Doomsday preppers, Storage Wars and Pawn Stars mix it up in a trading frenzy that fails to help the people who need it most | Column by Daniel Gray (Spring 2020 issue)
So how does a food blogger and tour operator get into the whole medical supply industry?
I had a guest who was in the business. She had some masks for sale, the 3M ones. So I helped her hook up with a buyer for them and yeah, it’s been non-stop ever since. In the three weeks since I’ve started I’ve seen the masks sell at wholesale prices from one to seven dollars. Retail, they sell at $10 to $15 and more. The 3M masks are the most desired. Maybe is because of the endorsement of the medical community.
This crisis has caused a shortage in supply and a high increase in the price. People are buying and hoarding, they wait until they feel they can make maximum price and then sell. Usually the masks sell in boxes of 20 and now they are going by piece.
People believe these masks are going to prevent catching the coronavirus. I know that this is not the case. The only thing that will prevent this virus is cleanliness and awareness.
The 3M masks are for medical professionals to keep blood and fluids, or feces or other stuff, off of people during surgery and regular care. So all these people are spending all this money on a mask that is a one-time-use product.
It is an absolute waste. But anyway, just the story and drama around all this stuff is nuts because people used to simply order product, pay and have it delivered. Then the scammers came so buyers asked to get into warehouses, take pictures of the product, and see existing stock. This worked for a little while until scammers took the videos and pictures and used them to scam others.
Manufacturers are in a bind because they need a deposit up front in order to make the products, but buyers don’t want to pay a deposit because of the scammers. Nobody will pay a deposit so raw materials can’t be bought and products can’t be made. The coronavirus has upset the basic principals of economics and common sense.
There are many different types of scams like the switcheroo: You think you bought a 3-ply mask but they turn out to be 2-ply and then the seller just disappears. Also, there is the tissue paper scam, where the middle layer is not meltblown material but paper which will ignite when lit with fire. Real masks won’t burn.
The problem is that cheating could have major legal and criminal consequences. For example, if you try to scam the Chinese government, you could go to jail as well as not get paid. If the Chinese government does a test and finds out the goods are fake, the seller is liable. The Chinese government won’t pay and they burn all the masks —- like 10-20 million masks a day. It’s a very, very high stakes game where fortunes are made, fortunes and freedoms are lost.
All of this is because of the media and how it is making people scared for their lives and the lives of others. People will believe whatever is spread on social media or other platforms. Even the sales of Corona beer have fallen because people think that you’ll get the coronavirus from it.
People are staying away from Asian people because they believe they all have the coronavirus. There are rumors about how the disease started —- crazy things like it was something made by the Chinese in order to stop the Hong Kong protests. Other rumors claimed it’s just some lab experiment gone wrong.
In Korea it has become a problem because a very secretive church got the virus and spread to others, and then it spread through the city of Daegu. As Korea was trying to contain the virus, the religious sect wouldn’t give up the names of their members, so it became difficult to track and therefore contain the spread of the disease.
However, since then Koreans have actually done a very good job of containing it, the world is looking at Korea as an example.
The mask trading is crazier than Bitcoin because these are actual products. I worry about the ecological and mental effects it is having on people. Ecologically, the mask trade is a major issue since the products are made in one location and shipped all around the world to the highest bidder. It’s destroying the planet. These are non-woven masks so the material costs have gone up quite a bit and it’s all a really big, big mess.
The mask trading debacle is a good way to raise awareness and educate people on economics, medicine, trade, laws, logistics, media and about the spread of people and materials around the world.
The Coronavirus Wars is Doomsday preppers meets Storage Wars and Pawn Stars all rolled up in one. The problem is that we are not helping those that need the help the most: The doctors, medical professionals, construction workers, and those who work in a trade around fumes and dangerous chemicals. These are the people that need the supplies the most.
The doctors and medical professionals put their lives and the lives of their families on the line every day to go out and help sick people. They are who we should be helping.
Daniel Gray is a Korean American adoptee who returned to Korea in 2005 to rediscover his roots. He is a Korean food expert and has appeared on “Bizarre Foods, Parts Unknown” with Anthony Bourdain and other shows. He does food tours, events, and consulting in Seoul and owns two restaurants: Brew 3.14 and Brew 3.15, both located in Seoul.