Where Are the Toys?

Have you had to wait a really long time for an Amazon order to arrive? Maybe you’ve noticed that store shelves aren’t always full. It’s all due to a worldwide shipping problem. That has led to shortages of all kinds of products—from sneakers to gaming systems.

The problem has a lot to do with the global supply chain. That’s the process of getting items made in one country to consumers in another country.

For many of the products Americans use, the chain starts in factories in Asia. Those products are placed into shipping containers that are stacked onto huge cargo ships.

The ships sail across the Pacific Ocean to ports in the United States. There, the containers are loaded onto trucks or trains. The goods are eventually delivered to stores or shipped directly to people who bought them online.

The Waiting Game

The current shipping crisis can be traced to the Covid-19 pandemic. While stuck at home, most Americans didn’t spend money on vacations or movie tickets. Instead, they started buying more of the things they could use at home—like board games, bikes, and puzzles.

The rise in demand has clogged up several steps in the supply chain. Two of the busiest U.S. ports are in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Since last summer, they’ve been the scene of a huge traffic jam. Dozens of cargo ships wait to unload their containers. There’s also a shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. So thousands of full containers sit on docks waiting to be picked up.