It’s time to try consumers’ bank accounts.
Amid rising signs of an economic slowdown, Washingtonians still grapple with price hikes that are starting to feel as permanent as the pandemic that fueled inflation for the first time.
True, the prices of some commodities, such as gasoline, have come down slightly in recent weeks. But they are painfully packed with everything from groceries to housing to home repairs.
And as the following six stories make clear, it means new worries, difficult choices, and even sacrifices for many Washingtonians, especially those who were struggling before COVID or those struck early in the pandemic and now. Haven’t even got back on their feet. It is also adding to stress for business owners, especially smaller ones, who are caught between rising wholesale prices and unhappy customers.
‘Live in this city’
After customers complained that their $17 entrée was too expensive, Kottu Food Cart owner Sid Suntha slashed prices by $2 to appease the technical staff at Expedia’s premises in Interbay, who sell their Sri Lankan entrées. Were in line for street food.
Yet customers still grumble that $15 was too much for lunch. So Suntha, who had already absorbed the increase in gas and food costs, came under fire on Instagram:
No more Expedia Shift for me.
It’s not fun hearing from people who make more than you that you are worth a lot.
Cooks need to survive in this city as well.
Rising prices have cracked the often-overlooked mobile food circuit, which was already skating on thin margins during the pandemic as workers worked remotely instead of in office buildings – for food trucks and carts a major revenue source.
To keep costs down, Suntha moves her car mostly around North Seattle, near her Ballard home. The single father of two daughters spends up to $80 per outing on gas and propane to fuel the SUV and portable Flatiron grill, on which he fries bread flatbreads with meat, vegetables and curry.
Since starting his business in March, Suntha said, he has not raised prices, even though food costs have risen at least threefold, including a 45% increase in cooking oil.
, tan vinho
‘Should I just leave?’
Yana Goddard, 28, wonders if she should leave.
A math major at South Seattle College, she knows that someday a degree is her key to a high-paying job as a data analyst.
But rising prices have put pressure on Goddard’s already tense financial situation. Goddard’s bank account regularly goes overdue, she said, “and that’s just through fixed bills,” like utilities.
Goddard works on campus and almost half of his income goes on rent. She is dependent on her school’s free food stock for basic things like vegetables and eggs. When she buys groceries, the sticker shock is intense. Pork chops, his inexpensive meat choice, have nearly doubled in price. In the Seattle area, meat prices rose about 14% in June compared to a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Milk and cheese were up even more rapidly, a 21% increase in one year.
His breaking point had come three months ago, he said, when his car broke down. She couldn’t anticipate the $600 repair. Now she goes to school from her home in Beacon Hill by bus three days a week. Even if she could afford to fix her car that broke down in the driveway, Goddard said she would still probably take the bus to school—gas is just too expensive.
As her money troubles mount, Goddard says she’s questioning herself whether she’s making the right choice to focus on school.
“You start to feel hopeless,” Goddard said. “Should I just give up and get an entry-level job to earn money and survive instead of following my dreams?”
— Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks
A can of Progresso used to be $1.99. Now its chicken noodle soup is $4 at some stores, and is no longer on Ashley Johnson’s grocery list.
Johnson, 34, is a single parent to a soon-to-be 10-year-old and recently moved back to Kirkland, where she grew up. Her rent is $2,200 and is expected to increase by $100 to $300 upon renewal of her lease. She knows her rent is high, but she feels lucky that the increase is not as bad as the other tenants in the area.
Gas is expensive, but prices are coming down. The rising cost of groceries like canned soup affects her household the most.
“Kids don’t stop eating, and how much they eat over summer vacation isn’t something you can necessarily adjust to,” she said. “We can always choose to carpool or not take day trips, but groceries are a constant necessity.”
To meet the needs, she works for a grocery delivery startup and has side jobs looking after pets, making deliveries, and organizing homes. She also started a job at a small fulfillment warehouse in Seattle at the end of the school year, so she had to take care of highway tolls and excess gas.
“It’s helping where at least I don’t have to go to the grocery store and think, ‘How much can I get with $60 to get us through the week? Can I put gas in my car? I can And Bring groceries?'” she said.
He told his son that for his birthday, instead of renting out the party space, they would invite some friends to his apartment.
There’s more to say “no” than before.
She thinks about inflation at least every time she goes to the grocery store and every payday. “You get money in your account and it feels great, and it’s gone within hours, between bills, groceries, and filling the car,” she said. “There’s just nothing left.”
— Paige Cornwell
‘You’re making someone run for fish’
Inflation hit Dave Franklin before he could get his fishing boat out of the fishermen’s terminal in Seattle and headed for the season in Alaska last week.
Diesel Franklin, 67, buys 6,000 gallons at a time, compared to the cost of his 58-foot purse senor a year ago. The $10,000 he spent on repairs is almost double what it was three years ago, and insurance ranges from 35% to $30,000.
Franklin’s main hope now is that the pink and chum salmon he traps all summer long is enough to do better than break even. “Fishing is fun,” says Franklin, who has been fishing commercially since 1980. “Breaking doesn’t have to go.”
In the Seattle-based commercial fishing fleet, operators large and small are grappling with a sharp increase in everything from fuel and bait to packing materials and groceries for their employees.
It is likely to squeeze profits – and change the way fishing crews work. To conserve expensive fuel, boats will travel slower and can stick to fishing grounds just a few hours from port, rather than making the 12 to 14-hour trips. Whenever regulators temporarily close an area, instead of returning to port, “some people are now staying on the field,” Franklin says.
But in business that is often highly competitive, some costs are unavoidable, Franklin says. “When you’re rushing someone to fish, slowing down to conserve expensive fuel is not an option,” he says.
— Paul Roberts
‘I had to bear the brunt’
Security Officer Kayla Haughey can spend up to $100 a day commuting from Kent to her job at Amazon’s Blackfoot Building in South Lake Union. Three days a week, she can carpool with her boyfriend for 30 minutes. But on Mondays and Tuesdays, carless Haughey has two options: bus, light rail, and walking, or a combination of a service like Uber and Lyft.
Neither is an ideal option. Traveling to downtown Seattle via bus and train can take him three hours, and, over the past few months, getting an Uber to work has raised at least $50 each way as the ride-hailing company has taken to increasing fuel consumption. Fees added to cover prices.
The cost of the hawge adds up quickly. Uber hasn’t gotten any cheaper, and, with gas costing upwards of $5 per gallon, it has spent $70 to $90 every other week filling up her boyfriend’s gas tank. Neither her employer nor Amazon reimbursed her transportation costs, she said, Even transportation costs in the Seattle area have increased by 22% since last year.
“I had to bear the brunt of it every single day,” she said.
Haughey, 31, says the price of reliability is well worth it. Her employer has a strict retardation policy that doesn’t take traffic or transit delays as excuses for being late by even a minute on the 2 p.m. shift. She said managers say to sluggish workers who blame commute, “Well, you should have planned better.” If he is late to work three times, he can be fired.
“It’s something I don’t like to play,” she said.
— Maya Miller
‘Really a vicious circle’
A few years ago, recalls Diane Cotte, “I was doing pretty well.” By earning $17 an hour at Walmart, she could cover her monthly essentials.
Then, Cote says, she was diagnosed with cancer, lost her job and became unable to walk. Without work, she was left behind for months on rent for her two-bedroom apartment in Tukwila. This year, the landlord increased the rent by an additional $80 to $1,220.
Relying on Social Security payments and food aid, Kot, 69, is bringing in less than the cost of her rent each month. Hiring movers and paying deposits at the new location seems out of reach. And anyway, nothing seems economical. The apartments she owns are renting for $1,200 to $1,400.
“It’s really a vicious cycle we’re going through right now, and I never thought I’d be in the middle of it,” Cote said.
rising rents are a Major part of inflation measures Which has increased in recent months, squeezing tenants across the region. According to Apartment Listing, an average one-bedroom apartment in King County now rents for about $1,700, up 9% from the start of the year and 13% from the same time in 2019.
Add to this the rising cost of food and essential commodities. Like others, Coate has hiked the prices.
Oven Joy Bread loaves that once cost 88 cents are now down to $1.89. A jar of cherry jam for $2.88 is now $4.29. The quota has cut back on extras like soda and food at the deli. She uses a minimum of cleaning supplies.
“You go down every street,” she said, “and everything’s up.”
— Heidi Grover