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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Are we being gouged?

2 September 2021

My last two trips to the supermarket have left me gobsmacked.

I'm only buying the basics for one person, for a week, yet I'm laying down the best part of $200 and all I get for that are two relatively lightweight bags of groceries.

What the hell is going on?

Why am I now paying $9 for a big box of cornflakes (well bran-flakes actually), when just a couple of weeks ago, they were $7 (or less on special)?

Surely the cost of manufacturing these thin flakes of bran hasn't skyrocked that much in such a short time?

Then there's my favourite treat of tasty low-fat, high-protein, unsweetened Greek yoghurt...

I was buying 900g of the stuff on special for $6.50 a few weeks ago, before it went back to the "regular" price of $8. Yesterday it was $8.10, a small but worrying increase over the listed price of less than a month ago.

Good quality (5% fat) beef mince seems to have shot up by about 20 percent since the last time I bought some (just before the lockdown).

It seems that *someone* is doing "very nicely" from the lockdown, and it's not the happless consumers like me.

Perhaps it's a supply and demand thing. Savvy businesses will always charge "what the market will bear", rather than what's fair and reasonable. Such businesses are focused on making money, not friends. Their shareholders will not thank them for being "kind" so the PM's please in this regard carry no weight.

This whole supply and demand thing is an interesting subject.

A great example is the ubiquitous STM32 microcontroller, a device used in countless bits of gear these days. Your car probaby has a host of them, your washing machine may have at least one and it's becoming hard to find *any* appliance or device that doesn't have them liberally sprinkled throughout.

At one time, these chips were available for as little as $2 a pop, even in small quantities.

Today however, you'll be paying around $35 each, and that's *IF* you can buy them at all.

It seems that demand exceeds supply, hence the high prices.

The crazy thing is that raising the price does not increase the supply, at least in this case. I guess however, it does reduce demand.

Perhaps if you have a $50,000 car stalled on the assembly line for the lack of a $2 part then paying $35 for that part is of far less consequence than not being able to sell the thing at all. It does seem awfully unfair on those who make cheaper items where $35 may be more than the entire retail price of the end-product.

The really interesting thing is that I've had a bunch of old flight controller boards in a box in my workshop. Until recently, these things were effectively worthless. They're using F1 processors that won't run the latest versions of the software (which requires a more powerful F4 or F7 processor). I'd figured that these boards were worthless now -- but I just did some quick calculations and realise that if I strip them for their microcontrollers, I now have $350 worth of parts!

I wonder how many other savvy e-waste recyclers are pawing over the PCBs in their collection centres, hunting down STM32 processors for re-sale? If they had their heads screwed on that is *exactly* what they'd be doing right now. Throw them up on eBay and there'd be a good deal of money to be made me thinks.

Come to think of it, I wonder if the local e-waste depot would mind me rummaging around through their stuff -- maybe I could buy a new house after a few days of desoldering :-)

It's an ill-wind they say!

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