Global Economics 101 - or how I ended up with 72 spoons / by Susie Lubell

exhibit A

We needed more teaspoons. My kids use them to eat everything and I am constantly getting them from the dishwasher to hand wash. We had ten when we got married and now we have maybe six. I don't know what happened to them. No matter, we need more.

I googled the name of the spoon that we had registered for eight years ago at Crate and Barrel. Why this name was still in my head indicates the kind of useless crap I keep in there for a rainy day. Arctic. They're called Arctic. So I look up Arctic teaspoon and I get a list of places selling them, namely Crate and Barrel,, and a site called (sometimes known as Hmmm...suspicious.

I actually did this search about two years ago during the great teaspoon shortage of 2008 and found they were $11 each! ELEVEN DOLLARS for an effing teaspoon. So I passed. This time I saw that they were $6.95. OK. I was willing to pay $42 for six teaspoons even though that is highway robbery. I wanted them to match. Because in my mind, if nothing matches, that's eclectic. But if everything matches except the extra six teaspoons, that's annoying.

But just to be sure I checked the other sources where I saw the spoons listed for $9.95 each. And then I noticed one place,, where they were listed for $5.95. Done. They had a four spoon minimum which was fine since I wanted six. Shipping was a few bucks so at the end of the day it was about $42. Whatever.

Three days later this giant box (see exhibit A) arrives and I'm thinking what a waste of packaging for six measly spoons.  I open the box and underneath all of the bubble rap are six boxes. Heavy boxes. Oh shit. I open one box and there are twelve spoons. Six boxes of twelve spoons each. I now have seventy-two spoons. So I panic and check to see that they only charged me $42 and indeed they did. I then call the company to tell them I want to return the spoons because I only need six total since I don't own a restaurant and I'm not a circus spoon performer and I sure as hell am not paying for return shipping because NO WHERE on the website does it say that they come in boxes of twelve. And since they have a four spoon (box) minimum, I can't even keep just twelve. She gets her manager. yadda yadda yadda. Next week they will send me a return slip with paid shipping.

So here is my issue. I still need spoons. So I can either keep the 72 spoons for $42 or buy six spoons for $42. The MBA in me is excited by the arbitrage situation that has presented itself, but how on earth would I be able to sell 66 teaspoons? I have a friend with the same set and she has three kids so for sure she needs more teaspoons but she lives in Cambodia. It would cost $42 just to ship them to her. I could also donate them to our preschool since they frown on plastic, but I'm pretty sure they have spoons for every class. Anyone else have the Arctic style place settings? And the kicker is that they are the exact same spoon - same specs and everything - except the ones we originally bought are made in Korea and the ones that just arrived are made in China. It's like they arrived straight from the flatware source in China via some wormhole where no middle men exist. That's a piece of the global economy right there. Thomas Friedman was right. The world is flat. Or spoon-shaped, in this instance.