Most Christmas seasons, a specific item enjoys the notoriety of being both greatly desired and nearly impossible to find.
Think of past seasons: Cabbage Patch Dolls, Tickle Me Elmo, and whatever the latest i-technology item of the nano-moment was (or is). If we happen to get our hands on one of these perfect-for-someone-on-our-list gifts, life is good. If not, we can't even sleep well until we've found it because we "just have" to get it, and nothing else will do.
Confession paragraph: I once drove an hour to a distant city for a Pretty Pony Castle -- the only item on my young daughter's wish list -- because my sister said she saw one at a store she'd visited earlier in the week. When I spotted it on the shelf, I grabbed it like I'd just found the lost scrolls. Yep, I'm as crazy as the next person.
So do these hard-to-find "things" become so scarce because their manufacturers miscalculate on how many they should make? Or do manufacturers calculate how many will be wanted, then cut the number in half, driving up the value of the ones remaining, and making the public hungry enough for the ones available that they'll pay almost anything to get it?
Sounds devious. But hey, it's all in the spirit of Christmas, right?
Well, there's a twist on this year's hard-to-find, nearly unattainable item. It got that way not because the manufacturer didn't want to make enough. On the contrary, the manufacturer still wants to make millions of them, just like it's been doing since 1930.
But the Hostess Company and the bakers' union just couldn't put together a satisfactory compensation agreement, so company officials bluntly announced, "Hostess is closing."
To get an idea of how barren the shelves at the local Hostess shop were just minutes after that announcement, go to Hostess's website. You'll find a brief article about the demise of the company, concluding with contact info in case you want to buy the company. (I'm not making this up).
Ironically, while hundreds of workers found themselves suddenly out of a job, other people stampeded to the Hostess shop and fought each other for the last few boxes of fructose and sugar laden, absolutely awful-for-your-arteries snacks.
Some took them home and ate them. But many did not.
Because now, Twinkies and their confectionary siblings are available for ridiculous amounts of money on the internet. Folks with questionable Twinkie connections are selling boxes of 10 Twinkies for $36, chocolate-filled ones for $46, 24-count boxes of Ding Dongs for $60, and 8-count boxes of Chocolate Cupcakes for $26.
Why? Because the law of supply and demand skyrocketed their value. No more Twinkie production equals lots and lots of money for the last few Twinkies on earth.
So here's the reality check. Many years ago, my sister-in-law and I took our kids to Bear Lake for a summer day. On the way, we stopped at a gas station and while we pumped gas and cleaned the windows, the kids went inside to use the bathroom. On the way out, one of them spied a huge bag of Hostess goodies sitting next to the trash bin. They were just barely outdated, and intended for the trash.
No kid in his right mind is going to pass up a bagful of Twinkie goodies, so that bag came back with them.
We two moms shrugged. Twinkies have a shelf life of forever, so we weren't too concerned. The goodies went to the beach with us and we ate them all day long. When we got sick of them, we fed them to the fish. And the seagulls. And random beach dogs trotting by.
Given today's Twinkie economy, I figure we chucked close to $1,000 worth of Hostess confections to circling carp and screaming seagulls.
Those Twinkies were no different than today's Twinkies. Except that today they're the perfect Christmas gift.
Yep. Something featured on gas station shelves a month ago for a buck and now selling for more, by weight, than prime rib is the most impressive gift you can give this year.
Demanding boss? Grumpy spouse? Cranky neighbor? Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like blowing a huge wad of cash on a nearly-impossible-to-find box of Twinkies.
Ironic, isn't it, that we're just that weird. But get yours now, because they're selling like hotcakes. Or cupcakes.
Merry Christmas shopping.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.