enforcement policies varied widely. In many cases, governments tried to enact policies that would close borders to the coronavirus… but keep them open for business.

  • The border between the US and Mexico, which handles $1.4B in freight daily, is closed to casual pedestrian travelers — but open to workers and commercial shipments.
  • And at the border between Poland and Germany, which is supposedly closed to people but open to commerce, 37-mile-long traffic jams formed as trucks tried to get their cargo over the line.
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Sponsored

Self-quarantine will end (eventually), but remote work is here to stay

Over 5 million Americans already work from home at least half the time. 

Our point? It’s time to invest in a proper home office — one that’s a little more sustainable than your current laptop-on-a-shoebox setup.

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The Corona-Conomy

Coronavirus merch is getting out of hand

One Hanoi restaurant has a plan for tackling COVID-19: “If you want to beat it, eat it.” 

According to Reuters, chefs at the takeaway shop Pizza Home are staining hamburger buns with green tea and topping them with dough “crowns” so they look like a virus isolate — think of that 3D coronavirus photo that every major publication is using right now

Coronaburgers are not blowing the buns off Pizza Home, but they’re definitely popular — the restaurant sells about 50 a day.

Burgers are only the beginning

While we huddle in our homes, the virus is starting to creep into our buying lives — often in ethically dubious ways. Everything is coronavirus-themed right now. 

  • Corona merch is booming on Etsy, CafePress, and Raygun, where you can buy a “quarantine bingo” T-shirt and a “self-quarantine wine glass” among other staples.
  • “Coronavirus,” a song born from a Cardi B Instagram video and remixed by the DJ iMarkkeyz, is a streaming hit.
  • Another musical entry: “Corona Virus” by Lil Nix, further proof that we are entering the age of pandemic pop. 
  • A viral TikTok dance, the #GhenCoVyChallenge, is also an international PSA about washing your hands.

Never forget the OG 

And of course, we have the pandemic heavyweight: Corona beer. After the beer brand took it upon itself to clarify that “there is no link between the virus and our business” at the end of February, 20-something meme-makers have embraced Corona as their own. 

In Facebook groups like Zoom Memes for Self Quaranteens, Corona beer plays a starring role.

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Now Playing
How do you go from $0 to $100M in revenue?

We invited the founders of Pandora, Hint, Bonobos, and more to Hustle Con to learn their methods. Then, we put it all into a book. See it here.

Snippets

🚔 It had to happen sooner or later. A man peddling a fake cure became the first person to face federal corona-crime charges.

⛅️ Wild: The pandemic might be messing with weather forecasts.

📈 Attention confused investors: Zoom Technologies is NOT the same thing as Zoom Video.

🎧 Can you blitzscale when the world grinds to a halt? Check out this ep of Masters of Scale to hear Reid Hoffman’s thoughts.

📝 “Post Malone suspended his tour. Does that make him Postponed Malone?” A mom spread some cheer at Walmart with some pretty funny Post-It notes.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

Shower Thoughts

If a thought falls in the shower and it doesn’t make a sound, does anyone think it? Ponder that, then read some Shower Thoughts: 

1. One of the great things about cooking your own food is the sweet certainty that any hair in it is yours.

2. The first sign that your computer is turned on is the monitor changing from black to black.

3. Near a pond is the only place you can yell “DUCK!” And no one would physically duck.

4. The biggest appeal of having a dishwasher isn’t the automatic washing of dishes, it’s having extra space to keep your clean dishes out of the way and out of sight until you have the willpower to put them away.

5. If you order a Digiorno pizza on Instacart, it actually is both delivery and Digiorno.

Okay, fine, one more before you go

6. The first people to discover that parrots could speak must’ve really lost their minds.

Via Reddit

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