Remember last year when it was virtually impossible to get hand sanitizer? You couldn’t order it online, you couldn’t order it for an in-store pickup, and stores that had it were limiting how many of those tiny bottles each customer could buy? Breweries and distilleries were stepping in to supplement the supply, but it still wasn’t enough.

I mean, I don’t like to leave my camera visible in the car when I park, but for a while, I was more worried about leaving a two-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer where it could be seen.

Heck, when I found an 8-ounce bottle at Target in May 2020, I snapped a photo to send it home!

Holding a bottle of hand sanitizer in front of a store shelf with a sign saying that customers are limited to one bottle each due to high demand.

Times have changed.

Factory lines got up to speed after a few months. We bought extra to make sure we wouldn’t run out. Then we learned that Covid spreads more by sharing air than by touching surfaces. And a third of the population convinced themselves it wasn’t a problem, while half to two thirds of the population have gotten at least partly vaccinated against it. And after a year with multiple waves of cases, the rates are currently waaaaaay down in California.

And we’re all so tired of it all.

And we don’t need as much hand sanitizer as we thought we were going to a year ago.

This is the same store this week. Four rolling shelf units and at least one section of the wall shelving. Full.

Shelves and shelves and rolling carts full of hand sanitizer bottles.

So, um, anybody want to buy some hand sanitizer?

Bulk bins at the supermarket with pre-measured plastic bags of grains in them.

I braved the grocery store last week. It was a bit nerve-wracking after weeks of avoiding people for safety reasons. But it was also interesting to see what was still low and what had been restocked since my last grocery trip a few weeks earlier.

Pasta was almost totally gone. Pasta sauce was really low, actually. Produce was still available. Meat, eggs, dairy and bread were back, but flour was still missing. I was glad to see that alternative flours and pastas – gluten-free options, almond flour, cauliflower pasta, etc – were still available, and that people who didn’t need the specialized options weren’t just snapping them up because they could.

It was also interesting to see how the store handled the bulk bins. It’s going to be a long time before I feel comfortable with a buffet, or self-serve yogurt, or anything of that sort. (I doubt I’m the only one – if this doesn’t finish off Souplantation, they may have to make major changes.) What Sprouts did was to pre-bag measured amounts in each bin. Yeah, you can’t get exactly the amount you need, but it’s still a lot less packaging than something in a box, and there’s less risk of contamination with other shoppers reaching into the bin with the same scoop (or worse, just their hands).

Yesterday I spotted a listing on Amazon for the complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus for $35. (It jumped back up to $55 today.) I was seriously tempted, but asked myself: how often would I actually watch it?

Since lugging around several boxes of CDs, DVDs, and even a few VHS tapes (no Blu-Ray yet) the last time we moved, I’ve asked this question (in the broader, two-person sense) about any video I’ve considered buying. If we’re only ever going to watch something once, we’re better off renting it. It’s cheaper and it takes up less space.

In this case, we borrowed the series from a friend a few years ago, so we’ve already watched it once. There’s plenty of good stuff, but I’d probably only rewatch a handful of sketches.

Android Community reports that ShopSavvy will soon be getting real-time inventory data from local stores. This will be very nice, as I’ve run into the occasional issue where things didn’t quite line up.

ShopSavvy is an app for Android phones that uses the camera to scan product barcodes, then looks up pricing from local and online stores. You can also do a text search if you don’t have a package handy.

Two failures I can think of were:

Outdated Sale Price. I wanted to pick up the Pushing Daisies DVD set. ShopSavvy told me that Circuit City (this was before the liquidation) had it for something like $18. I got there and they wanted something closer to $30. I forget whether it was a sale price that had just ended or whether it was only some locations that had the cheaper price.

Web/In-Store Discrepancies. After dithering for a year, I finally decided to get a new printer this weekend. (Okay, the old one stopped working.) I found a decent price/feature combo on TigerDirect, then found a much better price for the same printer on Amazon, but I didn’t want to wait two weeks for delivery or spend an extra $20+ for faster shipping. So I looked it up on ShopSavvy, which told me that MicroCenter and Costco both had it for just eight dollars more than Amazon.

I looked up the printer on MicroCenter’s website, which claimed it was in stock at the local store. But it also claimed it was refurbished. I went to the store, found the display model on the shelf, saw the price I expected (with an “As advertised!” note), and no mention of it being a price for a refurbished model. Then it turned out that they didn’t have any in stock.

So I hit Costco. As near as I can tell, they only sell the printer through their website, but ShopSavvy listed it under local. As long as I was there I looked at the printers they did have, but nothing matched the specs I was looking for. (Small mono laserjet with built-in network, preferably wifi, for less than $150.) Finally I just ordered it through Amazon, who in a fit of amazingness shipped it immediately, and say it should arrive tomorrow.

In this case it would probably still have failed with MicroCenter, since their website had the wrong info (or else someone bought the last one in the time it took me to drive there), but I would at least have known there was no point in looking at Costco.

G1 photo by spdorsey, used under terms of CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.