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Diatribe: The Norwegian Diaper Shortage Of 2013.

02/03/2013

NorwegianDiaperShortageRemember a few years back when the price of cigarettes jumped dramatically?  There was a small market just across the state line not far from my home.  Not only did people drive to the next state to buy lottery tickets, they bought cartons of cigarettes.  And they bought lots of them.  Many folks would take cigarette orders from friends, neighbors and colleagues and bring them back to sell at a small profit.  Friends and neighbors would still save a few bucks per carton and the entrepreneurial traveler would make a few bucks.

Eastern Europeans have recently been doing the same with disposable diapers.

Customs officials and retailers in southern Norway, one of the world’s most expensive countries, claim the area is in the midst of a diaper shortage after a supermarket price war began to lure enterprising bulk shoppers from Eastern Europe who have cleaned out the shelves.

Supermarkets, trying to lure local customers by undercutting the diaper (they call them “nappies”) prices of their competitors have inadvertently made it profitable enough for residents of nearby countries to buy them for resale.

“They buy every last diaper, I mean everything we have on the shelves, throw it in the back of their car and take them home, where they sell it for a nice profit.  It’s not stealing and it’s not even criminal but it’s a big problem.” – Terje Ragnar Hansen, regional director for retail chain Rema 1000.

Much like the cigarette merchants from my past, diaper traders have begun to come into Norway from Sweden, drive along the coast to fill their cars, then take a ferry home.  Some people have reached customs with as many as 80,000 diapers.

“They told us that the only reason they came to Norway was to drive around and buy diapers to bring back home and resell.  These people mainly come from Poland and Lithuania, and we have no reason to believe that they are part of any criminal gangs.” – Helge Breilid, the chief of customs in Kristiansand on Norway’s southern coast.

Norwegian diapers cost less than half of the prevailing price in Lithuania.  Not surprisingly, the internet is loaded with Lithuanian sellers advertising Norwegian diapers.

Clearly, the plan backfired.  By trying to undercut their competitors’ prices retailers have created a marketplace that doesn’t have enough supply to meet the local demand.  I hope Norwegian parents don’t have to buy their diapers from other countries because anyone with a baby already has their hands full without having to worry about getting “nappies”.

Have you ever bought anything in bulk with the intention of selling it at a profit?

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8 Comments
  1. I think our equivalent is the super-duper coupon shopper/hoarder who cleans Wal-greens out of all of their best deals so they can pile up 3000 toothbrushes in their basement. It drives me nuts when I can’t find what I’m looking for because some couponer has stockpiled enormous quantities.

    We see the resale phenomenon here at Christmas. I saw someone attempting to resell a $100 Lego set for $400. The stores on Amazon seem to watch for Amazon’s price to drop, and then they stock up on the stuff and immediately list it in their Amazon Marketplace for a huge mark up.

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    • I used to think those “extreme couponers” were pretty clever and resourceful … but now I think they’re a troublesome nuisance for the exact same reasons that they drive you nuts. The only time I ever do anything like that is when 12-packs of soda go on sale. Around here, there’s usually a limit on how many you can purchase but I’ll make two trips through the checkout to save even more.

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  2. Diapers, the new currency in Norway.

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  3. Amazing!

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  4. You find such interesting topics to write about! I would never think to write about diapers (nappies) You certainly keep things interesting!

    Like

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